Flagg Taylor is a professor at Skidmore College and author of the new book, “The Long Night of the Watchman: Essays by Vaclav Benda.” In light of the 40th anniversary of Charter 77, Taylor and Domenech discuss some of the key figures in Czech history and the totalitarian regimes that rose in the wake of WWII.
In his study of totalitarianism, Taylor made trips to Czechoslovakia to interview former dissents and their families. “You can feel that their reflections and writings come from the depths of their experiencing this repression, so I find that this is a great tool in explaining to students the phenomenon of totalitarianism,” he said.
What lessons can be pulled from Benda’s essays about life under these regimes and applied to today’s political landscape? “The most frightening thing about totalitarianism as it existed in Czechoslovakia… is that to a large extent it succeed in not letting people have a taste for freedom anymore,” Taylor said. “It’s not just the forms that liberty are gone, but that people are so isolated, there’s so much mistrust.”