Must-Read Remarks by Havel

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
By former Czech dissident, political prisoner and eventual President Vaclav Havel:

Ladies and gentleman,

Allow me to start with a short recollection. Many years ago, when I was behind bars, I needed to see a dentist. There was no dentist in the prison and when the prison authorities realised that I was serious, I was escorted to a civil dentist by a guard.

I was in handcuffs and prison stripes and stared straight ahead of me as I sat between two guards. I was very curious to watch how the other patients around reacted to my presence. Almost none of them displayed any interest, surprise or curiosity. Most of them acted as if they did not see me.

Why am I talking about this? I don’t think we can go to Cuba and lie sunning on the beach, having a good time and enjoying a drink, without noticing what is going on around us. In that country there are informers who are expected – as it was here in the 1950s – to inform on ten other people: building trustees, street committees, families in which husbands where afraid to talk in front of their wives or wives afraid to talk in front of their husbands. It is a country where fear reigns, where political prisoners are locked up for long terms just because they have spoken freely.

And it is us in particular, who have experienced a totalitarian system, who should be conscious of this, be aware and have a special sensitivity towards it. Bad things are happening in Cuba and any of us who go there should remember them, and should not pretend that we do not know in which country we are.

Thank you very much!

H/T Iberosphere