There was more to disturb the self-satisfied intellectual elite. Surely faculty members at Harvard must have gnashed their teeth in the face of this remonstrance: "Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror." According to Solzhenitsyn, life organized around laws and the individual has shown an inability to "defend itself against the corrosion of evil."
Solzhenitsyn did not spare the media's role in the decline of the West. He said the media's constant parroting of the maxim "everyone is entitled to know everything" is "a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information."
Again, this was 1978, just two years after Ted Turner created WTBS, just six years after HBO was launched in Pennsylvania. Today, cable programming is filled with the vain, the vulgar and the vacuous and Solzhenitsyn's critique rings even more true in 2008.
Solzhenitsyn loved America, but said he couldn't recommend it in its present state as a model for his country: "Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive."
There's plenty more and every student and politician - indeed, every American - ought to read, or re-read the speech. It was a sobering and prophetic address and contains far more substance than anything we'll hear at the upcoming political conventions.
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