7 Highlights From Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Speech

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote The Gulag Archipelago, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich after serving in Stalin’s gulag due to criticizing the Soviet leadership’s actions during World War 2. His book became a resource by which many Westerners came to understand the evils of Stalin’s totalitarian government.

After the Soviet Union exiled him in the early 1970’s, he came to live in the United States. Here is a prophetic speech he gave at Harvard’s commencement in 1978 (click here for the full text).

Here are the highlights I found most illuminating.

1. Pursuit of truth

…truth eludes us if we do not concentrate our attention totally on it’s pursuit. But even while it eludes us, the illusion of knowing it still lingers and leads to many misunderstandings. Also, truth seldom is pleasant; it is almost invariably bitter.

2. West vs East

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger — 60 years for our people and 30 years for the people of Eastern Europe. During that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. Life’s complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper, and more interesting characters than those generally [produced] by standardized Western well-being.

3. Consumer culture

After the suffering of many years of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.

4. Fake societal stability

The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

5. Technology as savior

All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the 20th century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the 19th Century.

6. Spiritual emptiness

We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible — The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.

7. Purpose of life

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it.

What could possibly go wrong from having a culture that passes on spiritual or traditional life in favor of consumerism, narcissism, and fornication? We’re currently finding out.

Don’t Miss: The 7 Steps That Lead To A Complete Culture Decline

113 thoughts on “7 Highlights From Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Speech”

    1. No, wise. There are reasons to be disappointed with both.
      The east is obsessed with the statism of economy.
      The west is obsessed with the statism of safety.

        1. Not true. There’s these things called “enlightenments”… they happen from time to time. For good or for evil, they’re a mental virus that spreads and changes human thinking. The core operating system and conditions don’t change, but the perspective people has does.

        2. That comic is stupid. There is no meaning to life, but be loyal to your friends and forgive your enemies anyway, etc. Evolution is true, but act in ways contrary to it and expect society to do likewise. Evolution is supposedly true, yet collectively, all the groups that embrace it, stop having enough children, become evolutionary dead ends. None of her ideals for life include marriage and children, “Just try and have fun and not take things too seriously.” Odds are that Donught obsessed atheist girl from the comic gets old and fat and dies alone, otherwise she becomes the type of wife/mother this site complains about.

  1. If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature.

    I guess Solzhenitsyn hadn’t heard of Russia’s home-grown version of immortalist transhumanism, namely, Cosmism:

  2. The Enlightenment didn’t just wreak havoc in Western Europe and in the American colonies; its ideas reached into Russia’s elites as well in the 18th Century. Denis Diderot even spent some time at the court of Catherine the Great.
    And Russian novelists in the 19th Century indicate that Russian intellectuals read books on materialist philosophy published in the West. For example, a character in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons references a book by Ludwig Büchner on scientific materialism. And all of this happened before the Bolsheviks, dominated by many of the Others who bore ill will because of their treatment by Russian Orthodox Christians under the Tsars, really got to work on interfering with the transmission of Orthodox belief under Communism.
    So I think the Enlightenment managed to break the continuity of that branch of the christian experience about as thoroughly as it did in the Western branches. Today’s Orthodox Christians practice a form of Creative Anachronism, following the forms of the religion from what they can read in books, but lacking the substance because the background conditions for it have mostly disappeared.

    1. “Today’s Orthodox Christians practice a form of Creative Anachronism,
      following the forms of the religion from what they can read in books,
      but lacking the substance because the background conditions for it have
      mostly disappeared.”
      We’re not the Amish. We don’t need “background conditions,” we create them in even the most hostile surroundings. We’ve always adapted taken the best of host country/culture as well as the harmless. But, the core doctrines and practices don’t change, because they don’t need to. So, we’re unchanging and timeless, while the Heterodox (Roman Catholics and their Protestant daughters, etc.) shift in the winds.

  3. Blaming consumerism is always a cop out. Nobody forces you to buy anything (except Obama). When people consume various items, they do so freely of their own freewill. The what and why of their consumption is a reflection on the culture, NOT the mere fact that they participated in the free market. People bought Bowie knives, guns and hard liquor during the 1800’s but we do not sneer at them for having a fallen culture simply because they bought things.
    Not that there is anything wrong with Bowie knives, guns and hard liquor of course, I highly recommend all three.

    1. I agree in part. Consumerism and free market are not synonyms. Consumerism is a consequence of fiat money and artificial credit distorting human behavior towards consuming and away from saving.

      1. For all intents and purposes, most who criticize consumerism do not know that distinction. Every leftist and many Tradcons generally sneer at the free market mechanism without any nuances.
        Not to put too fine a point on it, but ol’ Mr. S was a Leftist.

        1. Yes, but as you have said before, we don’t have a real free market but rather a bastardization of one. Consequently, we have self-inflicted problems uniquely attributable to our system, such as over-consumption.

