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Asking The Ultimate Questions … A Great Lecture

The lecture below is about 30 minutes, with follow up questions for another 30 minutes. Dr. Aron, author of Roads To The Temple, (reviewed here) does an amazing job.

Realistically, it is unlikely that many will take the time to watch this, but Aron makes some startling observations.  He begins his lecture by listing the “ultimate questions” which concerned the Russian people in the period of Glasnost’.

  • Who are we?
  • Do we live honorably?
  • How should we live?
  • What is virtue?
  • What is evil?

And from this:

What is the proper dignified relation between individual and state?

Aron quotes several Glasnost’ era writers and the “godfather of Glasnost’,” Gorbachev’s prime minister, Yakovlev.  Aron explains the recurring theme, the Russian people had already experienced “the master state with all its sinister arrogance and intoxication of unlimited power, first confiscating politics, economy, and finally morality.  Taking away what makes us human, free will and moral choice.”

The central question became: “An individual for the state, or the state of an individual?”

This is the same question that we have to answer.  The Soviet Union provides a perfect example of what life becomes when the answer is the first.

Aron quotes Russian philosopher Vasily Selenov who observed,

With the abolition of private property, the foundation of individual freedom is destroyed.  Nothing is left to a man but to serve the state on the condition that the state dictates. 

This perpetual servitude and degradation produced a people incapable of standing up for themselves and destitute of pride.

To their credit Gorbachev and Yakovlev recognized that without transforming the nation’s character and reforming the morality of its people, there would be no fixing the nation’s problems.

Instead of the government taking care of the welfare of an infinitely submissive people, everyone truly becomes the master of ones own fate.   Instead of equality in poverty, and powerlessness everyone is given a chance to change.   – We must relearn how to live – – philosopher Leonid Golden

Leon Aron is a historian of ideas.  Roads To The Temple is a mind-boggling book, which shows, better than most, that ideas have consequences – good and bad.  At one point in this lecture, Aron commented about finding a link to the Russian Revolution of 1987 – 1991, separated by 5,000 miles of distance and 250 years of time – to the American Revolution.

Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul. – John Adams

People are unchanging, the “ultimate questions” that concern mankind are the same questions that faced the people of Russia and those who fought the American Revolution.  The power of the same ideas created America and destroyed the Soviet Union.

We can learn a lot from their experience.



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