When faced with cultural decay and ruined institutions, what is a podcaster to do? In this episode, Jeff Rich turns for hope to the traditions of the Eastern European dissidents of 1960-90 Eastern Europe. Two great Czech dissidents – Vaclav Benda and Vaclav Havel – spoke of the Parallel Polis (Benda), as an alternative culture to build in the face of grey uniformity, and living in truth as the Power of the Powerless (Havel). In these very diverse traditions of samizdat and living authentically – that celebrate everything from Tolkien to the Plastic People of the Universe – the Burning Archive finds hope of a cultural renewal amidst our own time of troubles.
* The wonderful Kimiko Ishizaka and the Open Goldberg project, for the public domain recording of the Aria from J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations https://opengoldbergvariations.org/
* Ezra Pound reading from Canto 81
* the Plastic People of the Universe from Slavná Nemesis
* readings from Vaclav Havel, “Six Asides about Culture” and “A Sense of the Transcendent”
You can read my essay on Havel – “Six Asides about Vaclav Havel” at the Burning Archive blog (originally posted September 2016).
Other essays on Havel, the power of the powerless and my meditations on the theme of the post-democratic society include:
- On living not by lies (February 2021)
- The freedom of internal exile (December 2020)
- On the virtue of not knowing (posted first in 2010 on my previous Happy Pessimist blog, and reposted in July 2019 here)
- Millennial predictions: return of totalitarianisms (October 2015), and
- Most recently, The post-democratic society is here (April, 2021).
The thought that we may have transitioned to a post-democratic society is among my most troubling to myself. I cannot be certain I am right or merely unduly pessimistic: who knows quite what is true as we try to make sense of the ferment and fragmented kaleidoscope of the history shaping our lives? All thoughts provisional; all thoughts conscious of their danger; all thoughts committed to some practical restitution of the ordinary virtues. Please feel free to leave your comments here.