Friday, January 27, 2012

Higher Things

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who miraculously survived the Russian gulags, gave a commencement speech at Harvard University in 1978 that rankled the press but was probably one of the most astute modern statements on the state of the affairs of our nation ever voiced by a non-American:

"How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification? The press can both stimulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists turned into heroes, or secret matters pertaining to one's nation's defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "Everyone is entitled to know everything." But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have a right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need the successive burdening flow of information.

"Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic diseases of the twentieth 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...

"After suffering decades of violence and depression, the human soul longs for higher things, warmer and purer than those offered by today's mass living habits, exemplified by the revolting invasion of privacy, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music...."

The press' response follows:

"We find that primarily he is the champion not of freedom but of spiritual well-being. The two causes are by no means the same..." The New Yorker, 8/21/1978 issue. Olga Carlisle, Newsweek, 7/24/78: "[Solzhenitsyn's] convictions are deeply rooted in the Russian spirit, which is untempered by the civilizing influences of a democratic tradition." Henry Fairlie, The New Republic, 7/29/78: "...There is nothing for the West to learn from it."

Reader, think about this! Then pray for our nation and our leaders.

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