Honey-Mouthed Politicians

Li Linfu, powerful chancellor of Tang dynasty China from 734 to 752, was renown for his devious ways and honeyed voice, evidently an early master of political correctness. Employing his skills to personal advantage, he ruled by backstabbing all potential competitors (which naturally included all patriotic officials intent upon serving their country) while his emperor focused on the development of new forms of music. Continue reading

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Responsibility

Solzhenitsyn [Солженицын] wrote great works of history and literature, but beyond that even his live comments contain gems, for example the interview response below, which he gave to Der Spiegel [7/23/07]at the astonishing age of 88:

Every people must answer morally for all of its past — including that past which is shameful. Answer by what means? By attempting to comprehend: How could such a thing have been allowed? Where in all this is our error? And could it happen again? It is in that spirit, specifically, that it would behoove the Jewish people to answer, both for the revolutionary cutthroats and the ranks willing to serve them. Not to answer before other peoples, but to oneself, to one’s consciousness, and before God. Just as we Russians must answer — for the pogroms, for those merciless arsonist peasants, for those crazed revolutionary soldiers, for those savage sailors.

Solzhenitsyn’s point, as is clearer in the context of the full interview, is not to call for blaming anyone but to call for self-assessment so that a society can rise above its past mistakes.

Guilt

Guilt, innocence, and justice–albeit favorite crumbs for tossing out to the crowd–are, to most politicians, acidic concepts whose merest touch can corrode that all-important amour-propre. “Team players,” as one says in Washington–does anyone know what the term would have been in the old Soviet Union???–would never allow such rudeness to pass their lips in a policy meeting. Continue reading