Parting with illusions: sometimes it‘s hard, sometimes it‘s necessary


Some time ago I had a pleasure (a truly pleasure) to read this wonderful autobiography of a person I 6630654-madmire and respect. So, I’d like to share some thoughts on TV journalist’s Vladimir Posner (sometimes spelled as Pozner) (Western (especially American people) might remember him from those famous US-Soviet TV bridges) autobiography “Parting with illusions”.

It’s not a new book, it was published back in 1990 when the world was facing enormous changes, when everything was going upside down, when people did not know what’s true and what’s not. And this book gives you the story of a man, whose entire life was marked with divisions. All kinds of division: between countries you live in, ideologie you admire or hate.

First of all, why do I admire him? Well, let’s start with the fact that Posner is well educated, super intelligent, he can discuss probably every question you ask him. Moreover, I admire his working style and ethics as journalist, his journalist qualities: insightfulness, 300px-pozner_and_donahuetact, good manners while talking to someone he might not like or disagrees with. And as you read his book you get all that, it’s like you actually see him talking those things right in front of you, but instead you read it. For me it was so interesting to read this book, that I’ve even took notes on the most interesting quotes and thoughts of Posner. And it doesn’t mean I agree with him upon all of them, but his insights makes analyze and start a discussion in your head with your own arguments and his.

For example, this thought of his, expressed on page 28:

„The right to travel is the basic human right. Anyone who wishes to leave his or her country, be it for a while or for good, is born with the right to do so, regardless of the laws of the land. But personally, I have always felt that if you wish to leave your country, there is only one truly valid reason – the feeling that you simply cannot live there any longer. Either your life is in danger, the welfare of your children or your beloved is threatened, or life is so stifling that you cannot tolerate it. You don‘t leave because the grass over there is greener, or because there are more and better consumer goods, or because you want to make a million dollars. You go because you can‘t stand staying“.

300px-vladimir_pozner_by_augustas_didzgalvisI don’t agree with his personal opinion that  one reason he said is valid for leaving the country. I mean every person has its reason(s) why he is leaving his country and for him it will be valid. So judging generally from your own perspective doesn’t mean it is right. However, look how he states it: he doesn’t say that his opinion is right, he just expresess it and we are able to agree or disagree with it. Pretty often people of the same status as Posner just drop on us things that we should consider as good or bad ones, just because they said so.

But, for example, his thought expressed in page 132 I support:

„Any society that, for whatever reasons, fears independent thought is schizophrenic in its attitude toward the writer. On the one hand, it perceives the writer as a possible asset, someone who, through the power of the written word, can further the society’s goals in a much more profound way than politicians or a controlled media. But by the same token, the writer can just as effectively undermine the establishment view and therefore is seen as a potential threat. That schizophrenia manifests itself, I believe, in all societies to a greater or lesser degree, depending on historical tradition”.

I think these words today are as relevant as never, because of all this propaganda ghost floating all over the world and this cold again relations between America, Russia (involving alsoUkraine, Syria). When things go so dramatically, like  if you write something that does not go in hand with others opinion you might be announced as an enemy. And all this just  spreads some  sort of a fear, hate and anger. This schoziphrenic atittude exists, it just expects a trigger to show up.

I could go on discussing other thoughts and quotes of Posner (yeah, I took a lot of notes), but I think those who are interested will read the book, believe me it’s really worth it. Even though it’s twenty six years old, but lots of things fit for our times. On some level it’s scary how many thing from the past fits today. It’s like we learned nothing from the past.

Short notice. In the book it can be found this so called comparison of American and Soviet societies, ideologies and other things. Back then, because of the Cold War it made much sense. The thing I liked, was that Posner didn’t take sides, he just tried to discuss and explain those differences, or, at times similarities. When we see today all this tension between America and Russia (again) I think that it would be interesting to read observations discussing the same. Would he point out the same issues and thoughts he did twenty six years ago? Probably, because looking from todays perspective it doesn’t look like much have changed.

*The quotes were taken from “Parting with illusions” (by Vladimir Pozner (with Brian Kahn), The Atlantic Monthly Press, New York 1990.
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