Wednesday, August 28, 2019

How To Live Not By Lies

The title is Rod Dreher's, this morning, but the contents are basically Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's. Here Dreher introduces Solzhenitsyn's essay excerpts:

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in a 1970s essay collection called From Under The Rubble, wrote that the worst thing about the Soviet system was not its material oppression. “A man can live in such conditions without harm to his spiritual essence,” said Solzhenitsyn. Rather, the Soviet system is “unique in world history” because it compels everyone to participate “in the general, conscious lie.” He went on to say that the most essential task is not achieving political freedom, but winning one’s “inner freedom” from entanglement in the lie. Those who “voluntarily run with the hounds of falsehood” will not be able to justify themselves to the living, to history, to their friends, or to their children.

Again, this is the dilemma so many of us and those we know and love find ourselves in. And this is Solzhenitsyn's advice. The question is as old as Plato or older--as old as the human nature that liberalism denies:

Which is the sacrifice? To go for years without truly breathing, gulping down stench? Or to begin to breathe, as is the prerogative of every man on this earth? What cynic would venture to object aloud to such a policy as non-participation in the lie? 
Oh, people will object, at once and with ingenuity: what is a lie? Who can determine precisely where the lie ends and truth begins? In every historically concrete dialectical situation, and so on — all the evasions that liars have been using for the past half century. 
But the answer could not be simpler: decide yourself, as your conscience dictates. And for a long time this will suffice. Depending upon his horizons, his life experience and his education, each person will have his own conception of the line where the public and state lie begins: some will see it as being altogether remote from him, while another will experience it as a rope already cutting into his neck. And there, at the point where you yourself in all honesty see the borderline of the lie, is where you must refuse to submit to that lie. You must shun that part of the lie that is clear and obvious to you. … 
What does it mean, not to lie? It doesn’t mean going around preaching the truth at the top of your voice (perish the thought!) It doesn’t even mean muttering what you think in an undertone. It simply means: not saying what you don’t think, and that includes not whispering, not opening your mouth, not raising your hand, not casting your vote, not feigning a smile, not lending your presence, not standing up, and not cheering. 
We all work in different fields and move in different walks of life. Those who work in the humanities and all who are studying find themselves much more profoundly and inextricably involved in lying and participating in the lie — they are fenced in by layer after layer of lies. In the technical sciences it can be more ingeniously avoided, but even so one cannot escape daily entering some door, attending some meeting, putting one’s signature to something or undertaking some obligation which is a cowardly submission to the lie. The lie surrounds us at work, on our way to work, in our leisure pursuits — in everything we see, hear and read. 
And just as varied as the forms of the lie are the forms of resisting it. Whoever steels his heart and opens his eyes to the tentacles of the lie will in each situation, every day and every hour, realize what he must do. 
Yes, it is a terrible thought! In the beginning the holes in the filter are so narrow, so very narrow: can a person with so many needs really squeeze through such a narrow opening? Let me reassure him: it is only that way at the entrance, at the very beginning. Very soon, not far along, the holes slacken and relax their grip, and eventually cease to grip you altogether. Yes, of course! It will cost you canceled dissertations, annulled degrees, demotions, dismissals, expulsions, sometimes even deportations. But you will not be cast into flames. Or crushed by a tank. And you will still have food and shelter. 
This path is the safest and most accessible of all the paths open to us for the average man in the street. But it is also the most effective! Only we, knowing our system, can imagine what will happen when thousands and tens of thousands of people take this path — how our country will be purified and transformed without shots or bloodshed. 
But this path is also the most moral: we shall be commencing this liberation and purification with our own souls. Before we purify the country we shall have purified ourselves. And this is the only correct historical order: for what is the good of purifying our country’s air if we ourselves remain dirty? 
People will say: how unfair on the young! After all, if you don’t utter the obligatory lie at your social science exam, you’ll be failed and expelled from your institute, and your education and life will be disrupted. … 
Unfair on the young? But whose is the future if not theirs? Who do we expect to form the sacrificial elite? For whose sake do we agonize over the future? We are already old. If they themselves do not build an honest society, they will never see it at all.


  1. Trump refuses to abide the conventional lies (globalism is good, carbon dioxide is bad, etc.) and was rewarded with the Presidency by the silent majority. And he acknowledges he's not liked.
    You've got to be "tough" to speak the truth. You will gain vocal enemies and silent admirers.

    1. Yes, and it takes a strong personality. To go against the CW of all the people he's mostly associated with all his life and to stick it out, doubling down instead up buckling under--convinced that that was the path to victory. And since election, staying that course instead of adapting. Remarkable.

  2. How they hate him! I love it! He smashes them back in the mouth and grows stronger. Someone who has told the Emperor that he as no clothes.

    Finally, someone they can't cow, coerce, shame. I wish we had 535 Donald Trumps in the House and Senate.

  3. On the same subject (Trump).

    "Trump’s bold defiance of Macron’s hate speech charter.
    Once again he chose the road of greater difficulty, through a terrain of predictable abuse.

    In ... The Crucible, the key moment comes not with the initiation of the Salem witch trials which form the subject of the play, but in the leading character finally and fully ... refuses to sign his name to the condemnation of supposed witches which would justify their horrific punishment. ‘How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name.’
    It is not therefore just in the personal example he sets by speaking his mind and damning the censure of fools that Trump plays a vital role. It is also by refusing to sign up to things which damn us all to perpetual silence and ostracism that he shows a moral strength missing from almost any other Western leader. As he did with the Iran deal or the Paris Accord he resists the tyranny of a consensus that rests solely on liberal prejudice. But no resistance can be more important than this refusal to sign up to a globalist control of language. Our free speech is the right that allows us to discuss, to understand, to share knowledge of the excesses of those in power. It is the first freedom upon which all others are founded. Once it is gone entirely, it will be almost impossible to recover. When Trump says leave me my name, he defends not only himself, but us too."

    Trump alone is not enough. I hope AG Barr turns out to be a Trumpian figure. I haven't yet lost hope.