        2. I understand that. Most who criticize however somehow think we do, and sneer at us for acting without their tender guidance, making choices they don’t like (“McMansins! SUV’s! Boats and sports cars! Eeeeeeeeeviiiiil!”)
          Few have nuance, so I critique the general perceptions.
          Last, it is not my place to tell others how much they can or cannot buy. I do not accept that as a problem.

        3. consumerism itself or the access to all those goods is not evil but i think what most people are referring to instead is the american archetype of the fat, spiritually and morally decrepid, TV addicted office zombie that is stuck on the consume and spend treadmill with the hope that the newest SUV or the next iphone will somehow alleviate his anguish. This is what happens when you have no real culture or value system.

        4. Adding to that, it’s not as if their poor decisions don’t affect others. We suffer indirectly from their obesity and overconsumption.

        5. Dunno, I was hearing the same sneers from the Left during the 1980’s. Hardly a period of fat lumbering twaddle farts.
          And you reinforce my point, nobody is “stuck” and forced to consume. They make that choice with everything they buy, or do not buy. Moral agency still applies individually.

        6. 1. Excessive consumption of resources that leads to environmental issues.
          2. While financing for appliances likely isn’t a culprit, overconsumption of homes was a direct cause of the recession that further indebted individual tax payers.

        7. I reject environmentalism.
          2008 was awful, no doubt. So your only objection is over financed homes?

        8. Reject it on what premise? Ideologically I am indifferent, but I fully acknowledge the short-sightedness of materialistic consumption and why others oppose it.
          Artificial financing, particularly inflated by a credit derivatives, in addition to government incentivization to consume (both were guilty parties in the CDO fallout).

        9. So understand your financial limitations and do not borrow more than you can pay back, or better, do not borrow at all. Those options are there for all, it is not up to me to make others exercise them.
          I bought both of my houses during the bubble. The moment I heard what I was approved for, I laughed out loud. It was so high, and the assumptions of income growth so absurd, that only a nimrod would have borrowed at the max rate so I didn’t. I knew reality and my limitations. No big feat for anybody with common sense, and I absolve nobody of bad decisions because they got greedy.
          The proper response to 2008 would have been for no bailouts, and letting people drown in their own silly choices. Lessons learned and passed on, life then continues on a better path afterwards.

        10. This is all incidental of course, the standard boilerplate criticism is people sneering because others buy things that the sneerer deems that they do not need.

        11. You’re right in that the economy needed it’s medicine in 2008. But that didn’t happen and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find another credit derivative collapse given that little was done to force institutions to balance their assets. The hope of course is that with their profit margins and the length of time that has elapsed that they have rid themselves of the toxicity, but as with anything, when there are zero consequences for poor decisions, greater risks will be taken.

        12. Fanatical environmentalism is an excuse of good for nothing zombies to pontificate, but until we really get out of this rock and colonize other planets, this is our home and like it or not, a home full of shit and toxic fume is a hell on Earth that not only you but your children have to endure unwillingly.

        13. When all those currently with debt, even those who had nothing to do with the real estate collapse, go into bankruptcy or are forced to
          under-consume due to financial constrains, it’s going to affect not justthe American economy but the world economy as well. Everything is interconnected whether you like it or not.
          Libertarianism doesn’t work and will not work in a world run by Jews.

        14. I don’t like McMansions because they’re poorly made, even more poorly designed, and are generally left empty or poorly furnished by people with more money, than taste. That, and the fact that they’re needlessly large, and that sort of extravagance is never looked upon well.
          SUVs (outside of land rovers, toyota land cruisers) are poseur vehicles, that exist only for suburbanites to pretend that they’re the active sort. That, or an accessible means for small middle-aged women to feel powerful.
          Boats are money pits, and show the person who owns one to be more concerned with being seen as the guy owns a boat, than actual boating/sailing.
          Sports cars are just fine. We need more of them.
          No, it’s not our concern how much other people spend on stuff, but if the people around us have their lives revolve around obtaining stuff, then the duties they owe to the rest of society, will go unfulfilled. That should concern us.

        15. I view it the same as any exponentially growing burden. It might never develop into a problem but I prefer the conservative approach to things rather than expect an optimistic outcome.

        16. McMansions….I live in what for many would be a decent walk-in closet. I look at it as a place that requires almost no housework. People in their enormous homes just make work for themselves. I know guys with yards so big that they have to set aside entire weekends for it. To each their own. I would hate all that extra work. And the heating bills. I’m quite environmentally minded for an extreme right-winger and I would just feel weird that all that wood, cement, stone, light, heat, paint etc. was for me and my family. It’s just too much material and I would feel ill on some level. As for SUV’s, I can understand rich suburbanites just wanting to pack their kids into a tank for all intents and purposes, just for safety. Especially when every other vehicle is a tank anyway. It’s an arms race out there. Boats. What is it? ‘Be Out Another Thousand’ B.O.A.T.

        17. I lean pretty far towards ‘environmentalism’ just naturally. It’s not for political, social, ideological or hostile reasons. It just goes hand in hand with minimalism. It feels good. Like your life is a clean drawer with no junk in it. But others can do what they want. I’ve always loved the Seattleite enviro-fashion a-holes whose carbon footprint is 5 times mine though no one would ever guess that because I haven’t made it into a fashion statement.

