“In communist regimes, poverty is equally distributed—except for those in power. ‘The Giver’ presents a clever twist on this totalitarian theme. In the fictional tale, every material need is met. We are in a world where all human misery has been eliminated. There is no rage, no war, no wealth and no poverty.
“But at a cost. There is also no music, no art, no literature no beauty. And no memory: Just to be safe, all memories are the possession of a lone individual. In this setting the human spirit is almost extinguished.” Raymond Flynn
I recently attended a screening of “The Giver” in advance of the movie’s Aug. 15 release. The Hollywood version of the still-popular 1993 novel by Lois Lowry is compelling in its own right as it depicts the bleak reality of a society that sacrifices human individuality in the utopian pursuit of “Sameness.” Watching the cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Katie Holmes in this powerful, dystopian story, I kept thinking of a real-life tale populated with actors on the world stage: communist Poland in the 1980s, when men such as Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa changed history.
I was in Poland one day during that period, listening to the striking members of the Solidarity labor union at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk. Story after story detailed the Polish people’s plight under the military rule instituted after the first glimmers of a bid for freedom. State control trumped individual human rights.
Yet the Poles knew that they had a champion: Pope John Paul II. The Solidarity labor leader, Lech Walesa, spoke to me movingly about the courage John Paul showed in standing up to this tyranny. The pope’s visit to Poland in 1979, and another in 1983, had given millions of Poles solace and inspiration.
Recently, I saw Mr. Walesa again. We assessed Poland’s political landscape, then and now, but the focus was mostly on the heady days of the past. Mr. Walesa extolled the Cold War leadership of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, but he still holds a special place in his heart for John Paul. Continue reading