Questions for Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless”

PassageQuestion
"The woman who ignored the greengrocer's slogan may well have hung a similar sloganjust an hour before in the corridor of the office where she works. She did it more or less without thinking,just as our greengrocer did, and she could do so precisely because she was doing it against the background of the general panorama and with some awareness of it, that is, against the background of the panorama of which the greengrocer's shop window forms a part. When the greengrocer visits her office, he will not notice her slogan either, just as she failed to notice his. Nevertheless, their slogans are mutually dependent: both were displayed with some awareness of the general panorama and, we might say, under its diktat. Both, however, assist in the creation of that panorama, and therefore they assist in the creation of that diktat as well. The greengrocer and the office worker have both adapted to the conditions in which they live, but in doing so, they help to create those conditions. They do what is done, what is to be done, what must be done, but at the same time-by that very token-they confirm that it must be done in fact. They conform to a particular requirement and in so doing they themselves perpetuate that requirement. Metaphysically speaking, without the greengrocer's slogan the office worker's slogan could not exist, and vice versa. Each proposes to the other that something be repeated and each accepts the other's proposal. Their mutual indifference to each other's slogans is only an illusion: in reality, by exhibiting their slogans, each compels the other to accept the rules of the game and to confirm thereby the power that requires the slogans in the first place. Quite simply, each helps the other to be obedient. Both are objects in a system of control, but at the same time they are its subjects as well. They are both victims of the system and its instruments." (Havel: The Power of the Powerless Section VI)The scene Havel presents here is a rather hallow and depressing one of indifference, not only to the desires of others, to to the desires of oneself. He makes it seem as though instead of living our lives with free will, desires, hopes, and vibrance, the average person simply drifts through life playing the role we are expected to play. This would go against the American ideal in so many ways simply because the United States prides itself on being a land where a person can build themselves from the ground up and take ahold of any opportunity presented to them. But, is it not true that, simply as a statistic, most people born into poverty will live and die in poverty? They are simply playing the role from the script life gave them and doing what the general population expects from them.

How do Havel's views contrast with the American Dream? Is there any ring of truth to Havel's opinions in our nation today?
XVI- The post-totalitarian system is mounting a total assault on humans and humans stand against it alone, abandoned and isolated. It is therefore entirely natural that all the "dissident" movements are explicitly defensive movements.Is this really true? Not all movements are defensive. While they may retaliate for the offenses against them, not all are strict defensive maneuvers.
Section 2As Havel describes, this dictatorship is much different from what is considered a normal dictatorship. If it is so different, can it still be called a dictatorship?
Section VI, page 6Havel discusses how the greengrocer putting a sign in his window is just a symbol of obedience to the government. He then goes on to say that citizens are "...both the victims of the system and its instruments" and that "...everyone in his own way is both a victim and a supporter of the system" (pg. 6). So my question is, what would be the opposite of that? Say the greengrocer and the office worker didn't put up the sign like they were told, and didn't obey the government at all, this would mean they would no longer be fueling the dictatorship. He says that the people have "...adapted to the conditions in which they live...they help to create those conditions" (pg. 6). So what if they didn't adapt to the conditions? How would the government be changed if all of the population did not succumb to its current rules?
part IIIIn part III, how does Havel demonstrate that individuals living is post-totalitarian states may be living a lie?
Part V:

"In any case, experience has taught us again and again that this automatism is far more powerful than the will of any individual; and should someone possess a more independent will, he must conceal it behind a ritually anonymous mask in order to have an opportunity to enter the power hierarchy at all. And when the individual finally gains a place there and tries to make his will felt within it, that automatism, with its enormous inertia, will triumph sooner or later, and either the individual will be ejected by the power structure like a foreign organism, or he will be compelled to resign his individuality gradually, once again blending with the automatism and becoming its servant, almost indistinguishable from those who preceded him and those who will follow."
Do you think leaders in the U.S are guilty of doing this? Do you think the behavior of those who enter power relates to Havel's idea? How so?

Discussion questions

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