How can one be a rebel today? How can one not! To exist is to defy all that threatens you. To be a rebel is not to accumulate a library of subversive books or to dream of fantastic conspiracies or of taking to the hills. It is to make yourself your own law. To find in yourself what counts. To make sure that you’re never “cured” of your youth. To prefer to put everyone up against the wall rather than to remain supine. To pillage in this age whatever can be converted to your law, without concern for appearance. By contrast, I would never dream of questioning the futility of seemingly lost struggles. Think of Patrick Pearse. I’ve also spoken of Solzhenitsyn, who personifies the magic sword of which Junger speaks, “the magic sword that makes tyrants tremble.” In this Solzhenitsyn is unique and inimitable. But he owed this power to someone who was less great than himself. To someone who should gives us cause to reflect. In “The Gulag Archipelago,” he tells the story of his “revelation.” In 1945, he was in a cell at Boutyrki Prison in Moscow, along with a dozen other prisoners, whose faces were emaciated and whose bodies broken. One of the prisoners, though, was different. He was an old White Guard colonel, Constantin Iassevitch. He had been imprisoned for his role in the Civil War. Solzhenitsyn says the colonel never spoke of his past, but in every facet of his attitude and behavior it was obvious that the struggle had never ended for him. Despite the chaos that reigned in the spirits of the other prisoners, he retained a clear, decisive view of the world around him. This disposition gave his body a presence, a flexibility, an energy that defied its years. He washed himself in freezing cold water each morning, while the other prisoners grew foul in their filth and lament. A year later, after being transferred to another Moscow prison, Solzhenitsyn learned that the colonel had been executed. “He had seen through the prison walls with eyes that remained perpetually young. . . . This indomitable loyalty to the cause he had fought had given him a very uncommon power.” In thinking of this episode, I tell myself that we can never be another Solzhenitsyn, but it’s within the reach of each of us to emulate the old White colonel.
- Taken from an interview with Dominique Venner.
“Things have almost reached rock bottom. A universal spiritual death has already touched us all, and physical death will soon flare up and consume us both and our children–but as before we still smile in a cowardly way and mumble without tounges tied. But what can we do to stop it? We haven’t the strength? We have been so hopelessly dehumanized that for today’s modest ration of food we are willing to abandon all our principles, our souls, and all the efforts of our predecessors and all opportunities for our descendants – but just don’t disturb our fragile existence. We lack staunchness, pride and enthusiasm. We don’t even fear universal nuclear death, and we don’t fear a third world war. We have already taken refuge in the crevices. We just fear acts of civil courage.”
- Excerpt From The Essay: Live Not By Lies, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
“A decline in courage [. . .] may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life. Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity and perplexity in their actions and in their statements and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and weak countries, not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists. Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, ‘A World Split Apart’ 8 June, 1978