Food For Thought

A Collection of Heretical Notions and Wretched Adages
compiled by Jack Tourette

author index



[see also: MEDICINE]

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. If the cause of the trouble lies in your own character, set about reforming your principles; who is there to hinder you? If it is the failure to take some apparently sound course of action that is vexing you, then why not take it, instead of fretting? "Because there is an insuperable obstacle in the way." In that case, do not worry; the responsibility for inaction is not yours. "But life is not worth living with this thing undone." Why then, bid life a good-humoured farewell; accepting the frustration gracefully, and dying like any other man whose actions have not been inhibited.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180)
Meditations, Book 8, Number 47
Translated by Maxwell Staniforth

The art of life is the art of avoiding pain; and he is the best pilot, who steers clearest of the rocks and shoals with which it is beset.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Mrs. Maria Cosway
12 October 1786

If I were to choose between pain and nothing, I would always choose pain.

William Faulkner (1897-1962)
Wild Palms, 1939

It is a curious phenomenon of the human mind...that past pain is painless in recall, but pleasure past and lost is excruciating to remember.

Judith Merril (b.1923)
Daughters of Earth, 1968



You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)
The Faber Book of Aphorisms, 1962
Edited by W.H. Auden and Louis Kronenberger

Even a paranoid can have enemies.

Henry Kissinger (b.1923)
Time, 24 January 1977

They've always classed paranoia as a mental illness. But it isn't! There's no lack of contact with reality -- on the contrary, the paranoid is directly related to reality. He's a perfect empiricist. Not cluttered with ethical and moral-cultural inhibitions. The paranoid sees things as they really are; he's actually the only sane man.

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
Originally published as "Loony Lemuel", If, December 1958

You know how it is when you go to be the subject of a psychology experiment, and nobody else shows up, and you think maybe that's part of the experiment? I'm like that all the time.

Rod Schmidt
Posted to rec.humor
"fake Steven Wright jokes"
27 January 1990


[see also: EMOTION]

So Jupiter, not wanting man's life to be wholly gloomy and grim, has bestowed far more passion than reason -- you could reckon the ration as twenty-four to one. Moreover, he confined reason to a cramped corner of the head and left all the rest of the body to the passions.

Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466-1536)
Praise of Folly, 1509
Chapter 16

We are ne'er like angels til our passion dies.

Thomas Dekker (1572-1632)
The Honest Whore, 1630
Part II, Act I, scene ii
(Collaboration with Thomas Middleton, 1580-1627)

The passions are the only advocates which always persuade. They are a natural art, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man with passion will be more persuasive than the most eloquent without.

La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)
Sentences and Moral Maxims, 1678
Maxim 8
Translated from 1678 and 1827 editions by
J.W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell, 1871

Passions often produce their contraries: avarice sometimes leads to prodigality, and prodigality to avarice; we are often obstinate through weakness and daring through timidity.

La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)
Sentences and Moral Maxims, 1678
Maxim 11
Translated from 1678 and 1827 editions by
J.W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell, 1871

If we conquer our passions it is more from their weakness than from our strength.

La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)
Sentences and Moral Maxims, 1678
Maxim 122
Translated from 1678 and 1827 editions by
J.W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell, 1871

Our passions are like convulsion fits, which, though they make us stronger for the time, leave us the weaker ever after.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
"Thoughts on Various Subjects" by Mr. Pope
The Works of Dr. Jonathan Swift, 1766
Edited by Thomas Roscoe

Man is only great when he acts from his passions.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Coningsby, 1844
Book 4, Chapter 13

It is by no means self-evident that human beings are most real when most violently excited; violent physical passions do not in themselves differentiate men from each other, but rather tend to reduce them to the same state.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
"After Strange Gods," 1934

I do know that the worst sin - perhaps the only sin - passion can commit, is to be joyless.

Dorothy Leigh Sayers (1893-1957)
Gaudy Night, 1936
Chapter XXIII


[see also: HISTORY]

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

George Orwell (1903-1950)
1984, 1949
Part 1, Chapter 3

What I did not know when I was very young was that nothing can take the past away: the past grows gradually around one, like a placenta for dying.

John Berger (b.1926)
And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos, 1984
Part 2

We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.

Joan Didion (b.1934)
"On Keeping a Notebook"
Slouching Towards Bethlehem, 1968


Patience means restraining yourself. There are seven emotions, neh? Joy, anger, anxiety, adoration, grief, fear, and hate. If a man doesn't give way to these, he's patient.

James Clavell (1924-1995)
Shogun, 1975
Book VI, Chapter 61


[see also: NATIONALISM]

I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

Socrates (c.470-399 BC)
Quoted in Of Banishment
Plutarch (AD c.46-c.119)

What a pity is it
That we can die but once to serve our country!

Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
Cato, 1713
Act IV, scene iv

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
07 April 1775
Life of Johnson, 1791
by James Boswell (1740-1795)

What is patriotism? Is it a narrow affection for the spot where a man was born? Are the very clods where we tread entitled to this ardent preference because they are greener? No, sir, this is not the character of the virtue, and it soars higher for its object. It is an extended self-love, mingling with all the enjoyments of life, and twisting itself with the minutest filaments of the heart. It is thus we obey the laws of society, because they are the laws of virtue. In their authority we see, not the array of force and terror, but the venerable image of our country's honor. Every good citizen makes that honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious, but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defence, and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it. For, what rights of a citizen will be deemed inviolable when a state renounces the principles that constitute their security? Or if his life should not be invaded, what would its enjoyments be in a country odious in the eyes of strangers and dishonored in his own? Could he look with affection and veneration to such a country as his parent? The sense of having one would die within him; he would blush for his patriotism, if he retained any, and justly, for it would be a vice. He would be a banished man in his native land.

Fisher Ames (1758-1808)
"The Obligation of Treaties"
From a speech on the British Treaty
House of Representatives, 28 April 1796

Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.

Stephen Decatur (1779-1820)
Toast, Norfolk Virgina, April 1816
Quoted by Alexander Slidell MacKenzie (1803-1848)
in Life of Stephen Decatur, 1846
Chapter 14

The senator from Wisconsin [M.H. Carpenter] cannot frighten me by exclaiming, "My country, right or wrong!" In one sense I say so too. My country, -- and my country is the great American Republic, -- my country, right or wrong: if right to be kept right, and if wrong to be set right!

Carl Schurz (1829-1906)
U.S. Senate speech
29 February 1872
The Congressional Globe
Volume 45, page 1287

Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name.

In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened by inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Un-American, adj. Wicked, intolerable, heathenish.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Let us have done with British-Americans and Irish Americans and German-Americans, and so on, and all be Americans.... If a man is going to be an American at all let him be so without any qualifying adjectives; and if he is going to be something else, let him drop the word American from his personal description.

Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924)
"The Day We Celebrate (Forefather's Day)"
Address, New England Society of Brooklyn
21 December 1888

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
In Conversation
Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde, 1959
Edited by Alvin Redman

You'll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
O'Flaherty V.C.: A Recruiting Pamphlet, 1915

Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism.... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
Speech before the Knights of Columbus
New York, 12 October 1915

Speaking of our own country, on the one hand we have the "war for profit group," which at this epoch of the so-called world's civilization is responsible for the conditions that lead to wars. It is this "war for profit group" that has counterfeited patriotism for commercial ends, and counterfeited the flag for the same purpose -- all in an attempt to perpetuate the selfish plans of that group. On the other hand there is the rank and file of the people, who have kept the flag unsullied -- kept it before and above to the breezes -- as the emblem of liberty and progress. These two forces have been fighting side by side in opposition to what has been termed a "common enemy," and yet the two forces -- "the war for profit group," and the true patriots, aim at diametrically opposite purposes.

Charles August Lindbergh, Sr. (1859-1974)
Why is Your Country at War?, 1917
Chapter VII "Memorial to the Presidents"
"The Patriots and the Money Sharks"

Speculation and loans in foreign fields, especially with the nations at war, is likely to bring us into the war. They form a powerful incentive on the part of the speculators to get us into the war, but even if it results that way, they will never be stated as the cause. You can depend upon it that the trust-supported press will be used ti trump up some other thing as the pretended cause, or things will be staged to force some country to commit acts of war upon us....

Charles August Lindbergh, Sr. (1859-1924)
Why is Your Country at War?, 1917
Chapter VIII "The Political Parties"
"Foreign Speculation Means War for America"

I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.

Edith Cavell (1865-1915)
Last words on date of execution
12 October 1915
The Times, 23 October 1915

Children must be under authority, and are themselves aware that they must be, although they like to play a game of rebellion at times. The case of children is unique in the fact that those who have authority over them are sometimes fond of them. Where this is the case, the children do not resent the authority in general, even when they resist it on particular occasions. Education authorities, as opposed to teachers, have not this merit, and do in fact sacrifice the children to what they consider the good of the State by teaching them 'patriotism', i.e., a willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Sceptical Essays, 1928
Chapter 13 "Freedom in Society"

"My country, right or wrong" is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober."

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
"Defence of Patriotism"
The Defendant, 1901

The love of one's country is a natural thing. But why should love stop at the border.

Pablo Casals (1876-1973)
Quoted in Joys and Sorrows, 1970
Edited by Julian Lloyd Webber

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them! How vile and despicable seems war to me! I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business. My opinion of the human race is high enough that I believe this bogey would have disappeared long ago, had the sound sense of the peoples not been systematically corrupted by commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the Press.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
The World As I See It, 1934

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear - kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor - with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.

Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964)
The Nation, "Plain talk From the General"
17 August 1957

Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.

George Jean Nathan (1882-1958)
Testament of a Critic, 1930

Gilbert: We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

Goering: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

Goering: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Herman Goering (1893-1946)
Interview, 18 April 1946
During the Nuremberg trials
Quoted by Gustave M. Gilbert (1911-1977)
Nuremberg Diary, 1948

Love of one's country recognizes no frontiers...of other countries.

