Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the great Soviet dissident, suffered greatly as an expression of his conscience against the communist state. But he also had some fascinating, prophetic words that apply to the Western world and the United States in particular. Joseph Pearce relates in Chronicles:
“It is time, in the West,” he said, “to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.” Going to the very root of the West’s moral bankruptcy, he stated that the triumph of rights over responsibilities had led to “the abyss of human decadence.” He cited the “misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror,” as illustrative of the West’s inability to defend itself against the corrosive effects of evil. How prophetic all of this sounds after a further 40 years of corrosion!
Turning his attention to the media, he excoriated those who corrupted people by stuffing “their divine souls . . . with gossip, nonsense, vain talk”:
Hastiness and superficiality—these are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century and more than anywhere else this is manifested in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press; it is contrary to its nature. The press merely picks out sensational formulas.
The media establishment is “the greatest power within the Western countries, exceeding that of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.” Yet its power is deeply undemocratic and unrepresentative: “According to what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible?”
The “Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion” was not an attractive alternative to communism. Indeed, at root, both systems sprang from the anti-Christian philosophies of the Enlightenment, what Solzhenitsyn called “rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy,” which had “proclaimed and practiced [the] autonomy of man from any higher force above him.” The dominance of secular humanism in both cultures meant that the East and the West had more in common than either side realized—a shared materialism, a de facto atheism...
At the heart of Solzhenitsyn’s vision for a just and sustainable economics and politics was the devolution of power from large central authorities toward local or regional governments, a democracy of small areas, as well as the fostering and proliferation of many small businesses to supplant supersized corporate businesses. Such ideas are in harmony with the concepts of subsidiarity and solidarity at the heart of Catholic social teaching, as well as the vision of the Southern Agrarians.
In an age careening senselessly and ultimately disastrously toward globalist tyranny—whose end can be nothing short of global meltdown—the life and work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn shines forth as a light of wisdom in a darkening world. As his heroism made history in the 20th century, may his wisdom continue to guide us in the 21st.