        18. Yes. Lately this has been on my mind;
          –How much of social interaction is made up of people seeking out validation for their own decisions. Criticizing others in order to bolster the strength of their own ego-invested decisions. So much of social behavior is driven by this mechanism–tinkering with your own self-perception by nitpicking at others. This is an example too–“I didn’t buy that therefore anyone who did buy that is an asshole, therefore I’m not an asshole.” Cognitive balance restored! (For about two minutes).

        19. I don’t think he was a leftist. There is a good three part series on him on youtube. If anything I would say he was libertarian like yourself.

        20. “we don’t have a real free market but rather a bastardization of one”
          Care to elaborate on that?

        21. Exactly. Can’t we see it’s the Left who spew this “Consumerism” dogma? Can’t we see this is just spite for the massive failure of Communism? Here’s how it goes:
          You: Communist societies starve and want.
          Leftie: but… but… but Capitalist societies are morally decrepit and spiritually bankrupt blah blah blah…

        22. Corporations have leveraged their positions by getting government policies favorable to them and unfavorable to non-incorporated businesses.

        23. Exactly. I’m all for personal freedoms- provided they do not interfere with the well-being of others. However, in our current system, other people’s decisions do in fact affect others.

        24. The fact that corporations use governments to their advantage is irrelevant to the issue. The issue is not the freedom of the markets but the freedom of choice of the consumer.

        25. In doing so, they are able to create barriers to entry in markets, thereby limiting consumer choice.

        26. Yes, but we’re talking consumer choice within the context of Consumerism, that is, not the fact that you get more freedom when more choices are available but the fact that the consumer choice is free rather than forced, as proponents of Consumerism seem to argue. I think the fact that markets are artificially restricted would be an argument not for Consumerism but against.

        27. Markets aren’t only artificially restricted, they are also artificially incentivized. And sometimes even propped up after economic failure. The US government in recent years has created policy favorable to large corporations, bailed out failing corporations, provided subsidies to corporations, and heavily incentivized spending rather than saving. Ultimately you are correct that if the average American had adequate discretion they would not fall prey to most of these policies. However, with how low interest rates are now, it makes it nearly impossible to justify saving. So Fed activities alone are promoting consumerism.

      2. Disagree. Consumerism is not a distortion of human behavior but natural human behavior in action. People are naturally selfish. They’ll pursue self-gratification when given the chance, and only Capitalism gives them that chance. Here’s the thing: selfishness is a natural state but superabundance is not. So poorer, more backwards, seemingly less “materialistic” populations might make you think that’s the natural state of humans, but that’s only because they don’t have the chance to exercise their true nature. Then along comes superabundance, itself a consequence of Capitalism (and the reason why no other economic system has been accused of Consumerism so far), which is a rather strange state for mankind, and suddenly people go crazy with the acquiring and the hoarding.
        Granted, fiat money and artificial credit enable Consumerism but are far from being the causes. In the 3rd country where I live, and many others as well, there’s fiat money and artificial credit but nothing that could be called Consumerism by Western standards, simply because people don’t have the means to afford what little there is to consume.

        1. America has the dollar as reserve currency so it buys third world manufactured goods for cheap. That was used by those third world countries to build up infrastructure. We are actually in the middle of transition to a new system where the dollar isn’t central to global trade.

    2. I bet while he was in Russia he was dreaming of the life in the West and then vice versa. The infamous Russian melancholy.
      Dostoevsky wrote that “the most basic, most rudimentary spiritual need of the Russian people is the need for suffering, ever-present and unquenchable, everywhere and in everything“.

      1. Dostoevsky said that ??What a quote . How accurate too. Maybe explains the Russians and their drinking. Russians also despise overly cheerful people I’ve notice ( most Americans).

      2. Replace ‘the Russian people’ with ‘Feminism’, and you have a very modern malady.

        1. Not exactly. The feminists have an interests to keep the victim’s card as they bear dividends from it (similar to the Jews), whereas the Russian people just can’t help it and they are much worse being so miserable.

        2. Look at the entire thing once you take out reference to Russians, You’ll get it. Don’t look at it in Russian terms. You’ll find your comment is correct in relation to the victim’s card.

    3. Agree in principle GoJ, but the marketing in the 1800’s for Bowie Knives and Hard Liquor was much different.
      Modern advertising is closer to psychological terrorism than it is to Brand Awareness campaigns.
      Agreed that we can force ourselves away from mainstream and realize what is going on through our capacity of free agency, but this is an already existing situation from the first moments of consciousness. While it may be free will to opt out, it is not free will to opt in and as the advertisers become more and more savvy it will be harder and harder to see the shadows on the wall of the cave for what they are.

      1. I do not ascribe magical powers to marketers. We are not victims of our own choice, we are free agents with the ability to judge and make decisions outside whatever constraints others wish us to be bound up in.
        In summary, I refuse to subscribe to the victim mentality that excuses individuals for the choices they make.

