For a long time I have admired Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Years ago I even thought about going to where he lived in Vermont in the hopes of meeting him. Of course he eventually returned to his homeland, and now is gone.
The June 25 National Review has printed his own critique of the Harvard speech he gave in 1978 (reprinted from his memoir Between Two Millstones: Sketches of Exile). He says that “what was mainly expected of me (they later wrote) was the gratitude of the exile to the great Atlantic fortress of Liberty, singing praises to its might and its virtues, which were lacking in the USSR.” That was not what they got. Solzhenitsyn:
I had given my speech the title “A World Split Apart,” and it was with this idea that I had opened the speech,that mankind is separated into original and distinct worlds, distinct independent cultures that are often far removed from one another and frequently unfamiliar with one another (I had then listed some of them). One has to renounce the arrogant blindness of evaluating these different worlds merely within the context of their development toward the Western model. Such a benchmark is the result of a misunderstanding of the essence of those different worlds. Also, one has to stand back and look soberly at one’s own system.
Western society in principle is based on a legal level that is far lower than the true moral yardstick, and besides, this legal way of thinking has a tendency to ossify. In principle, moral imperatives are not adhered to in politics, and often not in public life either. The notion of freedom has been diverted to unbridled passion, in other words, in the direction of the forces of evil (so that nobody’s “freedom” would be limited!). A sense of responsibility before God and society has fallen away. “Human rights” have been so exalted that the rights of society are being oppressed and destroyed. And above all, the press, not elected by anyone, acts high-handedly and has amassed more power than the legislative, executive, or judicial power. And in this free press itself, it is not true freedom of opinion that dominates, but the dictates of the political fashion of the moment, which lead to a surprising uniformity of opinion. (It was on this point that I had irritated them most.)
There is more which is worth reading! This particular chapter was written shortly after his speech in 1978.