Reading a memoir of Vaclav Havel, this written in 1986:
“I think the reasons for the crisis in which the world now finds itself are lodged in something deeper than a particular way of organizing the economy or a particular political system. The West and the East, though different in so many ways, are going through a single, common crisis. Reflecting on that crisis should be the starting point for every attempt to think through a better alternative. Where does the cause of this crisis lie? Vaclav Belohradsky puts it very nicely when he writes about this late period as one of conflict between an impersonal, anonymous, irresponsible, and uncontrollable juggernaut of power (the power of “mega machinery”), and the elemental and original interests of man as a concrete individual.
I too feel that somewhere here there is a basic tension out of which the present global crisis has grown. At the same time, I’m persuaded that this conflict–and the increasingly hypertrophic impersonal power itself–is directly related to the spiritual condition of modern civilization. This condition is characterized by loss: the loss of metaphysical certainties, of an experience of the transcendental, of any super personal moral authority, and of any kind of higher horizon. It is strange but ultimately quite logical: as soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world, and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.
We are going through a great departure from God which has no parallel in history. As far as I know, we are living in the middle of the first atheistic civilization. This departure has its own complex intellectual and cultural causes: it is related to the development of science, technology, and human knowledge, and to the whole modern upsurge of interest in the human intellect and the human spirit. I feel that this arrogant anthropocentrism of modern man, who is convinced he can know everything and bring everything under his control, is somewhere in the background of the present crisis. It seems to me that if the world is to change for the better it must start with a change in human consciousness, in the very humanness of modern man.
Man must in some way come to his senses……He must discover again, within himself, a deeper sensSe of responsibility toward the world, which means responsibility toward something higher than himself. Modern science has realized this (though not the proprietors of “the scientific world view”), but it cannot find a remedy. The power to awaken this new responsibility is beyond its reach; such a thing can be resolved neither scientifically nor technically. It may seem like a paradox, but one I think will prove true, that only through directing ourselves toward the moral and the spiritual, based on respect for some “extramundane” authority–for the order of nature or the universe, for a moral order and its super personal origin, for the absolute–can we arrive at a state in which life on this earth is no longer threatened by some form of “megasuicide” and becomes bearable, has, in other words, a genuinely human dimension.