Václav Havel passes away

18 December 2011

When I was a child and growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, there were a few people, who could be called real heroes and heroines, real statesmen and stateswomen. Many of them played prominent roles in the revolutions in Europe that ended one-party communist rule, and the end of the Apartheid era in South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu come to mind. I was young, but I was dimly aware that there was something remarkable about the things that were going on, and that the people who made them possible were remarkable. As I grew up, and learnt more about the events, and looked back, I came to appreciate and respect the hugely important roles played by those who made the turns of events in the former Soviet bloc and South Africa possible.

Václav Havel was among such people. He alone did not make the revolution in 1989 possible, and he might not have been the most adept politician after he was installed in the castle, however, I think it wouldn’t be too far off from the truth to say that without Václav Havel, his moral authority, the course of the transition in what is now the Czech Republic would have been far rockier. Václav Havel was perhaps an embodiment of the Czech past, a combination of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Karel Čapek, as it were. Moreover, he was not only important for the Czechs, but for Europe as a whole, because he represented humanity, wit and intelligence, that the communist regimes had been suppressing for decades.

Perhaps the reason why Václav Havel never felt comfortable as a politician was because he remained a committed fighter against totalitarianism and human rights violations. The world has lost a great mind, and a great person.