Friday, May 28, 2021

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “Live Not by Lies”

We might summarize the Good News this way: each day, Jesus Christ invites us to walk with him on the difficult yet glorious path of freedom which is based on truth, expressed through love, and ends in eternal life. At the same time, the world, flesh, and Devil daily bully, bribe, and deceive us into choosing the easy yet shameful path of power which is based on lies, expressed through violence, and ends in despair, destruction, and death (Matthew 7:13-14).

Strangely enough, Alexander Solzhenitsyn first discovered his life was based on lies while fighting on the German Front during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). Writing to an old classmate, he shared his realization that Joseph Stalin—ruler of the revolutionary Soviet Union—had betrayed the Revolution. For sharing this insight, he was sentenced to eight years at a work camp. Even so, he committed himself to learning the truth and to sharing it especially with his fellow Soviet citizens by writing.

Solzhenitsyn published his first book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, in 1962. He could do so only with the permission of Nikita Khrushchev, the first Soviet ruler after Stalin. Kruschchev was right in thinking that the cruelty of power exposed by the book would further discredit Stalin. He was wrong in failing to anticipate that exposure of the arbitrariness of power, and the lies that covered it, would delegitimate the Soviet system of government as a whole.

Leonid Brezhnev would have nothing published by anyone that questioned state control. Once he wrested power from Khrushchev and became Soviet ruler himself (1964), he took steps to silence Solzhenitsyn. He did so by forbidding further publication of his works, confiscating manuscripts, placing him under surveillance, punishing anyone seeking to help him, attempting to murder him, publicly assassinating his character, and finally arresting him, stripping him of citizenship, and deporting him.

Solzhenitsyn’s response? The public release of a free witness to truth entitled “Live Not by Lies.” The following is a short excerpt from that liberating statement:

When violence bursts onto the peaceful human condition, its face is flush with self-assurance, it displays on its banner and proclaims: “I am Violence! Make way, step aside, I will crush you!” But violence ages swiftly, a few years pass—and it is no longer sure of itself. To prop itself up, to appear decent, it will without fail call forth its ally—Lies. For violence has nothing to cover itself with but lies, and lies can only persist through violence. And it is not every day and not on every shoulder that violence brings down its heavy hand: It demands of us only a submission to lies, a daily participation in deceit—and this suffices as our fealty.

And therein we find, neglected by us, the simplest, the most accessible key to our liberation: a personal nonparticipation in lies! Even if all is covered by lies, even if all is under their rule, let us resist in the smallest way: Let their rule hold not through me!

And this is the way to break out of the imaginary encirclement of our inertness, the easiest way for us and the most devastating for the lies. For when people renounce lies, lies simply cease to exist. Like parasites, they can only survive when attached to a person.

We are not called upon to step out onto the square and shout out the truth, to say out loud what we think—this is scary, we are not ready. But let us at least refuse to say what we do not think!

This is the way, then, the easiest and most accessible for us given our deep-seated organic cowardice, much easier than (it’s scary even to utter the words) civil disobedience à la Gandhi.

Our way must be: Never knowingly support lies! Having understood where the lies begin (and many see this line differently)—step back from that gangrenous edge! Let us not glue back the flaking scales of the Ideology, not gather back its crumbling bones, nor patch together its decomposing garb, and we will be amazed how swiftly and helplessly the lies will fall away, and that which is destined to be naked will be exposed as such to the world.


Copyright © 2021 by Steven Farsaci. 
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.