He didn’t want to.
He had written poetry, plays, and several books. Even worked in a beer factory, under duress. He wasn’t a politician.
On the other hand, he had been in jail multiple times because of “political activity.” Many years in jail, for his writings. He would hide them in all kinds of places: even in plain view, as plays. You know, in that double meaning or even triple — in that abstract metaphoric way. Pushing the limits — against the banal evil. They would catch on occasionally — back to jail.
1989. Into the Theatre of the Absurd. Reality — There were challenges of governing a nascent democracy, when things mattered. No jails to be had, except, maybe, the jail of power. With the breakup of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union finally disappeared in two years time. That banal Communist bureaucracy crumbled.
“In this postmodern world, cultural conflicts are becoming more dangerous than any time in history. A new model of coexistence is needed, based on man’s transcending himself.”
He didn’t want to. He knew. But he was elected to do…
You see, he cared. Václav Havel cared deeply. Havel was a Counselor Idealist, a Diplomatic Contender. He is similar to Aung San Suu Kyi, in this respect. And, Idealists can typically care about abstract causes more than the three other Temperaments. How can Human Rights be advanced with the banal evil of Communist bureaucracy collapsing all around them, particularly in Czechoslovakia, a political football in the conflicts of Europe for nigh 80 years?
Some Idealists hold certain contentions that they put forth dramatically whenever the occasion requires or permits them to do so. … Some of them …, are instinctive in contending with others, so they are aptly called “Diplomatic Contenders,” and as such tend to become efficient Counselors of those who need help in deciding what to do with their lives. Like other Idealists, they sooner or later get into the habit of using metaphoric words Personology page 174. [emphasis added]
Because of their vivid imaginations Counselors are often seen as more poetic and mystical than others. As writers, their novels, plays, and poems are florid and laced with metaphor, the latter sometimes strained such as to require leaps of imagination by the reader. Personology, page 176.
Yes, he was elected… And he had entered a theatre of the absurd, with him being on center stage: with no concrete script.
On 29 December 1989, while leader of the Civic Forum, he became president by a unanimous vote of the Federal Assembly [of Czechoslovakia]. This was an ironic turn of fate for a man who had long insisted that he was uninterested in politics. He joined many dissidents of the period arguing that political change should happen through civic initiatives autonomous from the state, rather than through the state itself. After the free elections of 1990 he retained his presidency. One of the first acts in office was to issue a wide ranging amnesty releasing many political prisoners. Despite increasing tensions, Havel supported the retention of the federation of the Czechs and Slovaks during the the breakup of Czechoslovakia. On 3 July 1992, the federal parliament did not elect Havel, who was the only candidate – due to a lack of support from Slovak MPs. The largest party, the Civic Democratic Party, let it known that it would not support any other candidate. After the Slovaks issued their Declaration of Independence, he resigned as president on 20 July, saying that he would not preside over the country’s breakup. However, when the Czech Republic was created, he stood for election as president on 26 January 1993, and won. Unlike in Czechoslovakia, he was not the Czech Republic’s chief executive.
Havel’s popularity abroad surpassed his popularity at home, and he was no stranger to controversy and criticism. During his time in office, Havel went as far as to state that the expulsion of the indigenous Sudeten German population after WWII was amoral, causing a great amount of controversy at home. In another case, an extensive general pardon, one of his first acts as a president, was an attempt to both lessen the pressure in overcrowded prisons and to release those who may have been falsely imprisoned during the Communist era. He had felt that the decisions of the corrupt court of the previous regime could not be trusted, and that most of those in prison had not been fairly tried. Critics claimed that this amnesty raised the crime rate. According to Havel’s memoir To the Castle and Back, most of those who were released had less than a year to serve before their sentences ended. Statistics have not lent clear support to either claim. Wikipedia
In his book, he writes with eloquence and candor about his transition from playwright to politician, and the surreal challenges of governing a young democracy.
“The idea of human rights and freedoms must be an integral part of any meaningful world order. Yet, I think it must be anchored in a different place, and in a different way, than has been the case so far. If it is to be more than just a slogan mocked by half the world, it cannot be expressed in the language of a departing era, and it must not be “mere froth floating on the subsiding waters of faith in a purely scientific relationship to the world. — Václav Havel, The Need for Transcendence in the Postmodern World
Václav Havel died on 18 December 2011.
Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance. — Václav Havel