        1. I applaud you for your refusal to subscribe to a victim mentality. Also, I do not ascribe magical powers to marketers either. However, I do believe it is easier for someone like me, born in the 70’s, to open my eyes to what is really going on than for a millenial who has been getting bombarded with this nonsense since birth.
          This is not a get out of jail free card for them to be sure, but we should realize that in this particular endeavor they have a harder road than most and should do our best to lend them a hand when possible.

        2. Lolol it doesn’t matter if you refuse or not, the over-consuming sheeple will drag you down with them, whether you like it or not.
          You’re a sheep too GOJ, just in ways you don’t recognize. Keep on slagging “conspiracy theorists” lol, the Military-Industrial complex applauds you.

    4. That’s the whole point, no one needs to be ‘forced’ to buy anything today, the sheeple merely need to be led by petty greed and insecurity through the bombardment of advertisement. You only advertise things you don’t need.
      Also, don’t equate consumerism, which is an act of opulent spending, with merely buying things and ‘participating in the free market’. That’s like equating gluttony and obesity with the act of eating food and nourishing yourself.

      1. So people are too stupid to exercise choice on their own behalf and are lead to make choices in the market for things *you* deem they do not need, and need guidance?

        1. Given the state of the world today, I say yes. Majority of the people (but not all) are seriously misguided and live lives of empty pleasure, constant distraction, and impulse release. The entire society is going downhill as a result. Our culture is already in the gutter.
          I know this is going to lead to an argument about individual freedom vs. society, so let me just state that I see that issue as a matter of opinion rather than what is right or wrong. And my opinion is that a society without any values with people who are given no guidance will be controlled by corporate interests and led towards self-destructive consumerism.

        2. You make my point and clarify my reason for objecting to criticizing free individuals spending their money as they see fit. No need to continue really.

        3. Yes, it is acceptable to both criticize antisocial and damaging behavior and realize that people are “free” (read “able”) to do so. There is too much focus on the “freedom” to do things in the west, as if it is some unique and special thing. I’ll use tattoos as an example.
          As far as I know, no country forbids tattoos. Therefore, almost anywhere in the world, anyone is “free” to get a tattoo. Tattoos are rampant in America, especially among college age American women and fatties. This level of acceptance has nothing to do with being “super free” to get a tattoo in America, but has much more to do with proper social mores not being taught. In a socially conservative society, young, attractive women would be shamed for getting a tattoo, and she would be shunned by male suitors. It is perfectly acceptable to criticize people for making bad choices, while still acknowledging that they are “choices.”
          Another example is the silly “The Interview” movie about North Korea. I overheard someone being interviewed by the local news at the theater about how they were coming out to watch the film to “celebrate their freedom as an American”. Well guess what, in every part of the planet EXCEPT North Korea, people are “free” to watch that film if they so choose. There was no special exception that day for Americans going to see a mediocre film. But Americans think they are privy to special everyday “free” choices that are available to the vast majority of the planet.
          I think we can come up with a few basic things we all agree should be valued: women should value their femininity, and develop nurturing tendencies such as cooking, keeping a fit body, an attractive wardrobe of heels, skirts, dresses, etc. Most of us would agree that real social interaction is to be valued over social media. It is ok to both be in awe of the invention of the iphone and lament its destruction in our society. Hell, its fine to even own one, just please don’t use it constantly in public and tweet every single thing you are doing. Both men and women should be in good physical shape. All of things things are common goals almost every reader here would agree with. And your point is.. that people are free not to? Don’t give advice or guidance on how others should better themselves? I don’t get it.

        4. Yes, we shouldn’t give advice or guidance on how others should better themselves, simply because who’s to say how to “better” oneself? If that “who” is you, you’re obviously happy about it. But what if -and this is completely possible- that “who” is the Muslim extremist, the Communist SJW or the Neo-nazi? You wouldn’t be so happy now, would you?

        5. I for one appreciate well reasoned, helpful, logical advice on a variety of subjects. I also believe it is healthy to listen to alternative viewpoints. I think each of your three examples above has a root issue at the core that can be addressed. The extremist may be longing for a more structured social life with traditional roles, conservative principles, and more control of females. The communist may be responding to outrageous extremism as the collective wealth of a handful exceeds that of billions of others. The neo Nazi may .. ok that’s a harder one. hah but Hitler invented the interstate highway and made the trains run on time.
          If you challenged each of those three imaginary people to write an article telling us how we should better ourselves, I would be very interested in seeing the response!
          Another point is that over the past 100 years as the west has allowed so many of its institutions to crumble, it has failed to replace them with anything. So instead of a strong church leader providing social instruction and moral rules, we have adolescents who were never exposed to moral education in public school, church, or home. Instead of a workers union providing education for trademen we have a broke and barely functional community college system, which stresses soft knowledge such as “bookkeeping” or “liability and risk management” over hard skills such as “analog circuit design” or “alternating current applications”. Instead of a strong education system led by passionate wise men, we have a detention center from ages 6-18 where soft subjects are taught. There is very little true advice or guidance delivered to the masses. Fortunately there is the resource of the internet, which allows those which are motivated enough to seek out knowledge themselves.

