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BUILDING ON NATURE AND CULTURE

ART AND THE SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH

If there is anything essentially foreign to culture, Havel asserts, it is the uniform. The parallel culture to which he has alluded was born precisely because the official uniform was too constricting for the spiritual potential of Czech community, because it would not fit inside it and so spilled over beyond the limits within which a uniform is obligatory. Starting therefore with the presupposition that art constitutes a distinctive way of seeking truth in the broadest sense of the word, that is chiefly the truth of the artist's inner experience, then 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, or perhaps the urgency and profundity of that truth. For Iredell Jenkins (4):

When our attitude toward things is primarily aesthetic, it is the self-assertion by the things of their own individual existence and autonomy that dominates the experiential situation ... We are thus lead to explore the thing from its own point of view.

Even though the second or parallel economic and technological culture represents an important fertile ground, a catalytic agent, and often even the sole bearer of the spiritual continuity of cultural life, like it or not, Havel maintains, it is the first culture that remains the decisive sphere. Only once the suppressed spiritual potential of Czech community begins more distinctly to win back its culture will things begin visibly to improve, not only in culture itself but in a broader and social sense as well. It will be in the first culture that decisions are made about the future climate of our lives: through it citizens will have the first genuine, wide-scale chance to stand up straight and liberate themselves. The second culture's relation to it will be analogous to that of a match to a glowing stove; without it the fire might not have started at all, yet by itself it cannot heat the room. Agriculture is a good case in point.

GRUND – THE NATURE OF GROUNDEDNESS

For centuries the basic component of European agriculture had been the family farm. In Czech, the older term for it was “grunt". The word, taken from the German "grund", actually means ground or foundation. The colloquial synonym in Czech also means ground or foundation, or indeed groundedness. The family farm, while standing for the indubitable, traditional and authentic, while also being a source of social conflict, was rooted in the nature of place, personally resided in by generations of farmers and certified by the results of their husbandry.

Modernization, Havel maintains, must not be simply an arrogant, megalomaniac and brutal invasion by an impersonally objective science, represented by a newly graduated agronomist or bureaucrat from the first culture in the service of the scientific worldview. This is in effect what happened to Czechoslovakia: the word for it was collectivization. Like a tornado it raged through the countryside in the 1950s, leaving not a stone in place. Huge unified fields led to the inevitable annual loss of millions of cubic yards of topsoil that had taken centuries to accumulate; chemical fertilizers and pesticides poisoned vegetable products, the earth and water.

Czech philosopher Vaclav Belohradzky (5) suggestively unfolded the thought that the rationalistic spirit of modern science, founded on abstract reason and on the presumption of impersonal objectivity, has, besides its father in the natural sciences, Galileo, also a father in politics, Machiavelli. For he first formulated, albeit with an undertone of malicious irony, a theory of politics as a rational technology of power. We could say that, for all the complex historical details, the origin of the modern state and of modern political power may be sought precisely here, that is, once again in a moment when human reason begins to free itself from the human being as such, from his personal experience, conscience and responsibility and so also from that to which, within the framework of the natural world, all responsibility is uniquely related, his absolute horizon. Just as modern scientists are set apart from the actual human being as the subject of the lived experience of the world, so, ever more evidently, are both the modern state and politics.

 
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