Sunday, November 22, 2009

At What Price

Once in a long, long while, once in three years maybe, they brought a movie to camp. The film turned out to be--the cheapest kind of "sports" comedy--The First Glove. It was a bore. But from the screen they kept drumming into the audience the moral of the film:

The result is what counts, and the result is not in your favor.

On the screen they kept laughing. In the hall the audience kept laughing, too. But blinking as you came out into the sunlit camp yard, you kept thinking about this phrase. And during the evening you kept thinking about it on your bunk. And Monday morning out in line-up. And you could keep thinking about it as long as you wanted. And where else could you have concentrated on it like that? And slow clarity descended into your brain.

This was no joke. This was an infectious thought. It has long since been inculcated in our Fatherland--and they keep on inculcating it over and over. The concept that only the material result counts has become so much a part of us that when, for example, som Tukhachevsky, Yagoda, or Zinoviev was proclaimed...a traitor who had sidled up to the enemy, people only exclaimed in a chorus of astonishment: "What more could he want?"

Now that is a high moral plane for you! Now that is a real unit of measure for you! "What more could he want?" since he had a belly full of chow, and twenty suits, and two country homes, and an automobile, and an airplane, and fame--what more could he want?!! Millions of our compatriots find it unthinkable to imagine that a human being (and I am not speaking here of this particular trio) might have been motivated by something other than matereial gain!

To such an extent that everyone has been indoctrinated with and absorbed the slogan: "The result is what counts."

Whence did this come to us?

In the first place--from the glory of our banners and the so-called "honor of our Motherland." We choked, cut down, and cut up all our neighbors in our expansion--and in our Fatherland it became well established that: The result is what counts.

And then from our Demidov's, Kabans, and Tsybukins. They clambered up, without looking behind them to see whose ears they were smashing with their jackboots. And ever more firmly it became established among a once pious and openhearted people: The result is what counts.

And then--from all kinds of socialists, and most of all from the most modern, infallible, and intolerant Teaching, which consists of this one thing only: The result is what counts! It is important to forge a fighting Party! And to seize power! And to hold on to power! And to remove all enemies! And to conquer in pig iron and steel! And to launch rockets!

And though for this industry and for these rockets is was necessary to sacrifice the way of life, and the integrity of the family, and the spiritual health of the people, and the very soul of our fields and forests and rivers--to hell with them! The result is what counts!!

But that is a lie! Here we have been breaking our backs for years at All-Union hard labor. Here in the slow annual spirals we have been climbing up to an understanding of life--and from this height it can all be seen so clearly: It is not the result that counts! It is not the result--but the spirit! Not what--but how. Not what has been attained--but at what price.

--Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, vol II, pp. 608-609