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (1909-1966)
Unkempt Thoughts, 1962
Translated by Jacek Galazka
page 151

Huge media campaigns trumpeting vacuous slogans to dispel the danger of thought are now a staple of the ideological system. To derail concern over whether you should support their policy, the PR system focuses attention on whether you support our troops -- meaningless words, as empty as the question of whether you support the people of Iowa. That of course, is just the point: to reduce the population to gibbering idiots, mouthing empty phrases and patriotic slogans, waving ribbons, watching gladiatorial contests and the models designed for them by the PR industry, but, crucially, not thinking or acting. A few must be trained to think and act, if only to serve the needs of the powerful; but they must be kept within the rigid constraints of the ideological system. These are the tasks of the media, journals of opinion, schools, and universities.

Noam Chomsky (b.1928)
"What We Say Goes: The Middle East in the New World Order"
04 April 1991
Z Magazine, May 1991

Whoever publicly profanes the Reich or one of the states incorporated into it, its constitution, colors or flag or the German armed forces, or maliciously and with premeditation exposes them to contempt, shall be punished by imprisonment.

Statutory Criminal Law of Germany
19 December 1932, RGB1-I, 548

The Congress and the States shall have the power to prohibit the act of desecration of the flag of the United States and to set criminal penalties for that act.

Proposed Amendment to Constitution
22 June 1989, H.J. Res. 305

All through human history, tyrannies have tried to enforce obedience by prohibiting disrespect for the symbols of their power. The swastika is only one example of many in recent history.

American Bar Association
Task force on flag burning

Love your country but never trust its government.

(Hand-painted road sign in central Pennsylvania)


Whether, as some psychologists believe, some women suffer from penis envy, I am not sure. I am quite certain, however, that all males without exception, whatever their age, suffer from penis rivalry, and that this trait has now become a threat to the future existence of the human race.

Behind every quarrel between men, whether individually or collectively, one can hear the taunt of a little urchin: "My prick (or my father's) is bigger than yours (or your father's), and can pee further."

Nearly all weapons, from the early spear and sword down to the modern revolver and rocket, are phallic symbols. Men, to be sure, also fashion traps, most forms of which are vaginal symbols, but they never take pride in them as they do in their weapons. The epic poets frequently give a loving and detailed description of some weapon, and, when heroes exchange gifts in earnest of friendship, weapons figure predominantly. But where in literature can one find a loving description of a trap, or hear of one as a precious gift?

Today the phallic toys have become too dangerous to be tolerated. I see little hope for a peaceful world until men are excluded from the realm of foreign policy altogether and all decisions concerning international relations are rserved for women, preferably married ones.

I would go further and say that, while men should still as in the past be permitted to construct machines, it should be for women to decide what kinds of machines shall be constructed.

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)
"Penis Rivalry"
A Certain World, 1970


[see also: REALITY]

Appearances often are deceiving.

Aesop (620-560 BC)
The Wolf in Sheep Clothing

Things are not always what they seem.

Phaedrus (c.15 BC-AD c.50)
Book IV, fable 2, line 5

It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive. Yet the scientific evidence is indisputable, and the infinitesimal proportion (as compared to the whole) of the groups of vibrations by which alone we can see or hear is a fact about which there can be no doubt. The clairvoyant is simply a man who develops within himself the power to respond to another octave out of the stupendous gamut of possible vibrations, and so enables himself to see more of the world around him than those of more limited perception.

Charles Webster Leadbeater (1854-1934)
Man Visible & Invisible: Examples of Different Types of Men as
Seen by Means of Trained Clairvoyance
, 1902
Chapter III "Clairvoyant Sight"

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

William Blake (1757-1827)
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-1793

This life's dim windows of the soul
Distorts the heavens from pole to pole
And leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not through, the eye.

William Blake (1757-1827)
The Everlasting Gospel, c.1818
Section 5, line 101

...the mind in apprehending also experiences sensations which, properly speaking, are qualities of the mind alone. These sensations are projected by the mind so as to clothe appropriate bodies in external nature. Thus the bodies are perceived as with qualities which in reality do not belong to them, qualities which in fact are purely the offspring of the mind. Thus nature gets credit which should in truth be reserved for ourselves: the rose for its scent: the nightingale for his song: and the sun for his radiance. The poets are entirely mistaken. They should address their lyrics to themselves, and should turn them into odes of self-congratulation on the excellency of the human mind. Nature is a dull affair, soundless, scentless, colourless; merely the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
Science and the Modern World, 1925
Chapter III "The Century of Genius"

Physics assures us that the occurrences which we call 'perceiving objects' are at the end of a long causal chain which starts from the objects, and are not likely to resemble the objects except, at best, in certain very abstract ways. We all start from 'naive realism', i.e., the doctrine that things are what they seem. We think that grass is green, that stones are hard, and that snow is cold. But physics assures us that the greenness of grass, the hardness of stones, and the coldness of snow, are not the greenness, hardness, and coldness that we know in our own experience, but something very different. The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
An Inquiry Into Meaning and Truth, 1940

We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anais Nin (1903-1977)
Seduction of the Minotaur, 1959

In man's brain the impressions from outside are not merely registered; they produce concepts and ideas. They are the imprint of the external world upon the human brain. Therefore, it is not surprising that, after a long period of searching and erring, some of the concepts and ideas in human thinking should have come gradually closer to the fundamental laws of this world, that some of our thinking should reveal the true structure of atoms and the true movements of the stars. Nature, in the form of man, begins to recognize self.

Victor Frederick Weisskopf (1908-2002)
Knowledge and Wonder, 1962

Consciousness is a much smaller part of our mental life than we are conscious of, because we cannot be conscious of what we are not conscious of. How simple that is to say; how difficult to appreciate! It is like asking a flashlight in a dark room to search around for something that does not have any light shining upon it. The flashlight, since there is light in whatever direction it turns, would have to conclude that there is light everywhere. And so consciousness can seem to pervade all mentality when it actually does not.

Julian Jaynes (1920-1997)
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of
the Bicameral Mind
, 1976
Book I "The Mind of Man"
Chapter 1 "The Consciousness of Consciousness"

Hallucinations aren't just "seeing something"; they're a special case of perception in which you work a little harder, that's all.

Joanna Russ (b.1937)
We Who Are About To..., 1977

People tend to believe only what they can see -- that's perfectly natural and reasonable. But what if everybody saw in black and white and you could see colors? Chances are, no one would believe that colors existed. They might think you were crazy if you kept talking about colors. But the colors would exist just the same, even if not everybody could see them.

Daniel Manus Pinkwater (b.1941)
Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars, 1979
Chapter 27

...There must be aspects to the universe that explain time and consciousness which, as of yet, we are all but unacquainted with - as the blind are unacquainted with color or the deaf with harmony....

Samuel R. Delany (b.1942)
"The Systems of the World"
The Mad Man, 1994
(Ellipses in original text)

These are lessons which I learned in part walking with my dogs and wondering how the world looks without a fovea and very few retinal cells for colour vision, but with a huge neural processing and sensory area for smells. It is a lesson available from photographs of how the world looks to the compound eyes of an insect, or even from the camera eye of a spy satellite or the digitally transmitted signals of space probe-perceived differences 'near' Jupiter that have been transformed into coffee table colour photographs. The 'eyes' made available in modern technological sciences shatter any idea of passive vision; these prosthetic devices show us that all eyes, including our own organic ones, are active perceptual systems, building in translations and specific ways of seeing, that is, ways of life.

Donna Jeanne Haraway (b.1944)
Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, 1991
Chapter Nine "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in
Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective"


Ordinary people seem not to realize that those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death.

Socrates (c.470-399 BC)
Phaedo, section 62
by Plato (c.428-348 BC)

The whole life of the philosopher is a preparation for death.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
Tusculanae Disputationes

Nihil tam absurde dici potest, quod non dicatur ab aliquo pilosophorum. (There is nothing so ridiculous but some philosopher has said it.)

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
De Divinatione
Book II, Section 58

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Bible, Colossians 2:8 (NIV)

Favorinus tells us how Epictetus would also say that there were two faults far graver and fouler than any others -- inability to bear, and inability to forbear, when we neither patiently bear the blows that must be borne, nor abstain from the things and the pleasures we ought to abstain from. "So, he went on, "if a man will only have these two words at heart, and heed them carefully by ruling and watching over himself, he will for the most part fall into no sin, and his life will be tranquil and serene." He meant the words..."BEAR AND FORBEAR."

Epictetus (c.55-c.135)
The Golden Sayings of Epictetus
Translated by Hastings Crossley, 1909

A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Essays: Of Atheism, 1625

A book is a mirror. When a monkey looks in, no philosopher looks out.

G.C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799)
"Notebook E", Aphorism 49
Aphorisms, 1765-1799

I must invent my own philosophical systems, or else be enslaved by other mens'.

William Blake (1757-1827)
Jerusalem, 1820
Plate 10

Custom...doth make dotards of us all. Consider well, thou wilt find that Custom is the greatest of Weavers; and weaves air-raiment for all the Spirits of the Universe; whereby indeed these dwell with us visibly, as ministering servants, in our houses and workshops; but their spiritual nature becomes, to the most, forever hidden. Philosophy complains that Custom has hoodwinked us, from the first; that we do everything by Custom, even Believe by it; that our very Axioms, let us boast of Free-thinking as we may, are oftenest simply such Beliefs as we have never heard questioned. Nay, what is Philosophy throughout but a continual battle against Custom; an ever-renewed effort to transcend the sphere of blind Custom, and so become transcendental?

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Sartor Resartus: The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh, 1836
Chapter VIII "Natural Supernaturalism"

The powers that I want will be supplied as I am supplied, and the philosophy of waiting is sustained by all the oracles of the universe.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1909

Philosophy: unintelligible answers to insoluble problems.

Henry Brooks Adams (1838-1918)
The So-Called Human Race, 1922
by Bert Leston Taylor (1866-1921)

The object of studying philosophy is to know one's own mind, not other people's.

