Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian writer and Nob...

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The great novelist and witness of oppressed Russia Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave his diagnosis of the trouble at the heart of Western culture when he spoke at Harvard on June 8, 1978, and his words are still true today:

  • A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days.
  • The constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression
  • Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required…. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint.
  • Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence…. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.
  • Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press. It stops at sensational formulas.
  • Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day.
  • A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience.
  • In spite of the abundance of information, or maybe because of it, the West has difficulties in understanding reality such as it is.
  • Western thinking has become conservative: the world situation should stay as it is at any cost, there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development.
  • the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance… and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy:…with man seen as the center of everything that exists.
  • If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it.

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