> Like ideology, the legal code is an essential instrument of ritual > communication outside the power structure. It is the legal code that > gives the exercise of power a form, a framework, a set of rules. It is > the legal code that enables all components of the system to > communicate, to put themselves in a good light, to establish their own > legitimacy. It provides their whole game with its rules and engineers > with their technology. Can the exercise of post-totalitarian power be > imagined at all without this universal ritual making it all possible, > serving as a common language to bind the relevant sectors of the power > structure together? The more important the position occupied by the > repressive apparatus in the power structure, the more important that > it function according to some kind of formal code. > >
"The Power of the Powerless," XVII, Paul Wilson tr. The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe, edited by John Keane, with an Introduction by Steven Lukes (London: Hutchinson, 1985). On-line at http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/archive/files/havel-power-of-the-powerless_be62e5917d.pdf, accessed 20111218. See also http://www.vaclavhavel.cz/index.php?sec=2&id=5&setln=2
It is possible to imagine a society with good laws that are fully respected but in which it is impossible to live. Conversely, one can imagine life being quite bearable even where the laws are imperfect and imperfectly applied. The most important thing is always the quality of that life and whether or not the laws enhance life or repress it, not merely whether they are upheld or not. (Often strict observance of the law could have a disastrous impact on human dignity.) The key to a humane, dignified, rich, and happy life does not lie either in the constitution or in the Criminal Code. These merely establish what may or may not be done and, thus, they can make life easier or more difficult. They limit or permit, they punish, tolerate, or defend, but they can never give life substance or meaning. The struggle for what is called "legality" must constantly keep this legality in perspective against the background of life as it really is. Without keeping one's eyes open to the real dimensions of life's beauty and misery, and without a moral relationship to life, this struggle will sooner or later come to grief on the rocks of some self-justifying system of scholastics. Without really wanting to, one would thus become more and more like the observer who comes to conclusions about our system only on the basis of trial documents and is satisfied if all the appropriate regulations have been observed.