W.R. Inge (1860-1954)
Outspoken Essays, 1922

This seems plainly absurd; but whoever wishes to become a philosopher must learn not to be frightened by absurdities.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
The Problems of Philosophy, 1912
Chapter II "The Existence of Matter"

Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales. It is not good either to forget the questions that philosophy asks, or to persuade ourselves that we have found indubitable answers to them. To teach men how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1967)
The History of Western Philosophy, 1945

Philosophy is the battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
"Philosophical Investigations", 1953
Number 109

The philosopher treats a question; like an illness.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
"Philosophical Investigations", 1953
Number 255

Nobody can have the consolations of religion or philosophy unless he has first experienced their desolations.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Collected Essays, 1959

Poverty can be made to disappear. It won't be accomplished simply by stepping up the growth rate any more than it will be accomplished by incantation or ritualistic washing of the feet. Growth is only for those who can take advantage of it.

We have, of course, no hope of erasing this blot on our social life if we are affected by the thinking of that new and interesting cult which call themselves the modern conservatives. As to this, I suppose, there will be general agreement. The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged on the contrary, in one of man's oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor. The man who has struck it rich in minerals, oil, or other bounties of nature is found explaining the debilitating effect of unearned income from the state. The corporate executive who is a superlative success as an organization man weighs in on the evils of bureaucracy. Federal aid to education is feared by those who live in suburbs that could eaasily forgo this danger, and by people whose children are in public schools. Socialized medicine is condemned by men emerging from Walter Reed Hospital. Social Security is viewed with alarm by those who have the comfortable cushion of an inherited income. Those who are immediately threatened by public efforts to meet their needs -- whether widows, small farmers, hospitalized veterens, or the unemployed -- are almost always oblivious to the danger.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
"Let Us Begin: An Invitation to Action on Poverty"
Harper's Magazine, March 1964
Reprinted in American Fiscal Policy: Experiment for Prosperity, 1867
Edited by Lester C. Thurow

Removing philosophy from philosophy of science leaves you nothing.

John M. Allen
soc.motss post
30 June 1991

The only difference between graffiti and philosophy is the word fuck.

Men's room, Limelight Restaurant, New York
Encyclopedia of Graffiti, 1974
Robert George Reisner, Lorraine Wechsler

A philosopher is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn't there.... A theologian is the one who finds it.



Various writers...have observed that enuresis seems to be unduly common among soldiers. Discounting the not inconsiderable number of cases of malingering, where bed-wetting is deliberately resorted to in an attempt to obtain a disability discharge or at least to escape active service, veritable epidemics of real enuresis occur from time to time. If these outbreaks were reported only among men who are actively engaged in combat or who are in training for imminent service, the logical assumption would be that anxiety is here the prime etiological factor. The fact that enuresis may also be either recurrent or more or less chronic in barracks during times of prolonged peace suggests a different explanation, namely, that the discipline and arbitrary treatment which forms so large a part of military training may reinstate in young men attitudes of hostility and resentment which they felt as children toward parental authority but which they may have been able to express only in such a round-about way as being seemingly unable to acquire or retain the dry-bed habit.

Orval Hobart Mowrer (1907-1982)
"Enuresis -- A Method for Its Study and Treatment"
IV Enuresis and Frustration Theory
American Journal Orthopsychiatry
Volume 8, Issue 3, July 1938


The important question is not, what will yield to man a few scattered pleasures, but what will render his life happy on the whole amount.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
"Happiness Not Independent"
Interesting Anecdotes, Memoirs, Alegories, Essays, and Poetical
, 1794

If pleasure was not followed by pain, who would forbear it?

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
The Idler, Number 89
Universal Chronicle
London, 29 December 1759

Do not bite at the bait of pleasure till you know there is no hook beneath it.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Maria Cosway,
12 October 1786

Pleasure is Nature's test, her sign of approval. When a man is happy, he is in harmony with himself and his environment.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
"The Soul of Man Under Socialism"
Fortnightly Review
London, February 1891


Poetry should surprise by a fine excess, and not by singularity -- it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.

John Keats (1795-1821)
Letter to John Taylor, 27 February 1818
The Letters of John Keats, 1958
Volume I
Edited by Hyder Edward Rollins

We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
"Anima Hominis", Part V
Per Amica Silentia Lunae, 1918

The essence of poetry is the intuition of strange analogies and surprising similitudes. The restraint of the poets is not to ascribe too much meaning to that which is really imsignificant. The courage of the poet is to keep ajar the door that leads into madness. The poet is the Pandora of the mind.

Christopher Morley (1890-1957)
Inward Ho!, 1923
Chapter II "Have Faith in Poets"

I am not clear about the relation of the poem to the poet. I used to accept the psychologist's view that a poem occurs at the point where an anxiety collides with an accumulation of technique. The intensity of both is an index of the poem's success or failure. Think of the horrible blooms that Baudelaire coaxed out of himself. Then think of the complete failure of Shelley to meet the technical demands of his anxiety

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)
"From a Writer's Journal", Rhodes, November 17
The Windmill, Volume II, 1946
by Edward Lane, William Somerset Maugham
page 50

Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is merely the bemused spectator. The poem is as much the result of chance as of intention. Probably more so.

Charles Simic (b.1938)
The Best American Poetry, 1992
Edited by Charles Simic


The beginning is the most important part of the work.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)
Republic, Book I

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.

Bible, Ecclesiastes 7:8

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. Bible, Ecclesiastes 9:11

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

George Orwell (1903-1950)
"Politics and the English Language", 1946
Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays, 1950's more interesting to live
when you're furious!

Yevgeny Yevtushenko (b.1933)
Bratsk Station and Other New Poems, 1966

May you live in interesting times.

Chinese curse

Would ye both eat your cake and have your cake?

Proverbs, 1546
Part II, Chapter 9
John Heywood (c.1497-c.1580)

You can halve your cake and eat it too!

Ellis Praecox (b.1943)

Facts are stubborn things.

Tobias Smollett (1721-1771)
Gil Blas de Santillane, 1715
Book X, Chapter 1
Translated in 1755 by
Alain Rene Le Sage (1668-1747)

Facts are stupid things.

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)
1988 Republican convention
"Reagan's Address: Hailing Fruits of the Party's Dream of 1980"
New York Times, 16 August 1988

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
07 April 1775
Life of Johnson, 1791
by James Boswell (1740-1795)

Seriousness [is] the only refuge of the shallow.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
"The Rout of the R[oyal] A[cademy]", 1887
The Artist as Critic: Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde, 1969
Edited by Richard Ellmann (1918-1987)

We have met the enemy, and they are ours.

Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819)
Dispatch from U.S. brig Niagara to General William Henry Harrison,
announcing his victory at the battle of Lake Erie
10 September 1813

We have met the enemy and he is us.

Walt Kelly (1913-1973)
Pogo cartoon
Used in 1971 Earth Day poster

It's just six of one and half-a-dozen of the other.

Frederick Marryat (1792-1848)
The Pirate, 1836
Chapter 4 "The Leak"

It's three of one, a quarter-dozen of another.

Ellis Praecox (b.1943)

One definition of man is "an intelligence served by organs."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
"Work and Days"
Society and Solitude, 1870

Man is an intelligence, not served by, but in servitude to his organs.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
"Variations on a Philosopher"
Themes and Variations, 1950

Life is just one damned thing after another.

Elbert Green Hubbard (1856-1915)
Philistine, December 1909

It is not true that life is one damn thing after another -- it's one damn thing over and over.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Letter to Arthur Davison Ficke
24 October 1930
Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1952
Edited by Allan Ross Macdougall

To make this trivial world sublime,
Take half a Gramme of phanerothyme.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Letter to Humphrey Osmond
30 March 1956

To fathom Hell or soar angelic,
Just take a pinch of psychedelic.

Humphrey Osmond (1917-2004)
Reply to Aldous Huxley, 1956

There are no differences but differences of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference.

William James (1842-1910)
"Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide"
Mind, Volume 7, 1882

There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

Bible, Ezekiel 23:20 in the NIV

My buddy Dwight always wanted to get end zone tickets to a Monday Night Football game some day and wave a sign in the end zone that read, “Ezek. 23:20.”

Fred Clark
Slacktivist blog
07 November 2014


[see also: LAW]

But who is to guard the guards themselves?

Juvenal (c.55-c.130)
Satires, VI, line 347

The terrorist and the policeman both come from the same basket. Revolution, legality -- counter moves in the same game; forms of idleness at bottom identical.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
The Secret Agent, 1907
Chapter 4

I'm not against the police; I'm just afraid of them.

Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)
Quoted in New Society
London, 10 May 1984

I held the opinion that however low a man sinks he never reaches the level of the police.

Quentin Crisp (1908-1999)
The Naked Civil Servant, 1968
Chapter 12

A functioning police state needs no police.

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)
The Naked Lunch, 1959

The cold rage of lawmen is never not present and never less than astounding. I've never seen even enraged paranoiacs get as angry as policemen.

Walker Percy (1916-1990)
The Thanatos Syndrome, 1987

Experience to date shows that such crowds [of demonstrators] can be controlled without denying rights of speech and assembly. Above all, such crowds can be controlled without excessive force and violence by police. Of all violence, police violence in excess of authority is the most dangerous. For who will protect the public when the police violate the law?

Ramsey Clark (b.1927)
Quoted in "Investigations: Refighting Chicago"
Time, 27 September 1968

There's cops and there's policemen. The cop says, 'Don't do that. That's forbidden and that's all there is to that.' The policeman says, 'You can do that, but if you go too far, you're going to hurt yourself.' The policeman is the double line in the middle of the road. I'm talking about inside of us.

Ken Kesey (b.1935)
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, 1968
by Tom Wolfe
Chapter XXVII "The Graduation"



I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races -- I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
First Lincoln-Douglas Debate
21 August 1858

African, n. A nigger that votes our way.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Political correctness is the natural continuum from the party line. What we are seeing once again is a self-appointed group of vigilantes imposing their views on others. It is a heritage of communism, but they don't seem to see this.

Doris Lessing (b.1919)
Sunday Times: Books
London, 10 May 1992

We have needed to define ourselves by reclaiming the words that define us. They have used language as weapons. When we open ourselves to what they say and how they say it, our narrow prejudices evaporate and we are nourished and armed.

