HavelALifeRemnickZantovskyTwenty-five years ago (Nov. 17)  the peaceful Velvet Revolution brought an end to Communist rule in the former Czechoslovakia, and led to play right and dissident leader Vaclav Havel (1936-2011) becoming President.

Mr. Havel’s former Press Secretary, Michael Zantovsky, is out with a book that some are calling the definitive biography of Havel. He was interviewed about the book by David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, before an audience last evening at Bohemian Hall in NYC.

Mr. Zantovsky described Vaclav Havel, as “a hero for what he has done,” but also as a flawed man filled with “guilt and doubt,” who made mistakes but was committed to telling the truth.

When asked why Havel supported the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq? Zantovsky said “because Havel trusted the American President.”

The American people and the world are learning there is no future in trusting American Presidents—who are guided more by Bolshevik values than the truth. Ironically, it’s the American leadership that has become Bolshevik (collapsing societies) in recent years, with the Russians (and Czechs) more Jeffersonian.

In his conversation with Mr. Zantovsky, Mr. Remnick suggested that the Czech Republic’s post-revolution success was an “outlier”, and that other countries in the region, especially Russia (and Putin) have disappointed. Later LE asked Mr. Remnick why he was down on Putin? He responded with a question: “I should be high on him?” LE then suggested that the U.S. government has done more harm in the world than Putin and Russia in the last 25 years. Remnick closed with: “It’s a longer conversation,” and left.

“I favor ‘antipolitical politics.’ that is, politics not as the technology of power and manipulation, of cybernetic rule over humans or as the art of the utilitarian, but politics as one of the ways of seeking and achieving meaningful lives, of protecting them and serving them. I favor politics as practical morality, as service to the truth, as essentially human and humanly measured care for our fellow humans. It is, I presume, an approach which, in this world, is extremely impractical and difficult to apply in daily life. Still, I know no better alternative.” Vaclav Havel, Open Letters (Random House, 1991)

Photographs: Stephen Wise