In Defense of Defense

PRAGUE - One feature that makes a human being human is awareness of his or her own dignity. This awareness may naturally take many forms in people of different character, social circumstance, cultures or civilizations, or different periods of time. I am, however, deeply convinced that no human being fails to understand the meaning of humiliation, insult, rape or enslavement. All people recognize an attack on human dignity, which is actually an attack on the essence of humanity.

It is true that we may be, for valid reasons, troubled or irritated by a thousand and one things that have accompanied the dramatic reconstruction of democracy, market economies and civil society in Central Europe. But no person of sound judgement can deny that the restoration of liberties, which until recently were suppressed or limited, allows our citizens at last to live in dignity. Leading a worthy life no longer demands the sacrifice it once did, and people are thus better equipped to be true to themselves in this important dimension of their existence.

True to themselves; but what about others, and what about the wider community, the nation at large? Should citizens love their state, why they should feel attached to it, what kind of attachment should this be, why, indeed, should people make sacrifices for the sake of independent statehood? It is time, I believe, for people in this region to perceive the state as a tool for the defense of their homes, and thus of a part of themselves.

Readiness to defend the state is a specific manifestation of a human being's sense of personal dignity. If we rebel against humiliation, insult or enslavement as individuals; if we defend our individual human dignity and resist attacks that threaten it; we do -- indeed we must do -- precisely the same as a community that has established a state, because the state is, among other things, an instrument to protect our life together in freedom. In other words: readiness to defend a democratic state and its values against violence, aggression and evil should be nothing less than a natural extension of the inherent will of each individual to defend one's own dignity against potential threats. It is simply a way of implementing this will -- in those cases where this cannot be done in any other way -- through joint organized action in pursuit of a common interest.