        6. You miss my point. One thing is to listen to everybody’s opinion -which I as an obvious advocate of freedom evidently agree with- and another thing is to let one particular entity, be it a person, defined group of persons or an institution, provide the moral compass for us all. I trust that you see the irony in your defense of both a society with strong religious values and a tolerance for -even an interest on- alternative viewpoints because history shows again and again that those two hardly coexist.
          We don’t need “institutions” per se and we don’t need society to replace one failed set of institutions with another. Because people make institutions, not the other way around. If a certain institution crumbles, people will make up another. Also, the worst attacks against institutions often come from other institutions, not from people or the circumstances. For example, the worst attacks against family, the only institution I recognize because it’s based on a biological and hence trustworthy imperative, have come from another institution, namely the government. The worst attacks against Western workers in recent times have come from the unions. The worst attacks against education have come from the educational system. Why? Because institutions mean shit and it is people who compose them who determine what they are, and those people often suck.
          Besides, a given set of values or a given religion is not a guarantee of the welfare of society. The poorest, more violent, worst shitholes in the world are often also where the people are the most religious. Do you think there are no moral values in Somalia, Afghanistan or Myanmar? There certainly are and much stronger and more “pristine” than in the West. They’re simply different and led to different, arguably negative outcomes.

        7. Religion is a root cause of much evil in the world. However, the *institution* of religion did serve a purpose in the past. The benefit of a society with “strong religious values” is not in the fact that they believe in mythological magic, but that there are rules and beliefs in these fairytales which are important for societies, and the institution of the church was used to impart this to the masses. And institutions absolutely made people, formed their beliefs and morals and behaviors.
          I am a big fan of the BBC series Downton Abbey. You can see how society during the turn of the 19th century was structured and managed by the strong institutions of the day, the monarchy being one of the most important, but there was also strong social reinforcement from the general population.
          One cannot believe that the ghettho hood rats in todays America, if placed within the 1900 society of Great Britain, would behave similarly as they do today. This is precisely because institutions do shape people, their behaviors, and their values.
          It is not a popular belief to state in the west, as there is the notion that democracy is an accepted universal good and that individualism should be valued above other values.

      2. the sheeple merely need to be led by petty greed and insecurity through the bombardment of advertisement
        Then the sheeple should get fleeced like they deserve.

      3. There’s no sheeple. There’s individuals making their individual choices. We may not agree with them -I often don’t- but we have to respect them because the alternative -one individual (or political body) who “knows better” (e.g. you) making decisions on their behalf- would be much worse.

    5. Of course there is nothing wrong with consuming things in the general sense of buying and using goods and services.
      What’s destructive is the cultural normalization of excessive consumption in lieu of other, healthier expenditures of time and money. Such over-consumption creates weakness in an individual, not strength. When too many of its constituent individuals become weak, society become weak.
      The issue of free will is pretty philosophical. However, consider the environment in which children are raised — essentially brainwashed to take part in our toxic mainstream culture. Children are disoriented and filled with lies, and even as they grow and become “adults,” countless people continue to support the same messages, the same values to which those children were indoctrinated. When the chorus is loud, it’s hard to hear the few voices of dissent.

      1. Excessive? According to whom precisely? A person who can become weak due to owning too many cars or televisions probably was never strong in the first place.
        Adults are responsible for installing proper values in their children. Even then, people can reject those values. Most adult stock market losers of the crash that lead to the depression had stoic parents and little to any “do greed!” propaganda. Conversely people raised from cradle to grave to embrace communism rejected it wholesale.
        End of the day, it is not my place to tell you how to spend or not spend your money. If you want to overspend and be stupid, then you get to face consequences (usually, where government has not mandated otherwise). I am all for consequences.

        1. The affect of consumption differs by the character and circumstances of the consumer. The billionaire who buy an expensive item is affected much differently by his purchase than is a pauper who buys the same thing.
          The issue is not responsibility, nor about people telling others what to do. It is, as you are all for, consequences. Our nation (and other Western nations) are producing weaker and weaker people. Assuming you live in a Western country, you stand to suffer the consequences.
          To put it more succinctly, it’s becoming culturally normal to be fat, distracted, lazy, appetitive, and childish. Whether they do so of their free will or not is irrelevant to the consequences of such behavior.

      2. I honestly thought the level of debate on ROK was above the “think of the children” appeal.
        Buzzwords like “Consumerism”, “Commercialism”, “Cultural Normalization” and “indoctrination” always make me recall my forced readings of outdated Socialist books from the USSR and Cuba, back when I studied at the public college under outspoken socialist professors.
        “society” and “culture” are the realms of the Left. All the policies the Left pushes -feminism, equality, redistribution of wealth, welfare networks, victimhood, political correctness- have to rely on the appeal to the “common good” of society because they make no sense from an individualistic viewpoint. Individualism is the only protection we have against Leftist propaganda.

