I have been working my way through this book since early spring. It is a collection of essays by a variety of activists, political leaders, writers, artists, citizens. What I am getting out of it is a sense of solidarity, inspiration, and growing trust that one individual can make a difference, and that seemingly small campaigns or actions can have vast consequences when they are created/implemented with vision, integrity and grit. Every essay is a gem.
But one essay in particular keeps coming back to my mind: “An Orientation of the Heart” by Václav Havel. He and other writers had created and circulated a petition to free a group of imprisoned dissidents. This was happening in Czechoslovakia, after the crushing of the 1968 “Prague Spring” by Soviet tanks. And it was seen as a futile gesture, potentially even a dangerously baiting gesture that would just make matters worse. But Havel beautifully describes how it had long-range consequences, being a part of the inexorable force of resistance, one of many small acts seen as absurd or hopeless at the time, that ultimately brought down the government. He says, “History is not something that takes place “elsewhere”; it takes place here; we all contribute to making it.” Amen to that.
- Hélène Lesterlin