Monday, September 26, 2011

Why he wasn't a communist

I'm not sure why, but it wasn't until about a year ago that the work of the great Czech writer Karel Capek escaped the periphery of my knowledge (as the popularizer of the term "robot") and found itself on my kindle in the form of R.U.R. and The War with Newts. (Unfortunately, neither of those works are available for the dollar price that I found them at a year ago.)

And it wasn't until today that Capek's deeply warm and humane 1924 essay "Why I am not a Communist" came to my attention. I found it interesting - having known that Capek had satirized the Nazis but not having been aware he'd seen through the pretenses of the Communist leaders of his day so early - and present the link to whomever might also not have heard of it.

I have already said that real poverty is no institution but a disaster. You can reverse all orders but you will not prevent human beings from strokes of bad luck, from sickness, from the suffering of hunger and cold, from the need of a helpful hand. Do whatever you like, disaster presents human beings with a moral, not a social task. The language of communism is hard; it does not talk of the values of sympathy, willingness, help and human solidarity; it says with self-confidence that it is not sentimental. But this lack of sentimentality is the worst thing for me, since I am just as sentimental as any maid, as any fool, as any decent person is; only rogues and demagogues are not sentimental. Apart from sentimental reasons you will not hand a glass of water to your neighbor; rational motives will not even bring you to help and raise a person who has slipped.

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