        1. “‘Society’ and ‘culture’ are the realms of the Left.”
          This statement typifies the view of some “conservatives,” who respond to progressive ideas and policies with a contrarian one. You can see this in the libertarian crowd, who act as if individuals can operate unaffected by society and culture, as if a civilization can build or even maintain its strength when individuals are almost complete atomized, bound and beholden to none save their own appetites and caprices.
          Why should an individual care about the strength of society? History shows again and again the fate of weak societies, along with the people who inhabit them.

        2. There’s never been a situation in history where individuals were completely “atomized, bound and beholden to none”, so the fact that no one exists in a void is not a point of discussion here.
          What is, though, is the idea that individuals have some sort of “duty” to uphold society or build civilization. You don’t. You only have a duty to yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors, partly because 1) the idea that you’re morally bound to people you have not and probably will never meet just because you happen to share a state-pushed (I mean state here in the most general sense) high culture, or you happen to be subjects of the same ruler or -even worse- due to a series of past events you had nothing to do with you happen to be citizens of the same nation-state, has no foundation on fact; and partly because 2) it’s not a realistic approach to life: unless you’re pretty high in the ladder, your actions simply do not have enough scope to affect the lives of not even a considerable portion of your fellow members of society.
          Besides, the rewards of a “strong” civilization or society are mainly for those who hold the political and economic power. There’s little in it for the average individual subject. Since time immemorial, those in power use “society” and “civilization” to dupe the suckers into giving up their freedoms, resources and lives: “accept the common religion, keep the stability of our society”, “spread the wealth for the common good”, “women’s issues are society’s issues”, “drinking/smoking/drug use hurts us all”, “go to the other side of the world and take a bullet to defend our civilization”. I’d rather pursue my appetites and caprices and those of my own.
          What exactly is the fate of weak societies? You mean that they disappear? Well yes, they do but here’s where you err: people don’t. People remain -even cities remain. The worst that can happen to people is that they’ll fall under the foot of yet another ruler, but the lot of the average individual hardly changes. Don’t believe for a second that a teotwawki scenario necessarily follows the downfall of a society. History has shown again and again that the turmoil is neither as long nor as critical. Why? Because it’s people who make societies, not the other way around.

        3. I’ll address your response by paragraph.
          1) Statements about duty and obligation are always quasi-rhetorical. I’m arguing that there is great utility in the binding together of individual effort for the accomplishment of collective endeavors. (War is the primary example).
          2) A strong society is both secure and prosperous. Common folk benefit from that security, and they take part in that prosperity. (The idea that “strong” means communism, feminism, or nanny-state laws is a modern contrivance and is not has not been proven true by history. As time goes on it becomes clearer and clearer that they make society weaker).
          3) Your claim that “the lot of the individual hardly changes” is totally out of sync with the nature of modern warfare and the top-heavy organization of first-world nation-states. The atrocities of World War II are in the past not because human nature has changed, nor because it’s become technologically less feasible to accomplish such destruction, but because of the vigilance of world powers, foremost the United States.
          The relationship between society and the individual is reciprocal. This country was built by hardworking, freedom-loving patriots. Over time our government has been infiltrated again and again by thieves, thugs, sociopaths, idiots, scoundrels, and cultural Marxists who have undermined the values on which this country was built. Welfare, entitlements, state-sponsored consumerism, globalism, and radical individualism have been the values of politicians, and these have in turn corrupted many of the common people.

        4. 1) Ironic that you say that, since the appeal to the common good of society is pretty rhetorical. Now to address your point. “there is great utility in the binding together of
          individual effort for the accomplishment of collective endeavors. (War
          is the primary example)” hardly ever means what you want it to mean; it much more often means “there is great utility for US -the power holders-…”. And yes, war is the primary example. At a very low level (e.g. a tribe) and magnitude (e.g. a raid), war might have some utility for the individual in the form of a more or less fair share of the spoils. But as societies grow more complex the less reward the individual gets, so the private recruit who fights for his nation-state -the collective for the sake of the collective- today gets nothing.
          2) That is true if that strength is used to defend the society but in fact it’s much more often used to attack other societies, then it becomes a security risk and a hindrance to society’s resources. Do you think the individual American is more secure and prosperous because the American military attacks countries in the other side of the world? No, he actually becomes the target of both the foreign people who are resentful for such misguided policies and the paranoia of his own government, and is also forced to carry the financial burden for every stupid little war. Meanwhile, he gets nothing out of the deal.
          3) I’ll say it again: the lot of the individual hardly changes. If America looses its supremacy -let’s hope it doesn’t-, individuals will deal with being just another country -and probably won’t do that bad, considering the former European colonial powers. If America disappears -highly unlikely- the individuals won’t. After a brief period of turmoil and unrest, they’ll learn to live well in whatever political entity they end up becoming, as long as it’s not a shitty collectivist regime.
          America was built by radical individualists in a world where the concept of “individual” was new and pretty revolutionary. The Founding Fathers were primarily concerned with protecting this recently discovered, fragile individual from the collective. When everybody said “religious harmony warrants social harmony”, they said “we prefer free religion over social harmony”; when everybody said “we should censor different opinions to avoid social unrest”, they said “we prefer free speech even if it brings about social unrest”; when everybody said “all arms should be controlled by a central authority because letting individuals bear arms puts the collective at risk”, they said “no, let the individual bear arms so he can defend himself from the oppression of the collective”. They were completely willing to risk the collective in order to uphold the individual, though they were also completely convinced -and eventually proven right- that security and prosperity would eventually result as nice side effect. And then the country, from the conquest of the West to the open border years, attracted and favored the individualists, the self-made and the self-reliant of the world. Those are the values America was built upon and it’s the regard for “society”, not radical individualism, what is destroying her. I find the fact that you use the Founding Fathers to argue a case for putting the interests of society over the interests of the individual preposterous.