Selma James (b.1930)
The Ladies and the Mammies: Jane Austen and Jean Rhys, 1983
Chapter 1

Dean Kagan, distinguished faculty, parents, friends, graduating seniors, Secret Service, class agents, people of class, people of color, colorful people, people of height, the vertically constrained, people of hair, the differently coiffed, the optically challenged, the temporarily sighted, the insightful, the out of sight, the out-of-towners, the Eurocentrics, the Afrocentrics, the Afrocentrics with Eurailpasses, the eccentrically inclined, the sexually disinclined, people of sex, sexy people, sexist pigs, animal companions, friends of the earth, friends of the boss, the temporarily employed, the differently employed, the differently optioned, people with options, people with stock options, the divestiturists, the deconstructionist, the home constructionist, the homeboys, the homeless, the temporarily housed at home, and God save us, the permanently housed at home....

Garry Trudeau (b.1948)
From the opening of his Class Day speech at Yale
Editor's Workshop, December 1991


Let me now...warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party.

George Washington (1732-1799)
Farewell Address, 17 September 1796

A sect or party is an elegant incognito, devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Journals, 1909-1914
20 June 1831 entry

The more you read and observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one thats out always looks the best.

Will Rogers (1879-1935)
How We Elect Our Presidents, 1952
Chapter 2 "Politics is Applesauce"
Newspaper column, 22 December 1922
Selected and edited by Donald Day


[see also: LEGISLATURE]

With the highest [kind of rulers], those below simply know they exist. With those one step down—they love and praise them. With those one further step down—they fear them. And with those at the bottom—they ridicule and insult them.

When trust is insufficient, there will be no trust [in them]. Hesitant, undecided! Like this is his respect for speaking.

Lao-tzu (c.604-c.531 BC)
Tao Te Ching, Number 17
Translated by Robert G. Henricks, 1989

An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.

Simon Cameron (1799-1889)
Reputed statement; no evidence he actually said it
Quoted in Lincoln's War Cabinet, 1946
by Burton J. Hendrick
See caveat

A statesman is a successful politician who is dead.

Thomas Brackett Reed (1839-1902)
circa 1880
Quoted in The Democracy of the Constitution, 1915
by Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924)

The secret of the demagogue is to appear as dumb as his audience so that these people can believe themselves as smart as he is.

Karl Kraus (1874-1936)
"Lord Forgive Them..."
Half-Truths and One-And-A-Half-Truths, 1976
Edited by Harry Zohn

A Galileo could no more be elected President of the United States than he could be elected Pope of Rome. Both high posts are reserved for men favored by God with an extraordinary genius for swathing the bitter facts of life in bandages of self-illusion.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949
XVIII "Psychology"
"The Art Eternal"

A politician is a man who understands government and it takes a politician to run a government. A statesman is a politician who's been dead ten or fifteen years.

Harry S Truman (1884-1972)
Address to the Reciprocity Club
Washington DC, 11 April 1958
Quoted in New York World-Telegram and Sun
12 April 1958

Successful democratic politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies. The decisive consideration is not whether the proposition is good but whether it is popular -- not whether it will work well and prove itself but whether the active talking constituents like it immediately. Politicians rationalize this servitude by saying that in a democracy public men are the servants of the people.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)
The Public Philosophy, 1955
Chapter 2, Section 4

The politician is someone who deals in man's problems of adjustment. To ask a politician to lead us is to ask the tail of a dog to lead the dog.

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)
Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure, 1963
Chapter 19 "The Designers and the Politicians"
Edited by Robert W. Marks

I just don't believe in the basic concept that someone should make their whole career in public service.

J. Danforth Quayle (b.1947)
U.S. Representative from Indiana, 03 January 1977 - 03 January 1981
U.S. Senator from Indiana, 03 January 1981 - 03 January 1989
U.S. Vice President, 20 January 1989 - 20 January 1993
"Quayle To Back Term Limits"
Ellensburg [WA] Daily Record
10 October 1991

We would like to apologize for the way in which politicians are represented in this programme. It was never our intention to imply that politicians are weak-kneed, political time-servers who are concerned more with their personal vendettas and private power struggles than the problems of government, nor to suggest at any point that they sacrifice their credibility by denying free debate on vital matters in the mistaken impression that party unity comes before the well-being of the people they supposedly represent, nor to imply at any stage that they are squabbling little toadies without an ounce of concern for the vital social problems of today. Nor indeed do we intend that viewers should consider them as crabby ulcerous little self-seeking vermin with furry legs and an excessive addiction to alcohol and certain explicit sexual practices which some people might find offensive. We are sorry if this impression has come across.

Monty Python
"Apology (Politicians)"
War Against Pornography
Episode 32 (Series 3, number 6)
23 November 1973


...the heaviest of all penalties is to be governed by a worse man, in case of one's own refusal to govern; and it is the fear of this, I believe, which induces virtuous men to take posts of government; and when they do so, they enter upon their administration, not with any idea of coming into a good thing, but as an unavoidable necessity.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)
The Republic, Book I

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)
Lives of Eminent Philosophers
by Diogenes Laertius
Paraphrase of above? See caveat

The body politic, like the human body, begins to die from its birth, and bears in itself the causes of its destruction.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
The Social Contract, 1762
Book III, Chapter 11 "The Death of the Body Politic"

Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.... The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.

George Washington (1732-1799)
Farewell Address, 17 September 1796

In our civilization, and under our republican form of government, intelligence is so highly honored that it is rewarded by exemption from the cares of office.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Politics is the reflex of the business and industrial world.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940)
"The Tragedy of Women's Emancipation"
Anarchism and Other Essays, 1910

Who is not liberal when young, does not have a heart. Who is not conservative when old, does not have a brain.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Cannot find evidence Churchill ever said this

Lean too much upon the approval of people, and it becomes a bed of thorns.

Tehyi Hsieh (b.1884)
Chinese Epigrams Inside Out, and Proverbs, 1948
Number 14

A political party which wins elections but does not capitalize on its successes by mobilizing the whole power of the government is a monstrosity reflecting the stupidity of professional politicians who are more interested in the petty spoils of office than they are in the control of the richest and most powerful government in the world -- like an army of barbarians who, having overrun the city of Baltimore, content themselves with plundering a dime store.

E.E. Schattschneider (1892-1971)
The Struggle for Party Government, 1948
Chapter III "Party Reconstruction"

Third parties have performed the function of calling attention to serious problems and sometimes pointing a way to their solution. They have stimulated -- sometimes by frightening them -- the lethargic or timid politicians of the major parties. The have advocated reforms which the older parties have adopted and enacted into law.

William B. Hesseltine (1902-1963)
The Rise and Fall of Third Parties, 1948

Politics in the United States consists of the struggle between those whose change has been arrested by success or failure, on one side, and those who are still engaged in changing themselves, on the other. Agitators of arrested metamorphosis versus agitators of continued metamorphosis. The former have the advantage of numbers (since most people accept themselves as successes or failures quite early), the latter of vitality and visibility (since self-transformation, though it begins from within, with ideology, religion, drugs, tends to express itself publicly through costume and jargon).

Harold Rosenberg (1906-1978)
Discovering the Present, 1973
Part 4, Chapter 24

However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C," and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism."

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)
Congressional Record
16 September 1981

Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)
Quoted in MacLeans
Toronto, June 1971

Politics is just like show business, you have a hell of an opening, coast for a while and then have a hell of a close.

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)
Said to aide Stuart Spencer in 1966
Quoted in There He Goes Again, 1983
Edited by Mark Green and Gail MacColl

How can a man of integrity get along in Washington?

Richard Phillips Feynman (1918-1988)
What Do You Care What Other People Think?, 1988

The wise prince...must foment some enmity so that by suppressing it he will augment his greatness.

Robert Crichton (1925-1993)
The Secret of Santa Vittoria, 1966
Part 2, "Italo Bombolini"

Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
Bob Marshall interview
22 October 1988



There's only one good test of pornography. Get twelve normal men to read the book, and then ask them, "Did you get an erection?" If the answer is "Yes" from a majority of the twelve, then the book is pornographic.

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)
"March 17, 1947"
The Table Talk of W.H. Auden
Compiled by Alan Ansen,
Edited by Nicolas Jenkins, 1990

...under the First and Fourteenth Amendments criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography. I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it....

Potter Stewart (1915-1985)
Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964)

Pornography is method without inspiration; eroticism is inspiration without method. (Eroticism is using a feather; pornography is using the whole hen.)

Isabel Allende (b.1942)
"Herbs and Spices"
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses, 1998

My reaction to porn films is as follows: After the first ten minutes, I want to go home and screw. After the first 20 minutes, I never want to screw again as long as I live.

Erica Jong (b.1942)
Playboy Interview
September 1975

Here is the problem: For many years, the Supreme Court wrestled with the issue of pornography, until finally Associate Justice John Paul Stevens came up with the famous quotation about how he couldn't define pornography, but he knew it when he saw it. So for a while, the court's policy was to have all the suspected pornography trucked to Justice Stevens' house, where he would look it over. "Nope, this isn't it," he'd say. "Bring some more." This went on until one morning when his housekeeper found him trapped in the recreation room under an enormous mound of rubberized implements, and the court had to issue a ruling stating that it didn't know what the hell pornography was except that it was illegal and everybody should stop badgering the court about it because the court was going to take a nap.

Dave Barry (b.1947)
"Pornography: Defining the Naked Truth"
Providence [RI] Journal
03 September 1985

...[the] oftentimes comical, but always dangerous individuals who cry freedom to license their filth and to profit from depravity...will help "censorship," "art," "borderline," and other undefined words and phrases to disguise their wares of sadism, masochism, narcmissism [sic], cannibalism, cunnilingualism, sodomy, necrophilia, and all the other rot they peddle which among other things, causes premarital intercourse, perversion, masturbation in boys, wantonness in girls, and weakens the morality of all its contacts.

