The New Freedom: Living with Hope, Skepticism and Irony

The New Freedom: Living with Hope, Skepticism and Irony

A second key factor, one leading to hope, in the Eastern European revolution was the absence of widespread violence, a necessity in the formation of democracy (Morin, 1992, pp. 99-100). Major changes occurred without the traditional imposition of Soviet force or, for that matter, the violence that accompanies most revolutions. Estonians speak of the “singing revolution” in their country that took place without any deaths or destruction of property. In Summer Meditations, Vaclav Havel (1992, p. 5) writes of the significance of the nonviolent nature of the revolution that swept Czechoslovakia and much of the rest of Eastern Europe:

The idea that the world might actually be changed by the force of truth, the power of a truthful word, the strength of a free spirit, conscience and responsibility –with no guns, no lust for power, no political wheeling and dealing –was quite beyond the horizon of . . . understanding . . . but it was the only way that made sense, since violence, as we know, breeds more violence. This is why most revolutions degenerate into dictatorships that devour their young, giving rise to new revolutionaries who prepare for new violence, unaware that they are digging their own graves and pushing society back onto the deadly merry-go-round of revolution and counterrevolution.

Even where violence is being experienced in Eastern Europe, it usually occurs not as a result of a change in the structure of government but rather as a result of the liberation of pent up nationalist and ethnic hostility, which are now allowed to be acted out because of the heightened disarray that accompanies a change in governmental form. Dictatorships of a somewhat different form, sadly, did emerge (especially in Russia). Havel was only party right.

A third key factor that we must keep in mind is that in some instances the major changes that have occurred in Eastern Europe were either short-term or illusory or primarily cosmetic. The same people were often in charge and the same policies often were followed, though different words were now being used. Truth was still being distorted and extreme statements were still being made, only now they were the opposite of what was said before. In other words, the more that things seem to change in the former Soviet Union, the more, in some sense, they seemed to stay the same. Is this still the case? Are Vladimir Putin and other leaders of Russia and many of the former Soviet satellites, simply new versions of the old established patterns of authoritarian leadership? Is there still a Czar in charge?

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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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