Vaclav Havel Quotes (57 Quotes)


    I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions.

    Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance.

    Our task is to feel the danger of these regimes.

    If you want to see your plays performed the way you wrote them, become President.

    Drama assumes an order. If only so that it might have - by disrupting that order - a way of surprising.


    There are times when we must sink to the bottom of our misery to understand truth, just as we must descend to the bottom of a well to see the stars in broad daylight.

    The role of the writer is not simply to arrange Being according to his own lights he must also serve as a medium to Being and remain open to its often unfathomable dictates. This is the only way the work can transcend its creator and radiate its meaning.

    The attempt to devote oneself to literature alone is a most deceptive thing, and often, paradoxically, it is literature that suffers for it.

    The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin -- and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.

    Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.

    Genuine politics -- even politics worthy of the name -- the only politics I am willing to devote myself to -- is simply a matter of serving those around us serving the community and serving those who will come after us. Its deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility expressed through action, to and for the whole.

    As soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.

    Isn't it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.

    For 15 years the Government of Burma (Myanmar) has refused to implement recommendations made by the UN and the situation is getting worse,

    That is very dangerous, ... in an absolutely legal way and in accordance with the wording of the law, but against the spirit of the ... constitution.

    Either we have hope within us or we don't it is a dimension of the soul, and it's not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. . . . Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. . . . Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. . . . It is also this hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now.

    Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy.

    The deeper the experience of an absence of meaning - in other words, of absurdity - the more energetically meaning is sought.

    Twenty or thirty years ago, in the army, we had a lot of obscure adventures, and years later we tell them at parties, and suddenly we realize that those two very difficult years of our lives have become lumped together into a few episodes that have lodged in our memory in a standardized form, and are always told in a standardized way, in the same words. But in fact that lump of memories has nothing whatsoever to do with our experience of those two years in the army and what it has made of us.

    He tries to explain why man behaves most improbably, strangely, at variance with his nature, how it is possible for instance that a calm, rather neutral petty bourgeois is all of a sudden capable of commanding a concentration camp, burning to death or gassing thousands of people, and afterwards returning to his clerk's life as if nothing happened,

    A state that denies its citizens their basic rights becomes a danger to its neighbors as well internal arbitrary rule will be reflected in arbitrary external relations. The suppression of public opinion, the abolition of public competition for power and its public exercise opens the way for the state power to arm itself in any way it sees fit. A state that does not hesitate to lie to its own people will not hesitate to lie to other states.

    None of us know all the potentialities that slumber in the spirit of the population, or all the ways in which that population can surprise us when there is the right interplay of events.

    The award is destined for scientists who do not fear to touch on some of the darkest aspects of being without betraying what they have achieved. On the contrary, they head in this direction,

    Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

    When a truth is not given complete freedom, freedom is not complete.

    Sometimes I wonder if suicides aren't in fact sad guardians of the meaning of life.

    For 15 years the Government of Burma has refused to implement recommendations made by the UN and the situation is getting worse, ... In fact, the situation in Burma is much more severe compared to other countries in which the Security Council has chosen to act in recent years.

    True enough, the country is calm. Calm as a morgue or a grave, would you not say

    Without free, self-respecting, and autonomous citizens there can be no free and independent nations. Without internal peace, that is, peace among citizens and between the citizens and the state, there can be no guarantee of external peace.

    The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.

    Human beings are compelled to live within a lie, but they can be compelled to do so only because they are in fact capable of living in this way. Therefore not only does the system alienate humanity, but at the same time alienated humanity supports this system as its own involuntary master plan, as a degenerate image of its own degeneration, as a record of people's own failure as individuals.

    I think theatre should always be somewhat suspect.

    Ownership is not a vice, not something to be ashamed of, but rather a commitment, and an instrument by which the general good can be served.

    If we are to change our world view, images have to change. The artist now has a very important job to do. He's not a little peripheral figure entertaining rich people, he's really needed.

    I have found that good taste, oddly enough, plays an important role in politics. Why is it like that The most probable reason is that good taste is a visible manifestation of human sensibility toward the world, environment, people.

    The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less.

    Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.

    A human action becomes genuinely important when it springs from the soil of a clear-sighted awareness of the temporality and the ephemerality of everything human. It is only this awareness that can breathe any greatness into an action.

    There can be no doubt that distrust of words is less harmful than unwarranted trust in them. Besides, to distrust words, and indict them for the horrors that might slumber unobtrusively within them - isn't this, after all, the true vocation of the intelle

    Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.

    You do not become a ''dissident'' just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.

    There's always something suspect about an intellectual on the winning side.

    The law is only one of several imperfect and more or less external ways of defending what is better in life against what is worse. By itself, the law can never create anything better. Establishing respect for the law does not automatically ensure a better life for that, after all, is a job for people and not for laws and institutions.

    The truth is not simply what you think it is it is also the circumstances in which it is said, and to whom, why, and how it is said.

    Poles are able to reflect their history, they respect it. Who knows if anybody will remember when we commemorate our 25 years since the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

    Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.

    There is only one art, whose sole criterion is the power, the authenticity, the revelatory insight, the courage and suggestiveness with which it seeks its truth. . . .

    Hope is a feeling that life and work have meaning. You either have it or you don't, regardless of the state of the world that surrounds you.


    If every day a man takes orders in silence from an incompetent superior, if every day he solemnly performs ritual acts which he privately finds ridiculous, if he unhesitatingly gives answers to questionnaires which are contrary to his real opinions and is prepared to deny his own self in public, if he sees no difficulty in feigning sympathy or even affection where, in fact, he feels only indifference or aversion, it still does not mean that he has entirely lost the use of one of the basic human senses, namely, the sense of humiliation.


    More Vaclav Havel Quotations (Based on Topics)


    Sense & Perception - Facts - Hope - World - Life - Truth - Danger & Risk - Power - People - Success - Government - Duty - Work & Career - Liberty & Freedom - Parties - Chance - Abilities - Actions - Law & Regulation - View All Vaclav Havel Quotations

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