A tale of two funerals

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Over in Pyongyang mourners wail for the loss of the great leader Kim Jong Il. As Andrew McLaughlin puts it:

This is really otherworldly. And terrifying. It’s depressing to be reminded that it’s possible, with energetic and relentless propaganda, surveillance, and oppression, to delude vast numbers of human beings into genuine feelings of attachment to, and dependence on, a brutal sociopath responsible for the degradation and humiliation of millions, and the starvation and murder of millions more.

Meanwhile halfway across the world the life of Vaclav Havel is being celebrated. As reason.com reports:

It’s a safe bet that in the history of state funerals, no former president has been sent off to the Absolute Horizon by not one but at least three different live, nationally televised rock songs about heroin.

Such was Václav Havel’s genre-straddling life and thoroughgoing conception of freedom that it seemed as natural as tartar sauce on fried cheese to bookend a portentous, Dvořák-haunted National Requiem Mass in Central Europe’s oldest Gothic cathedral with a loose-limbed, hash-scented rock and roll celebration at the Czech Republic’s most storied music venue, all while the non-VIPs on the streets of Prague (and their counterparts outside the capital) lent the most dignity of all to the three-day National Mourning by creating ad-hoc candlelit shrines in whatever patches of cobblestone reminded them of the man who made them most proud to be Czechs.

Two funerals, two societies and, as we head into 2012, a world of risks and opportunities between them.

In the Czech Republic Havel’s own words from the Velvet Revolution were everywhere. “Truth and love” he said “must prevail over lies and hatred.” As good a talisman as any to carry with us?

A happy, prosperous and loving new year to all our readers from all us Havel supporters at the GFG-Batesville tower. See you in 2012.

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