New%20Year%27s%20Address%202%20%282%29

New%20Year%27s%20Address%202%20%282%29 - Vaclav Havel Open...

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Vaclav Havel, Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990 (1991). New Year's Address "New Year's Address" (January 1990) was Havel's first major public address as president of Czecho- slovakia. It was delivered on New Year's Day and broadcast on Czech and Slovak Radio and Televi- sion. It was widely published abroad. This transla- tion appeared in The Spectator, January 27, 1990. The translator is not identified. M Y DEAR fellow citizens, For forty years you heard from my predecessors on this day different variations of the same theme: how our country flourished, how many million tons of steel we produced, how happy we all were, how we trusted our government, and what bright perspectives were unfolding in front of us. I assume you did not propose me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you. Our country is not flourishing. The enormous creative and spiritual potential of our nations is not being used sensibly. Entire branches of industry are producing goods which are of no interest to anyone, while we are lacking the things we need. A state which calls itself a workers' state humiliates and exploits workers. Our obsolete economy is wasting the little energy we have available. A country that once could be proud of the educational level of its citizens spends so little on ed- ucation that it ranks today as seventy-second in the world. We have polluted our soil, our rivers and forests, bequeathed to us by our ancestors, and we have today the most contami- nated environment in Europe. Adult people in our country die earlier than in most other European countries. Allow me a little personal observation: when I flew recently 390 j New Year's Address .to Bratislava, I found time during various discussions to look out of the plane window. I saw the industrial complex of Slov- naft chemical factory and the giant Petrzalka housing estate right behind it. The view was enough for me to understand that for decades our statesmen and political leaders did not look or did not want to look out of the windows of their airplanes. No study of statistics available to me would enable me to understand faster and better the situation into which we had gotten ourselves. But all this is still not the main problem. The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something dif- ferent from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore each other, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility, or forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions, and for many of us they represented only psychological pecularities, or they resembled gone-astray greetings from ancient times, a little ridiculous in the era of computers and spaceships. Only a few of us were able to cry out loud that the powers that be should not be all-powerful, and that special farms, which produce ecologically pure and top-quality food just for them, should send their produce to schools, children's homes, and hospi- tals if our agriculture was unable to offer them to all.
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