Charles H. Keating, Jr. (b.1923)
Legal counsel for Citizens for Decent Literature, Cincinnati Ohio
Hearing before the Subcommittee on Postal Operations, 27 May 1960
United States Congress, House of Representatives,
Post Office and Civil Service Committee
"Circulation of Obscene and Pornographic Material"
Washington, DC, Government Printing Office, 1960
86th Congress, second session, U110
[see longer excerpt]


[see also: MONEY, WEALTH]

It is often attempted to palliate slavery by comparing the state of slaves with our poorer countrymen: if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin; but how this bears on slavery, I cannot see; as well might the use of the thumb-screw be defended in one land, by showing that men in another land suffered from some dreadful disease.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Voyage of the Beagle, 1839
Chapter 21, "Slavery"

Two nations, between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws...the rich and the poor.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Sybil; or, The Two Nations, 1845
Book II, Chapter 5

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.

Herman Melville (1819-1891)
"Poor Man's Pudding and Rich Man's Crumbs"
Harpers Magazine, 1854

Poverty is an anomaly to rich people. It is very difficult to make out why people who want dinner do not ring the bell.

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877)
"The Waverley Novels", 1858
Reprinted in Literary Studies
Volume 2, 1878

Among us English-speaking peoples do the praises of poverty need once more to be boldly sung. We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise any one who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition. We have lost the power even of imagining what the ancient idealization of poverty could have meant: the liberation of material attachments, the unbridled soul, the manlier indifference, the paying our way by what we are or do and not by what we have, the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly -- the more athletic trim, in short, the moral fighting shape. When we of the so-called better classes are scared as men were never scared in history at material ugliness and hardship; when we put off marriage until our house can be artistic, and quake at the thought of having a child without a bank-account and doomed to manual labor, it is time for thinking men to protest against so unmanly and irreligious a state of opinion.

It is true that so far as wealth gives time for ideal ends and exercise to ideal energies, wealth is better than poverty and ought to be chosen. But wealth does this in only a portion of the actual cases. Elsewhere the desire to gain wealth and the fear to lose it are our chief breeders of cowardice and propagators of corruption. There must be thousands of conjunctures in which a wealth-bound man must be a slave, whilst a man for whom poverty has no terrors becomes a freeman. Think of the strength which personal indifference to poverty would give us if we were devoted to unpopular causes. We need no longer hold our tongues or fear to vote the revolutionary or reformatory ticket. Our stocks might fall, our hopes of promotion vanish, our salaries stop, our club doors close in our faces; yet, while we lived, we would imperturbably bear witness to the spirit, and our example would help to set free our generation. The cause would need its funds, but we its servants would be potent in proportion as we personally were contented with our poverty.

I recommend this matter to your serious pondering, for it is certain that the prevalent fear of poverty among the educated classes is the worst moral disease from which our civilization suffers.

William James (1842-1910)
The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902 (1961 translation)
Lectures 14-15

The greatest of our evils and the worst of our crimes is poverty.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Major Barbara, 1905

The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied...but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.

John Berger (b.1926)
"The Soul and the Operator"
Expressen, Stockholm
19 March 1990

People with a culture of poverty suffer much less from repression than we of the middle class suffer and indeed, if I make the suggestion with due qualification, they often have a hell of a lot more fun than we have.

Brian Friel (b.1929)
The Freedom of the City
Act I

I write more particularly for those who have not been brought up as farmers -- for that numerous body of patient toilers in city, town, and village, who, like myself, have struggled on from year to year, anxious to break away from the bondage of the desk, the counter, or the workshop, to realize in the country even a moderate income, so that it be a sure one. Many such are constantly looking round in this direction for something which, with less mental toil and anxiety, will provide a maintenance for a growing family, and afford a refuge for advancing age -- some safe and quiet harbor, sheltered from the constantly recurring monetary and political convulsions which in this country so suddenly reduce men to poverty. But these inquirers find no experienced pioneers to lead the way, and they turn back upon themselves, too fearful to go forward alone.

Ten Acres Enough, 1864
(Found in The Maple Sugar Book, 1950
Part III, Chapter 10, page 209
by Helen and Scott Nearing)



Power always thinks it has a great soul, and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service, when it is violating all His laws.

John Adams (1735-1826)
Letter to Thomas Jefferson
02 February 1916

Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Conciliatory Address
04 March 1801

Offices are as acceptable here as elsewhere, and whenever a man has cast a longing eye on them, a rottenness begins in his conduct.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Tench Coxe
21 May 1799

The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
"The Times Newspaper"
Political Essays

Power, like a desolating pestilence,
Pollutes whate'er it touches; and obedience,
Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame
A mechanized automaton.

Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822)
Queen Mab, 1813, III

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895)
Speech, Canandaigua, New York, 03 August 1857
"The Significance of Emancipation in the West Indies"

Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. It is easy for the weak to be gentle. Most people can bear adversity. But if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test. It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost absolute power, he never abused it, except on the side of mercy.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)
"Abraham Lincoln", 1894
Works of Robert G. Ingersoll Lectures, 1929
Volume III "Lectures"

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

John Acton (1834-1902)
Letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton
05 April 1887

Much that is horrific and inhuman in history in which one can hardly bear to believe is likewise ameliorated when we consider that he who ordered it and he who carried it out are different people: the former does not see it and his imagination therefore receives no strong impression of it, the latter obeys one set above him and does not feel responsible. From lack of imagination most princes and military leaders can easily seem cruel and harsh without being so.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Human, All Too Human, 1878
II "On the History of the Moral Sensations"
Number 101

There's just one rule for politicians all over the world: Don't say in Power what you say in Opposition; if you do, you only have to carry out what the other fellows have found impossible.

John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
Maid in Waiting, 1931
Chapter VII

But power is sweet, and few men surrender it voluntarily. It is especially sweet to those who have the habit of it, and the habit becomes most ingrained in those who have governed by bayonets, without popular support.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Bolshevism: Practice and Theory, 1920
Part II "Bolshevik Theory"
Chapter IV "Revolution and Dictatorship"

Unfortunately, however, power is sweet, and the man who in the beginning seeks power merely in order to have scope for his benevolence is likely, before long, to love the power for its own sake.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
"Benevolence and Love of Power"
New York American, 13 July 1934

Men who allow their love of power to give them a distorted view of the world are to be found in every asylum: one man will think he is the Governor of the Bank of England, another will think he is the King, and yet another will think he is God. Highly similar delusions, if expressed by educated men in obscure language, lead to professorships of philosophy; and if expressed by emotional men in eloquent language, lead to dictatorships.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1967)
Power: A New Social Anaysis, 1938
Chapter 16 "Power Philosophies"

Power is sweet; it is a drug, the desire for which increases with a habit.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Paraphrase of above (1920, 1934)?
See caveat

Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.

Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961)
The Psychology of the Unconscious, 1943
page 87, Volume 7
Psychological Reflections: A Jung Anthology, 1953

Every Communist must grasp the truth: "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."

Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976)
Speech, 06 November 1938
"Problems of War and Strategy"
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
Volume II, 1961

Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

George Orwell (1903-1950)
1984, 1949
Part III, Chapter 3

The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide -- as, I think, he will. Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips, and guns -- or dollars. Take your choice -- there is no other -- and your time is running out.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
Atlas Shrugged, 1957
Part Two "Either-Or"
Chapter II "The Aristocracy of Pull"

No one is fit to be trusted with power.... No one.... Any man who has lived at all knows the follies and wickedness he's capable of. If he does not know it, he is not fit to govern others. And if he does know it, he knows also that neither he nor any man ought to be allowed to decide a single human fate.

Charles Percy Snow (1905-1980)
The Light and the Dark, 1961

Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

Saul David Alinsky (1909-1972)
Rules for Radicals, A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, 1971

If power corrupts, weakness in the seat of power, with its constant necessity of deals and bribes and compromising arrangements, corrupts even more.

Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (1912-1989)
Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45, 1970
Chapter 18 "'The Future of All Asia is at Stake': June-September 1944"

When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.

Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994)
TV interview with David Frost
20 May 1977
I Gave Them a Sword, 1978
Chapter 8
by David Frost (b.1939) are strong only as long as you don't deprive people of everything. For a person you've taken everything from is no longer in your power. He's free all over again.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)
The First Circle, 1968
Chapter 17 "'Oh, Wonder-Working Steed'"
Translated by Thomas P. Whitney

It is man's nature to be weak from the moment he is born. He will only grow strong when there is no one stronger than he is. And if the cruel ones among the strong are punished and removed from their ranks, they will simply be replaced by the relatively stronger ones from among the throng of the weak. And the newly strong ones will become cruel in their turn. That would mean that eventually all men would have to be punished, and this I do not want to do.

Arkady Strugatsky (1925-1991) and
Boris Strugatsky (b.1933)
Hard to be a God, 1973
Chapter 9

It's said that 'power corrupts', but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power. When they do act, they think of it as service, which has limits. The tyrant, though, seeks mastery, for which he is insatiable, implacable.

David Brin (b.1950)
The Postman, 1985


[see also: RELIGION]

Prayer indeed is good, but while calling on the gods a man should himself lend a hand.

Hippocrates (c.460-c.377 BC)
Regimen, Book IV, Section 87

If the gods listened to the prayers of men, all men would quickly have perished: for they are always praying for evil against one another.

Epicurus (c. 341-270 BC)
fragment, uncertain source

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. And when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Bible, Matthew 6:5-6

Whatsoever we beg of God, let us also work for it.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)
The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, 1654
Chapter 4, Section 7

Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

If you talk to God, you are praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.

Thomas Szasz (b.1920)
The Second Sin, 1973

Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers as long as they are not disruptive. Because the Establishment Clause does not apply to purely private speech, students enjoy the right to read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray before tests, and discuss religion with other willing student listeners. In the classroom students have the right to pray quietly except when required to be actively engaged in school activities (for example, students may not decide to pray just as a teacher calls on them). In informal settings, such as the cafeteria or in the halls, students may pray either audibly or silently, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other speech in these locations. However, the right to engage in voluntary prayer does not include, for example, the right to have a captive audience listen or to compel other students to participate.

"Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law"
April 1995



Some prejudices are to the mind, what the atmosphere is to the body; we cannot feel without the one, nor breathe without the other.

