The New Freedom: Living with Hope, Skepticism and Irony

The New Freedom: Living with Hope, Skepticism and Irony

Part of the message of the late 20th Century cold war linked a socialist economic system with political repression and its attendant restrictions on individual freedom. However, that link may have been more firmly fixed in the minds of those in the West than in the minds of Eastern Europeans. One possible way to read the emerging signals since the collapse of the Soviet Union is that with Soviet influence and power removed, many people preferred an economic system that offers more basic security than unlimited opportunity. From a perspective of thirty years following the Soviet collapse, we can observe a mixed outcome. Clearly in some of the Eastern European countries (such as the two countries Berne Weiss and I studied) there has been a gradual (even at times dramatic) embracing of a free-market economy—driven in particular by the digital technology revolution. In other countries (inside and outside Eastern Europe) there has been a much more regressive move following a revolution. Freedom appears to be experienced and reacted to in different ways in different societies and cultures. There is no one formula for success – and frankly not all societies might be prepared to handle freedom—at least for the next couple of decades.

Lack of Governmental Credibility

The skepticism and pessimism found in Hungary and Estonia during the early 1990s, might be even more firmly grounded on the long history of subterfuge in both countries. Eastern Europeans always knew that propaganda about the West, and in particular the United States, wasn’t very accurate. As a well-traveled young banker said in one of our interviews:

Now I’m realizing that I was taught many stupid things and stupid ideas about communism. The whole thing was very one-sided. They were trying to limit information about the outside world. They were painting the same one­ sided picture about the Western world that in the fifties the United States was painting about Russia, at the [time] of the Rosenbergs [the Americans convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and subsequently executed]. The same sort of one-sided information that we had. But somehow we didn’t take it seriously.

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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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