        5. To clarify, the 2nd Amendment explicitly frames the right to bear arms as being for the benefit of the State, not the individual: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
          All wars, including the Revolutionary War, are about the collective. After all, freedom and all that is meaningless if you’re dead. Historically people have felt a deep personal connection with some greater collective (family, tribe, nation, religion). The erosion of such connections in our own time is without precedent.
          What happens if the Chinese decide they need some lebensraum and invade the American West Coast? If no one owes anyone a goddamn thing, why should there be an Army to defend you at all? All those country boys can just stay out of the way, flee to Canada if they want. You can pick up a rifle and stand your ground on your own front porch and see how far that gets you.

        6. I’d say the right to bear arms is all about the individuals. It’s warranted to the people, not the State. Think about this: States don’t need militias, they do much better with professional armies. It was standard military doctrine at the Founding Fathers’ time and all the great powers had one. So what could be the motivation to willingly weaken their position? That they were more concerned with the freedom of the people vis a vis the State than with the ability of the State to effectively fight foreign enemies, because they knew a professional standing army is not the people’s but the State’s. And here’s the bit of wisdom in that line of thinking: history has shown
          again and again that the worst threat against a man’s freedom and life
          is his own State rather than the foreign. Madison said it better:
          “The means of defence against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”
          And as societies grow more complex, it gets worse. In contemporary history, when the modern Nation-State is the unquestionable standard, the number of victims of policies enacted by their own governments vastly exceeds the number of victims of enemy armies.
          As I said, war is necessary when it’s about defending your life and freedom (and as long as others band together to wage war, so we have to of course). However, wars are seldom about that. When was the last time a situation like the one you describe actually happened? When was the last time the US military was called to defend the American soil against an invading force? I think it was the Pacific War some seventy years ago. Now, when was the last time the US military was called to fight an enemy miles away that posed no threat to America at all? About every ten years! “collective defense” means that you’ll be giving up your freedom and resources and putting your hide in the front every time the collective picks a fight, on the hopes that the collective will be by your side when you need to defend yourself from an external enemy once in a blue moon. See the imbalance?
          On a side note to our seemingly insurmountable disagreement, I appreciate the exchange of well-crafted arguments we’re having here.

        7. That governments often tyrannize their own people more than do foreign governments — this is true. This is something I will reflect upon.
          One trouble with criticizing our current militarization is that the very presence and operations of America’s military can serve to dissuade attackers. That is, maybe we haven’t been seriously threatened because of our military. Whether we would be better off without it is a complex issue.
          On my own side note, I also appreciate our thoughtful discourse. Even if we disagree, at least we can do so without being disagreeable.

    6. Nobody is blaming consumerism as the road to damnation.
      The obsession with modern capitalism and consumption however has become a false idol. Commercialism seduces with false promises. Chasing the the dreams embodied in status goods will only lead to exhaustion, loneliness and emptiness. There is nothing wrong with material pleasures, comforts and conveniences if we don’t let them distract or otherwise interfere from our connecting with family and community.

    7. “Nobody forces you to buy anything (except Obama). ”
      You must not be married to a woman.

    8. I get your point, but is what he was trying to say I think is the culture of the day teaches you should experience as much pleasure as you can and gain as many things as you can and this will make you happy. I personally think it is not an extension of the free market but more due to our government interference and the breakdown of families combined with a celebrity worship culture. I think I might pour myself another scotch.

    9. Consumerism is a cancer, I’m not sure why that’s hard to understand on a website where we constantly chronicle the effects of it all around us. The issue is that instead of relying on spirituality, hard work, virtue and love for happiness and self esteem, people choose the shallow, mindless pursuits of money, sex, attention, and gadgets. Consumerism is a mind state. The problem we have with modern women is that their entire life is centered around attention and sex, with her iPhone a close third. That is a direct result of a materialistic, consumerist culture where television raise children and spirituality and morality are condemned.

  4. From what I’ve heard, when he gave this speech it didn’t go over well. I guess the Harvard grads and faculty were not ready to listen to a Soviet tell them that there was a cancer eating away at their civilization, and that they had a role in it being there. It doesn’t matter though, because he was right.

