THE LACK of INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM
“[The threat to intellectual freedom] is a threat to the independence and the worth of the human personality, a threat to the meaning of life,” states Andrei Sakharov. Indeed, he had spent all his life exercising the right of intellectual freedom in a country where any word against the government could lead to imprisonment and exile. Having fought for this right with all of his physical and mental power, Andrei Sakharov speaks on the importance of intellectual freedom.
Under a closed government, the expression of intellectual freedom is very limited. The Soviet government had restrictions on the publishing of Soviet or foreign works of literature that were deemed a threat to the survival of the Soviet State. The government also controlled the newspapers and television stations and utilized its power to shut down any which were believed to be “the detriment of the interests of society.” The government also ran the schools, influencing the young minds of the students, who would later put to use the same propaganda of ignorance taught to them.
Because the government had taught its citizens to think the way the government thinks by restricting the freedom of the press, there were no new ideas circulating around during the time of Leonid Brezhnev, leading to what was later called a “stagnation” in the economy and the government of Russia. Without the truth about the issues around them, the people would never be able to make decisions which benefit them, only those which benefit the top-ranking officials in the government. Without the truth, people are more inclined to racism. Without the free flow of information, the minds of the people become dead, closed to any side of an issue except the side that the government takes.
The lack of public knowledge and control over political issues led to the abuse of the rights clearly stated in the 1977 Soviet constitution. Sakharov asks the world to judge “was it not disgraceful to allow the arrest, the twelve month detention without trial, and then the conviction and the sentencing of terms of five to seven years…for the defense of civil liberties…?” Sakharov’s own exile was entirely unconstitutional, like so many others arrested for their outspokenness, he was not given a trial. During Sakharov’s exile, when he was unable to communicate with the people of Russia, the government used propaganda to portray him as a public enemy; most ordinary citizens believed it.
“Today, the key to a progressive restructuring of the system of government in the interest of mankind lies in intellectual freedom.” In Sakharov’s view, intellectual freedom can be used as a remedy to most of the social and economic problems that Russia was experiencing at that time. In order for progress in this area to occur, laws and concrete information promoting intellectual freedom would have to be printed and defined for public viewing. “Unpleasant subjects”, such as the corruption in Russia’s government, the Stalin and anti-Stalin purges as well as other issues, should be reexamined publicly. The censors on Soviet and foreign literature should be lifted. Only in such a way can the people really understand and consider, with an open mind, the issues surrounding them and make positive progress towards the future.
Three decades ago, the world was, as it still is today, terribly unbalanced. While children in the rich, highly industrialized countries laugh in their play, their voices radiating happiness and good health, the children in neighboring countries lie on makeshift beds, too weak to stir, slowly dying of starvation. Because of the high birthrates and economic reserves in some countries, the food balance in those countries “systematically worsens and…will continue to worsen in the coming years.” Food crises, extreme hunger and suffering lead to “the grief and fury of millions of people.”
Why, then, do not the richer and more developed countries aid the poorer and less developed ones by giving food to alleviate their suffering? A food relief aid would save countless numbers of people, and their countries, with a smaller burden of providing food, could focus on economic development to feed their own people. Sakharov suggests that the richer countries should donate twenty percent of their national income, which would go solely to the purchase and growth of food for the less fortunate part of the world, to battle worldwide starvation. Gradually, this system would help each country in the world to make social and economical progress, if not yet equally, at least without the horrors of starvation upon its people.