Fulke Greville (1554-1628)
Maxims, Characters, and Reflections, Critical, Satyrical, and Moral, 1757
Number CLXIX

Yes, believe me, the removing some prejudices would be like taking off the skin to feel the better.

Fulke Greville (1554-1628)
Maxims, Characters, and Reflections, Critical, Satyrical, and Moral, 1757

Which leads me to add one Remark: That the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased. And while we are, as I may call it, Scouring our Planet, by clearing America of Woods, and so making this Side of our Globe reflect a brighter Light to the Eyes of Inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the Sight of Superior Beings, darken its People? why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red? But perhaps I am partial to the Complexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
"Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind and
the Peopling of Countries"
Written in Pennsylvania, 1751

Comparing them [negroes] by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous. It would be unfair to follow them to Africa for this investigation. We will consider them here, on the same stage with the whites, and where the facts are not apocryphal on which a judgment is to be formed.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-1782
Query 14 "Laws"

The infidelity of the Gentile world, and that more especially of men of rank and learning in it, is resolved into a principle which, in my judgment, will account for the inefficacy of any argument, or any evidence whatever, viz. contempt prior to examination.

William Paley (1743-1805)
A View of the Evidences of Christianity, 1794

There is no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
"On the Tendency of Sects"
The Round Table, 1817

With respect to the few lines upon Intolerance which I have subjoined, they are but the imperfect beginning of a long series of Essays, with which I here menace my readers, upon the same important subject. I shall look to no higher merit in the task, than that of giving a new form to claims and remonstrances, which have often been much more eloquently urged, and which would long ere now have produced their effect, but that the minds of some men, like the pupil of the eye, contract themselves the more, the stronger light there is shed upon them.

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
Corruption and Intolerance: two poems, 1809

We first crush people to the earth, and then claim the right of trampling on them forever, because they are prostrate.

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880)
An Appeal on Behalf of That Class of Americans Called Africans, 1833

I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago of being overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
Letter to Wallace Graham, 03 July 1881
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, 1896
Volume 1, Chapter VIII "Religion"
Edited by Francis Darwin

I made a comparison at table some time since, which has often been quoted and received many compliments. It was that of the mind of a bigot to the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour on it, the more it contracts. The simile is a very obvious, and, I suppose I may now say, a happy one; for it has just been shown me that it occurs in a Preface to certain Political Poems of Thomas Moore's published long before my remark was repeated. When a person of fair character for literary honesty uses an image, such as another has employed before him, the presumption is, that he has struck upon it independently, or unconsciously recalled it, supposing it his own.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, 1858
Chapter VI

There is principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is, contempt prior to investigation.

William H. Poole (1820-1896)
Epigram attributed to Dr. Paley
Anglo-Israel; Or, The British Nation the Lost Tribes of Israel, 1879
[See Paley quotation above and Spencer quotation below]

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -- that principle is contempt prior to investigation.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
Alcoholics Anonymous, 1976
Not original to Spencer: See Paley and Poole quotations above
See caveat

The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved.

John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911)
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 1896
Sole dissent

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

William James (1842-1910)
Attributed and unverified
American Treasury, 1455-1955, 1955
Edited by Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999)
See caveat

He flattered himself on being a man without any prejudices; and this pretension itself is a very great prejudice.

Anatole France (1844-1924)
The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard, 1881
Part II, Chapter 4

Pernicious. -- The surest way of corrupting a young man is to teach him to esteem the like-minded more highly than the different-minded.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The Dawn of Day, 1903
Number 297
Translated by Johanna Volz

We do not want the men of another color for our brothers-in-law, but we do want them as brothers.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)

Man associates ideas not according to logic or verifiable exactitude, but according to his pleasure and interests. It is for this reason that most truths are nothing but prejudices.

Remy de Gourmont (1858-1915)
"The Dissociation of Ideas", 1899
Selected Writings, Edited and translated by Glen S. Burne, 1966

I am convinced myself that there is no more evil thing in this present world than race prejudice; none at all. I write deliberately -- it is the worst single thing in life now. It justifies and holds together more baseness, cruelty and abomination than any other sort of error in the world. Through its body runs the black blood of coarse lust, suspicion, jealousy and persecution and all the darkest poison of the human soul.... It is a monster begotten of natural instincts and intellectual confusion, to be fought against by all men of good intent, each in our dispersed modern manner doing his fragmentary, inestimable share.

H.G. Wells (1866-1946)
February 1907

The tendency of the casual mind is to pick out or stumble upon a sample which supports or defies its prejudices, and then to make it the representative of a whole class.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)
Public Opinion, 1929
Chapter 3, Section 10

If I were to wake up some morning and find, before 10 o'clock, that everyone was the same race, creed, and color, people would find some other causes for prejudice by noon.

George Aiken (1892-1984)
"The Outspoken Sage of the Senate"
By Jack Anderson
St. Joseph [Missouri] News-Press
02 June 1968

I used to think that a Southerner had to be always conscious of niggers. I thought that Northerners would expect him to. When I first came East I kept thinking You've got to remember to think of them as colored people not niggers, and if it hadn't happened that I wasn't thrown with many of them, I'd have wasted a lot of time and trouble before I learned that the best way to take all people, black or white, is to take them for what they think they are, then leave them alone. That was when I realised that a Nigger is not a person so much as a form of behavior; a sort of obverse reflection of the white people he lives among.

William Faulkner (1897-1962)
The Sound and the Fury
"June Second, 1910"

'It's powerful,' he said. 'What?' 'That one drop of Negro blood -- because just one drop of black blood makes a man coloured. One drop -- you are a Negro!'

Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Simple Takes a Wife, 1953

And I have no desire to get ugly. / But I cannot help mentioning that the door of a bigoted mind opens outwards so that the only result of the pressure of facts upon it is to close it more snugly.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
"Seeing Eye to Eye Is Believing"
Good Intentions, 1942

All people who have reached the point of becoming nations tend to despise foreigners, but there is not much doubt that the English-speaking races are the worst offenders. One can see this from the fact that as soon as they become fully aware of any foreign race they invent an insulting nickname for it.

George Orwell (1903-1950)
"Charles Dickens"
Inside the Whale and Other Essays, 1940

What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget -- is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.

David Ginsburg (1912-2010), et alia
"Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders"
29 February 1968
Summary of Report: Introduction

Niggerization is the result of oppression - and it doesn't just apply to the black people. Old people, poor people, and students can also get niggerized.

Florynce Kennedy (1916-2000)
Quoted in The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.
by Gloria Steinem (b.1934)
Ms, New York, March 1973

Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people. It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us done, time and time again through history. Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny...and I say...segregation today...segregation tomorrow...segregation forever.

George Wallace (1919-1998)
Inaugural speech as Governor of Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
14 January 1963

Might I go so far as to argue that being oppressed often leads to bigotry? If someone is raised in an environment of blatant oppression, where there is always a clearly defined "us" and "them", it becomes very difficult to learn to be tolerant. If oppression is all one knows, it can become the only thing one knows how to do oneself.

Anthony Berno (b.1970)
soc.motss post
10 February 1992


[see also: SECRECY]

Back in 2002, science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer wrote an essay about the trade-off between privacy and security, and came out in favor of less privacy. I disagree with most of what he said, and have written pretty much the opposite essay -- and others on the value of privacy and the future of privacy -- several times since then.

The point of this blog entry isn't really to debate the topic, though. It's to reprint the opening paragraph of Sawyer's essay, which I've never forgotten:

Whenever I visit a tourist attraction that has a guest register, I always sign it. After all, you never know when you'll need an alibi.

Since I read that, whenever I see a tourist attraction with a guest register, I do the same thing. I sign "Robert J. Sawyer, Toronto, ON" -- because you never know when he'll need an alibi.

Bruce Schneier (b.1963)
"Robert Sawyer's Alibis"
Schneier on Security blog []
14 September 2009


[see also: WORDS]

"Come here, Steve," he said. "Come here and kill him. I'm so chilled through I can't get a bead on him."

"Sam," said Steve, "don't shoot him. Just swear at him. You can easily kill him at that range with your profanity."

Steve Gillis declares that Mark Twain then let go such a scorching, singeing blast that the brute's owner sold him next day for a Mexican hairless dog.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain, A Biography, 1912
by Albert Bigelow Paine (1861-1937)
Chapter XLVI "Getting Settled in San Francisco"



Laying aside also all considerations of works and engines of war, the invention of which has long since reached its limit, and for the improvement of which I see no further hope in the applied arts, I shall recognize the following types of stratagems connected with siege operations....

Sextus Julius Frontinus (c.40-103)
Stratagems, Book III, preface
Translated by Charles Edwin Bennett 1925

Inventions reached their limit long ago, and I see no hope for further development.

Julius Frontinus (c.40-103)
Paraphrase of above? See caveat

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)
The Prince, 1532, Chapter 6

A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself.

Robert Burton (1577-1640)
"Democritus to the Reader"
The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621-1651

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Letter to Robert Hooke
05 February 1675/1676

All that is human must retrograde if it do not advance.

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-1788
Volume III, Chapter 71

Experience teaches, that men are often so much governed by what they are accustomed to see and practice, that the simplest and most obvious improvements, in the [most] ordinary occupations, are adopted with hesitation, reluctance and by slow gradations. The spontaneous transition to new pursuits, in a community long habituated to different ones, may be expected to be attended with proportionably greater difficulty. When former occupations ceased to yield a profit adequate to the subsistence of their followers, or when there was an absolute deficiency of employment in them, owing to the superabundance of hands, changes would ensue; but these changes would be likely to be more tardy than might consist with the interest either of individuals or of the Society. In many cases they would not happen, while a bare support could be ensured by an adherence to ancient courses; though a resort to a more profitable employment might be practicable. To produce the desireable changes, as early as may be expedient, may therefore require the incitement and patronage of government.

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)
"The Report on the Subject of Manufactures", 05 December 1791
The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Volume X, 1966
Edited by Harold C. Syrett

Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvements are roads of genius.