    1. Harvard grads, and other future elites, aren’t anymore interested in the truth than average America. Look at how poorly received Larry Summers’ factually based speech on gender aptitude to economics was criticized.

    2. He was in exile at the time. An anti atheist ,anti materialist , anti Stalinist, anti Communist, who spent over decade in a Stalinist gulag. for being all those and any of those.
      He was a great man.
      It’s much easier to read his speech to Harvard, then listen to the audio overlaid translation.
      He was embraced by the American conservatives, I even suggest that Solzhenitsyns speech coupled with economist Milton Friedman’s book Free to Choose, with it’s accompanying 10 part PBS series led to the election of President Reagan.

    3. Mostly right, some of what he said smacks of butt hurtness. The West beat his country. Had they been able to pillage us, and plague us with their debt, he may have sung a different tune. Although, I do agree with much of what he says.
      It flies smack in the face of the current cultural zeitgeist and it’s group-think mentality. I know, overused words. But like his writings, much needed being said.

      1. That is a western way of viewing the outcome. Others might say that the Russian empire had run its course, much the way the Spanish, French, Germans, Chinese, and British did in turn. You wont find many people who will argue that the USA or Morocco destroyed the Spanish empire. However, the last throes of the Spanish regime were destroyed on land in the 1921 Battle of Annual against a Moroccan uprising and on sea in 1898 in the Spanish American war.
        It is always dangerous to view things as black/white, good/bad, superior/inferior. The reality is there were areas in which the Russians excelled, and there were parts of Russian life that were extremely intolerable at the same time. Many of their scientific innovations are still cutting edge today. The Russians have their own working space station and space launch platform, which no other group other than the ESA can say today. Well I suppose China technically can as well.

  5. “The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc.”
    I’m chuckling right now because I’m pretty sure he’s referring the blackout that hit my hometown (New York) the previous year. There were people looting parts of the city and even the “Son of Sam” was wreaking havoc that very summer.

  6. Can you imagine an ivy league citadel to statist progressivism like Harvard, Yale, Columbia etc bringing a guest speaker before the student body like Solzhenitsyn today?
    Yeah, neither can I. So much for the “liberal arts”.
    In fact, I was surprised that he made their roster back in ’78. Especially given the real possibility that half their professors during the Cold War were either Soviet operatives or at the very least sympathizers.

    1. Ivy league schools are businesses that get glorified by other businesses. The only good thing is the opportunity from the network connections that congregation there. But yet there are still people who don’t know how to take advantage of that.

      1. Precisely. They are network incubators for the future elite.
        The pretense that these are the schools where the world’s greatest minds assemble to discuss and formulate the world’s greatest solutions and achievements persists however….

        1. Yes. Blame that on the general misinformation of the masses. They generally don’t know enough to avoid the pitfall, typically making themselves worse off. It’s a part of the reason why there are so many unemployed bachelor’s degree holders.

      2. Ivies are just brands now, like Nike, BMW, etc… a word someone will notice on a resume…

  7. Roosh: you might appreciate the writings of Ravi Zacharias. He has a keen intellect who brings it to bear on a lot of the spiritual and philosophical questions that we face as humans. His books and speeches have always left me thinking and pondering.

  8. AIS is one of my most favourite writers but I think his real genius is displayed in his novels, not his essays, especially not this essay.
    Every Red pill man needs to read Cancer Ward and the First Circle at the bare minimum. The Zeks he writes about, and he was himself, are a lot like a lot of us, prisoners of having the wrong opinion. Except, as AIS points out, the prison guards were the real prisoners all along, constantly in fear for their lives of stepping over the wrong regulation or not appeasing their masters quickly enough, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. The Zeks, in losing everything even their teeth, had nothing left to lose, and we’re therefore free in their individual thoughts and in their consciences. The system had no more power over them. The prison guards were at the mercy of the system they oversaw. How so like our modern times when so many fear making the wrong joke or being deemed not inclusiveness enough? How often have we seen the prison guards of our society eat their own for lacking purity or failing the wrong ideological test? The Zeks have had everything taken from them, and have nothing left to lose, their children their finances, their futures, while the prison guards have nothing but the fear of losing.

  9. Reading his book The Gulag Archipelago really helped put my divorce and my life into perspective, my problems were insignificant compared to what he went through.

  10. “Compared to Solzhenitsyn, it almost seems that prudent Socrates was a whimp… (H)e spent only one day as an old man in open and impetuous defiance of his country’s rulers, and he died comfortably in prison sipping hemlock with his friends around him. The Soviet Union’s challenge to human freedom and personal truth, of course, was much more radical and far more cruel that the Athenian one.”-Peter Lawler
    Great job publishing another article on Solzhenitsyn.

  11. Thankyou for this Beautiful speech i remember reading, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

  12. “…consumerism, narcissism, and fornication? ”
    Isn’t Roosh a PUA? It is good if he is finally growing up but geez..

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