New Years Address and Morality

In the address Vaclav Havel gives the people of Czechoslovakia he begins by talking about how leaders before him have been dishonest when discussing the state of the nation. And, he very quickly states that he is going to be very different than the leaders before him. Havel discusses the many problems in Czechoslovakia at that point including education failure and environmental destruction. However, Havel’s biggest gripe with the state of affairs is the insidious state of the morality in Czechoslovakia. He argues that Czechoslovakia has become increasingly morally corrupt and that it is the fault of leaders and those who let their leaders be corrupt. Havel states, “The previous regime – armed with its arrogant and intolerant ideology – reduced man to a force of production, and nature to a tool of production” (Havel). Here, Havel uses the word “ideology”, which attacks the base of the Soviet Union and communist Czechoslovakia. Why is it important that Havel uses an argument based on morals and ideology? Is his technique successful? Does this relate to the ideological war that has been fought between the US and the USSR?

5 Replies to “New Years Address and Morality”

  1. I think in this context, Havel is equating the communist ideology with being morally inferior. He calls the people out for letting communism rise and take over, and their morals are contaminated by doing so. I think this is important because he is trying to distance Czechoslovakia completely from communism and I do think it is useful based on how people reacted to communist speakers in the Civic Forums.

  2. I definitely agree with Veena on the morally inferior part. I feel like I bring this up a lot somehow but I think we’ve discussed how Czechoslovakia collectively disapproved of Soviet culture and to an extent held Western-elitist views on culture and that would inherently play into a culture survey following the fall of Communists in Czechoslovakia. The speech does seem to cater towards favorable Western alliances but also still holds a leftist identity of the recent past with an indictment of greedy political leaders referred to as “our homegrown Mafia, those who do not look out of the plane windows and who eat specially fed pigs” (Havel 5).

  3. If I may suggest, rather than moral inferiority within the communist line of thought, that it is Havel suggesting that communist is morally wrong. Sure this might be a semantic argument, and may not weigh too much with further discussion but seems important enough to comment on. This use of morals and ideologies as a rhetorical strategy seems to me to be a way of invigorating a crowd. Nothing gets people going than calling into question whether or not they are acting morally. By doing this, it also puts a higher standard and a call to the people to be better and follow a the “right” moral code. In this way, by casting communism as bad, it also figures into the ideological war of saying the West is the victor, the “correct” moral and ideological code to be followed.

  4. I definitely feel that Havel’s technique is effective; it places blame on those that were responsible for such indiscretions, but also shows that there was nothing the people could do with such corruption surrounding them. While he says that they admittedly should take some responsibility, the inability to fight back also remained. Also, by tackling morals and ideology, it means that the Czechoslovakian people can develop a new way of life that departs from their past. Even if it takes years, and they fail at some points, they can always fall back on the construction of morals they can create in this new period within the nation.

  5. In my Point of View, I don’t think it relates much towards the ideological war of the U.S and the Soviet Union because I think it leans towards how far from “communism” the Soviet Union fell during this time. I think that Havel was tired of policies and a lot of injustice acts from the Soviet Union when they claimed to be a communist government, to provide for the people. I think the POV would be more towards an internal divide because it did seem like a Havel was leaning towards a leftist rhetoric

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