William Blake (1757-1827)
"Proverbs of Hell", line 66
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-1793

To truth only a brief celebration of victory is allowed between the two long periods during which it is condemned as paradoxical, or disparaged as trivial. The author of truth also usually meets with the former fate. But life is short, and truth works far and lives long: let us speak the truth.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
The World as Will and Idea, 1818
Preface to the First Edition
Dresden, August 1818
Translated by R.B. Haldane and J. Kemp, 1883

And now that I have allowed myself the jest to which in this two-sided life hardly any page can be too serious to grant a place, I part with the book with deep seriousness, in the sure hope that sooner or later it will reach those to whom alone it can be addressed; and for the rest, patiently resigned that the same fate should, in full measure, befall it, that in all ages has, to some extent, befallen all knowledge, and especially the weightiest knowledge of the truth, to which only a brief triumph is allotted between the two long periods in which it is condemned as paradoxical or disparaged as trivial. The former fate is also wont to befall its author. But life is short, and truth works far and lives long: let us speak the truth.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
The World as Will and Idea, 1883
Preface to the First Edition
Written at Dresden in August 1818
Translated by E.F.J. Payne, 1958

All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
I cannot find this passage in Schopenhauer's work

What hath God wrought!

Samuel Fuller Breese Morse (1791-1872)
Message transmitted from Washington to Baltimore
as he formally opened first telegraph line
June 1844

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Historie d'un Crime, 1852

In a well-worn metaphor, a parallel is drawn between the life of man and the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into the butterfly; but the comparison may be more just as well as more novel, if for its former term we take the mental progress of the race. History shows that the human mind, fed by constant accessions of knowledge, periodically grows too large for its theoretical coverings, and bursts them asunder to appear in new habiliments, as the feeding and growing grub, at intervals, casts its too narrow skin and assumes another, itself but temporary. Truly the imago state of Man seems to be terribly distant, but every moult is a step gained, and of such there have been many.

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)
Man's Place in Nature, 1894
Chapter II "One the Relations of Man to the Lower Animals"

Society can overlook murder, adultery or swindling; it never forgives the preaching of a new gospel.

Frederic Harrison (1831-1923)
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social
Protest; the writings of philosophers, poets, novelists, social
reformers, and others who have voiced the struggle against social
, 1915
Book VI "Martyrdom"
by Upton Sinclair

All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
Notebooks, 1912
Chapter 1 "Life"

The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, it has been found that there are apparent exceptions to most of these laws, and this is particularly true when the observations are pushed to a limit, i.e., whenever the circumstances of experiment are such that extreme cases can be examined. Such examination almost surely leads, not to the overthrow of the law, but to the discovery of other facts and laws whose action produces the apparent exceptions.

Albert Abraham Michelson (1852-1931)
Light Waves and Their Uses, 1902
Lecture II "Comparison of the Microscope and Telescope With the Interferometer"

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
"Maxims for Revolutionists: Reason"
Man and Superman, 1903

An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning.

Max Planck (1858-1947)
The Philosophy of Physics, 1936

None of our men are "experts." We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert -- because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. A man who knows a job sees so much more to be done than he has done, that he is always pressing forward and never gives up an instant of thought to how good and how efficient he is. Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible. The moment one gets into the "expert" state of mind a great number of things become impossible.

Henry Ford (1863-1947)
My Life and Work, 1922
page 86

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet." The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. Then they go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
The Napoleon of Notting Hill, 1904
Chapter I "Introductory Remarks on the Art of Prophecy"

Progress celebrates Pyrrhic victories over nature. Progress makes purses out of human skin. When people were traveling in mail coaches, the world got ahead better than it does now that salesmen fly through the air. What good is speed if the brain has oozed out on the way? How will the heirs of this age be taught the most basic motions that are necessary to activate the most complicated machines? Nature can rely on progress; it will avenge it for the outrage it has perpetrated on it.

Karl Kraus (1874-1936)
"The Discovery of the North Pole"
Die Fackel, Number 287
Vienna, September 1909

More and more I come to value charity and love of one's fellow beings above everything else.... All our lauded technological progress -- our very civilization -- is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Albert Einstein: The Human Side, 1979
Letter to Heinrich Zangger, 06 December 1917
edited by Banesh Hoffman and Helen Dukas

The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
"The Evolution of Chastity"
Peking, February 1934
Toward the Future, 1974
Translated by Rene Hague

There is an almost sensual longing for communion with others who have a larger vision. The immense fulfillment of the friendships between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality almost impossible to describe.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

No one asks you to throw Mozart out of the window. Keep Mozart. Cherish him. Keep Moses too, and Buddha and Lao tse and Christ. Keep them in your heart. But make room for the others, the coming ones, the ones who are already scratching on the window-panes.

Henry Miller (1891-1980)
"With Edgar Varese in the Gobi Desert"
The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, 1945

The new always carries with it the sense of violation, of sacrilege. What is dead is sacred; what is new, that is, different, is evil, dangerous, or subversive.

Henry Miller (1891-1980)
"With Edgar Varese in the Gobi Desert"
The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, 1945

Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, 1956

Western society has accepted as unquestionable a technological imperative that is quite as arbitrary as the most primitive taboo: not merely the duty to foster invention and constantly to create technological novelties, but equally the duty to surrender to these novelties unconditionally, just because they are offered, without respect to their human consequences.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990)
Pentagon of Power, 1970
Chapter 7 "Mass Production and Human Automation"

Progress may have been all right once, but it went on too long....

Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Everyone But Thee and Me, 1962
"Come, Come, Kerouac! My Generation is Beater Than Yours"

The work of the world is done on hate. All work done well is well done only when persons hate work done shoddily. Justice can exist only when injustice is hated, laws only when lawlessness is hated, and education only when ignorance is hated. Every improvement this world has ever known was brought about because someone hated intolerable conditions.

Jane Dunlap (1904-1974)
Exploring Inner Space: Personal experiences under LSD-25, 1961
Chapter 7, "Among the Blest"

Progress is the injustice each generation commits with regard to its predecessors.

E.M. Cioran (1911-1995)
The Trouble with Being Born, 1973
Chapter 8

...insidious is the cry for 'revolution,' at a time when not even the germs of new institutions exist, let alone the moral and political consciousness that could lead to a basic modification of social life. If there will be a 'revolution' in America today, it will no doubt be a move towards some variety of fascism. We must guard against the kind of revolutionary rhetoric that would have had Karl Marx burn down the British Museum because it was merely part of a repressive society. It would be criminal to overlook the serious flaws and inadequacies in our institutions, or to fail to utilize the substantial degree of freedom that most of us enjoy, within the framework of these flawed institutions, to modify them or even replace them by a better social order. One who pays some attention to history will not be surprised if those who cry most loudly that we must smash and destroy are later found among the administrators of some new system of repression.

Noam Chomsky (b.1928)
American Power and the New Mandarins, 1969
pages 17-18

You can't crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them.

Ursula K. LeGuin (b.1929)
The Dispossessed, 1974
Chapter 6

To speak of "limits to growth" under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be "persuaded" to limit growth than a human being can be "persuaded" to stop breathing. Attempts to "green" capitalism, to make it "ecological", are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth.

Murray Bookchin (b.1921)
Remaking Society, 1990

In ecology, as in economics, TANSTAAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) is intended to warn that every gain is won at some cost. Failure to recognize the 'no free lunch' law causes the buffalo-hunter mentality syndrome -- the unthinking assumption that there will always be plenty because there always has been plenty.

Dr. Robert W. Prehoda (b.1929)
Malthusian Crisis And Methuselah's Children, 1980

The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation's development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the inequities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear.

Aung San Suu Kyi (b.1945)
Freedom from Fear and Other Writings, 1991
Part Two: The Struggle
Chapter 6 "Freedom From Fear"

The doctrine that the earth is neither the center of the universe nor immovable, but moves even with a daily rotation, is absurd, and both philosophically and theologically false, and at the least an error of faith.

Roman Congregation of Bishops and Cardinals
Decision against Galileo, 22 June 1633



I knew a very wise man so much of Sir Chr-'s sentiment, that he believed if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation. And we find that most of the antient [sic] legislators thought they could not well reform the manners of any city without the help of a lyrick, and sometimes of a dramatick poet. But in this city the dramatick poet no less than the ballad-maker has been almost wholly employed to corrupt the people, in which they have had unspeakable and deplorable success.

Andrew Fletcher (1655-1716)
"An Account of a Conversation concerning a Right Regulation of
Government for the common Good of Mankind. In a Letter to the
"Marquiss of Montrose, the Earls of Rothes, Roxburg and Haddington,
from London the first of December, 1703"
Political Works, 1997
Edited by John Robertson

If you have a weak candidate and a weak platform, wrap yourself up in the American flag and talk about the Constitution.

Matthew Stanley Quay (1833-1904)

Successful propagandists have succeeded because the doctrine they bring into form is that which their listeners have for some time felt without being able to shape.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
The Return of the Native, 1878
Book 3, Chapter 2

As we must eat we must first provide food; as we must sleep, we must have beds, and bedding in houses with fireplaces and coals; as we must walk through the streets, we must have clothes to cover our nakedness. Now, food and houses and clothes can be produced by human labor. But when they are produced they can be stolen. If you like honey you can let the bees produce it by their labor, and then steal it from them. If you are too lazy to get about from place to place on your own legs you can make a slave of a horse. And what you do to a horse or a bee, you can also do to a man or a woman or a child, if you can get the upper hand of them by force or fraud or trickery of any sort, or even by teaching them that it is their religious duty to sacrifice their freedom to yours.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
"Freedom", 1935
BBC radio talk, 18 June 1935
Reprinted in Platform and Pulpit, 1962
page 263
Edited by Dan H. Laurence

You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war.

William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951)
To Frederic Remington, January 1897
Quoted in On the Great Highway, 1901
by James Creelman
Chapter IX "Familiar Glimpses of Yellow Journalism"

It seems like th' less a statesman amounts to th' more he loves th' flag.

