Hidden and Independent

“Building freedom actually doesn’t begin in the media or Hollywood or academia,” writes Stella Morabito in a recent essay on The Federalist. “It begins in the ‘hidden sphere,’ as explained in Soviet-era freedom fighter Vaclav Havel’s essay, ‘The Power of the Powerless.’ This means that the nucleus of human power lies within us as individuals, in our personal relationships and private conversations.”

I had not read the essay before, but Bruce Sterling provides a translation of the English version from Havel’s site. Some highlights:

Individuals can be alienated from themselves only because there is something in them to alienate. The terrain of this violation is their authentic existence. Living the truth is thus woven directly into the texture of living a lie. It is the repressed alternative, the authentic aim to which living a lie is an inauthentic response. Only against this background does living a lie make any sense: it exists because of that background. In its excusatory, chimerical rootedness in the human order, it is a response to nothing other than the human predisposition to truth. Under the orderly surface of the life of lies, therefore, there slumbers the hidden sphere of life in its real aims, of its hidden openness to truth.

the question of whether one or several political parties are in power, and how these parties define and label themselves, is of far less importance than the question of whether or not it is possible to live like a human being.

Independent initiatives address the hidden sphere; they demonstrate that living within the truth is a human and social alternative and they struggle to expand the space available for that life; they help-even though it is, of course, indirect help-to raise the confidence of citizens; they shatter the world of appearances and unmask the real nature of power.

Both Morabito and Havel illustrate the importance of what Richard Cornuelle called the “Independent Sector” of community organizations, churches, and non-profits. As Nathan Glazer noted, government programs “take over, at least in part, the role of the family, of the ethnic and neighborhood group, of voluntary associations.” If we would have less government, we must live in truth independent of government.

Joseph Coletti / Senior Fellow

Joe Coletti is a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation focused on fiscal policy issues. He previously headed the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiativ...

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