Václav Havel was in favor of promoting what he called “the basic values of the West” – a democratic market society with human rights – viewing the “rapid dissemination” of the Western values as “the only salvation of the world today”—the best guarantee of “human freedom, justice, and prosperity,” writes Paul Berman.
But he blamed the democratic world for what he called “its limited ability to address humanity in a genuinely universal way,” he writes in The New Republic:
As a consequence, democracy is seen less and less as an open system that is best able to respond to people’s basic needs; as a set of possibilities that must be continually rediscovered, redefined, and brought into being. Instead democracy is seen as something given, finished, and complete as is, something that can be exported like cars or television sets, something that the more enlightened purchase and the less enlightened do not.
“One of the “most heroic figures of modern times,” he sought to develop “a more spiritual concept of democracy” to help resolve the “conflicts of cultures,” Berman writes.
The first of those ideas is his notion of “post-totalitarianism.” A totalitarian society is a place where huge numbers of people have been whipped up into ideological fervors and hatreds, and everyone else and even the political fanatics live in a state of terror, petrified of the police and of the neighbors and of their own heretical thoughts. A “post-totalitarian” society, as Havel describes it, is the same place a few decades later. Fervors have cooled. No one takes the totalitarian ideology seriously anymore. The police are no longer so violent. But the system remains in power, and the ideology still serves as the glue that holds everything together, which means that everyone feels obliged to keep up a pretense of belief, perhaps even to themselves……..
Havel argued that, in a “post-totalitarian” society, the way to rebel is simply to stop pretending to believe. You do not need to lay out a thorough political criticism or to announce a new doctrine. You should simply engage in—here was his second idea—the practice that he described as “living in truth.”….. The rock musicians in the 1970s entertained that idea, and Havel was among the first people to organize a defense campaign on their behalf, after they came under persecution. He understood that a post-totalitarian regime could not survive if anybody at all took to speaking truth, above all from a public stage with crowd-pleasing electric guitars…..
His third idea was the fuzzy one—the idea about the multiculti new god, ….. Havel was frightened by atheism. In his eyes, communism was atheism’s apotheosis. Communism led everyone to focus on material circumstances and to dream of improving the circumstances, and to dream of nothing else. For why should anyone dream of anything more than material improvements? More does not exist. Such was atheism’s message. To pine for a new automobile made sense, but there was no point in contemplating the state of your soul.