“In Czechoslovakia, under communism, it was common to see signs that read ‘Workers of the world, unite’ in the windows of fruit and vegetable stores. Vaclav Havel, in his book ‘Living In Truth,’ discerned the significance of those signs.
“As elaborated by Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School, Mr. Havel believed the shopkeeper does not believe the sign. He puts it up because it was ‘delivered from the headquarters along with the onions.’ The grocer thinks nothing is at stake because he understands that no one really believes the slogan. The real message, according to Havel is ‘I’m behaving myself … I am obedient, and therefore I have the right to be left in peace.’
“But Mr. Havel shrewdly points out that even a modest shopkeeper would be ashamed to put up a sign that literally read ‘I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient.’ He is, after all, a human being with some sense of dignity. Havel concludes that the display of the sign ‘workers of the world, unite’ allows the green grocer ‘to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power.’ (As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Christian theologian hanged by the Nazis for conspiring to try to kill Hitler observed: The failure of the people to speak small truths leads to the victory of the big lie.)”