Frank McKinney Hubbard (1868-1930)
Abe Martin's Primer: the collected writings of Abe Martin and
his Brown County, Indiana, Neighbors
, 1914

Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924)
Pan-sovietism: The Issue Before America and the World, 1931
by Bruce Hopper

It is true that liberty is precious -- so precious that it must be rationed.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924)
Attributed in Soviet Communism, 1936
By Sidney and Beatrice Webb
Very doubtful Lenin ever said this
See caveat

Print is the sharpest and the strongest weapon of our party.

Joseph Stalin (1879-1953)
Speech, 19 April 1923

Education is a weapon the effect of which is determined by the hands which wield it, by who is to be struck down.

Joseph Stalin (1879-1953)
Stalin's Kampf: Joseph Stalin's Credo, 1950
Chapter 1 "The Profession of Revolution"
Edited by Morris Robert Werner

The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than to a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell big ones.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
Mein Kampf, 1925
Volume One "A Reckoning"
Chapter X "Causes of the Collapse"

Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
Mein Kampf, 1925
Volume One "A Reckoning"
Chapter X "Causes of the Collapse"

There is, of course, no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the old. Government by clubs and firing squads, by artificial famine, mass imprisonment and mass deportation, is not merely inhumane (nobody cares much about that nowadays); it is demonstrably inefficient -- and in an age of advanced technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors, and schoolteachers. But their methods are still crude and unscientific. The old Jesuits' boast that, if they were given the schooling of the child, they could answer for the man's religious opinions, was a product of wishful thinking. And the modern pedagogue is probably rather less efficient at conditioning his pupils' reflexes than were the reverend fathers who educated Voltaire. The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects, by lowering what Mr. Churchill calls an "iron curtain" between the masses and such facts or arguments as the local political bosses regard as undesirable, totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have done by the most eloquent denunciations, the most compelling of logical rebuttals.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Brave New World, 1932, 1946

The National Press Law is the most modern journalistic statute in the world! I predict that its principles will be adopted by the other nations of the world within the next seven years. It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.

Joseph Paul Goebbels (1897-1945)
"Consecrated" Press
Time magazine
16 October 1933

..It's the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they're all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, they don't need reconditioning. They're all right already. They'll believe anything.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
That Hideous Strength, 1946
Chapter 5 "Elasticity"

Another error against which I want to caution is to ignore the spiritual and religious meaning and motivation of actually destructive and cruel acts. Let us consider one drastic example, the sacrifice of children, as it was practiced in Canaan at the time of the Hebrew conquest and in Carthage down to its destruction by the Romans, in the third century B.C. Were these parents motivated by the destructive and cruel passion to kill their own children? Surely this is very unlikely. The story of Abraham's attempt to sacrifice Issac, a story meant to speak against sacrifice of children, movingly emphasizes Abraham's love for Issac; nevertheless Abraham does not waver in his decision to kill his son. Quite obviously we deal here with a religious motivation which is stronger than even the love for the child. The man in such a culture is completely devoted to his religious system, and he is not cruel, even though he appears so to a person outside this system.

It may help to see this point if we think of a modern phenomenon which can be compared with child sacrifice, that of war. Take the first World War. A mixture of economic interests, ambition, and vanity on the part of the leaders, and a good deal of blundering on all sides brought about the war. But once it had broken out (or even a little bit earlier), it became a "religious" phenomenon. The state, the nation, national honor, became the idols, and both sides voluntarily sacrificed their children to these idols. A large percentage of the young men of the British and of the German upper classes which are responsible for the war were wiped out in the early days of the fighting. Surely they were loved by their parents. Yet, especially for those who were most deeply imbued with the traditional concepts, their love did not make them hesitate in sending their children to death, nor did the young ones who were going to die have any hesitation. The fact that, in the case of child sacrifice, the father kills the child directly while, in the case of war, both sides have an arrangement to kill each other's children makes little difference. In the case of war, those who are responsible for it know what is going to happen, yet the power of the idols is greater than the power of love for their children.

Erich Fromm (1900-1980)
The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, 1973
Part Two "The Evidence Against the Instinctive Thesis"
Chapter 8 "Anthropology"
"The Evidence for Destructiveness and Cruelty"

Educating Americans through the means of the library service could bring about a change of their political attitude quicker than any other method. The basis of Communism and socialistic influence is education of the people.

Harold Himmel Velde (1910-1985)
Speaking before the House opposing mobile
library service in rural areas, March 1950
Declarations of Independence, 1990, page 260
by Howard Zinn

I also believe that academic freedom should protect the right of a professor or student to advocate Marxism, Socialism, Communism, or any other minority viewpoint -- no matter how distasteful to the majority -- provided he does so openly and is not in violation of the law.

Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994)
"The Four Academic Freedoms"
Saturday Review, Volume 49, Issue 5
27 August 1966

What are our schools for, if not for indoctrination against Communism?

Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994)
An Evening with Richard Nixon, 1972
By Gore Vidal (b.1925)

If you can write a nation's stories, you needn't worry about who makes its laws.

George Gerbner (1919-2005)
Bill Moyers' Journal
"TV or Not TV"
23 April 1979
[Reference to Fletcher (above)?]

For manipulation to be most effective, evidence of its presence should be non-existent. When the manipulated believe things are the way they are naturally and inevitably, manipulation is successful. In short, manipulation requires a false reality that is a continuous denial of its existence.

It is essential, therefore, that people who are continually manipulated believe in the neutrality of their key social institutions. They must believe that government, the media, education, and science are beyond the clash of conflicting social interests. Government, and the national government in particular, remains the centerpiece of the neutrality myth. This myth presupposes belief in the basic integrity and nonpartisanship of government in general and of its constituent parts - Congress, the judiciary, and the Presidency. Corruption, deceit, and knavery, when they occur from time to time, are seen to be the result of human weakness, passing aberrations that do not deny the essential wholesomeness of the system.

Herbert I. Schiller (1919-2000)
The Mind Managers, 1973

Let's cut through the demagoguery. America is #1.

George Bush (b.1924)
Speech to Economic Club of Detroit
November 1988

Few are willing to undertake the tedious task of refuting the regular flood of lies; they have little access to the public in any event, and they can always be dismissed by the charge that they are apologists for the enemy and its actual crimes. This standard device is sometimes used consciously as a technique to preserve the crucial Right to Lie in the Service of the State; or, for the more deeply indoctrinated, it may simply be impossible to conceive of criticism of the Holy State as anything but support for its official enemies, principled criticism of the divine institution being unimaginable. In either case, the discussion shifts to the evil deeds of the official enemy and the critic can be dismissed as an apologist for these crimes, as having a "double standard," etc.: the Holy State and the Right to Lie in its service are secure. The device was, and still is, used with tiresome regularity with reference to the Indochina wars: a critic of the US attack against South Vietnam must be a "supporter of Hanoi," so one can respond to the criticism by producing true or false charges against Hanoi, and if the critic refutes false charges, that just proves that he or she is an apologist for Hanoi as originally claimed and there is no need to consider the original criticism of the state one serves. The same device is now constantly used in the case of Central America.

One would think that the transparent silliness of the procedure would embarrass its practitioners, but evidently this is not the case.

Noam Chomsky (b.1928)
Turning the Tide. U.S. Intervention in Central America and
the Struggle for Peace
, 1985, page 78

Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.

Noam Chomsky (b.1928)
Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda
17 March 1991

Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism.

Noam Chomsky (b.1928)
"Propaganda, American-style"
Expanded version of an article excerpted from
Propaganda Review, Winter 1987-1988

The Russian soldier is our friend. He is here to protect us.

First sentence in an English textbook seen in Bulgaria
(printed in Moscow), c.1967


[see also: CAPITALISM]

Property is theft!

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865)
What is Property?, 1840
Chapter 1 "Method followed in this work. Idea of a revolution"

Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930)
Popular Government, 1913
Chapter 3

The system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not.

Friedrich August von Hayek (1899-1992)
The Road to Serfdom, 1844
Chapter 8 "Who, Whom?"


It was ordained at the beginning of the world that certain signs should prefigure certain events.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
De Divinatione, I, 118

Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective positions of the beings which compose it, if moreover this intelligence were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in the same formula both the movements of the largest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atom; to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.

Pierre-Simon de Laplace (1749-1827)
"Theorie Analytique des Probabilites"
1812-1820, Introduction
Oeuvres, Volume VII

The most distressing thing that can happen to a prophet is to be proved wrong; the next most distressing thing that is to be proved right.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
"Brave New World Revisited"
Esquire, July 1956

The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking behavior that makes the originally false conception come true. The specious validity of self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.

Robert King Merton (1910-2003)
Chapter 16 "The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy", 1949
Social Theory and Social Structure, 1949


[see also: REVOLUTION]

If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it.

Art Buchwald (b.1925)
International Herald Tribune
Paris, 24 May 1989

One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
"Letter from Birmingham Jail"
Why We Can't Wait, 1963

To make public protests against an evil, and yet live in dependence on and in support of the way of life that is the source of the evil, is an obvious contradiction and a dangerous one. If one disagrees with the nomadism and violence of our society, then one is under an obligation to take up some permanent dwelling place and cultivate the possibility of peace and harmlessness in it. If one deplores the destructiveness and wastefulness of the economy, then one is under an obligation to live as far out on the margin of the economy as one is able: to be economically independent of exploitive industries, to learn to need less, to waste less, to make things last, to give up meaningless luxuries, to understand and resist the language of salesmen and public relations experts, to see through attractive packages, to refuse to purchase fashion or glamour or prestige. If one feels endangered by meaninglessness, then one is under an obligation to refuse meaningless pleasure and to resist meaningless work, and to give up the moral comfort and the excuses of the mentality of specialization.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"Some Thoughts on Citizenship and Conscience in Honor of Don Pratt"
Part V
The Long-Legged House, 1969


[see also: MIND]

If only we could know what was going on in a baby's mind while observing him in action we could certainly understand everything there is to psychology.

Jean Piaget (1896-1980)
La Premiere Annee de l'Enfant, 1927

A large part of the popularity and persuasiveness of psychology comes from its being a secular and sublimated spiritualism: a secular, ostensibly scientific way of affirming the primacy of "spirit" over matter.

Susan Sontag (1933-2004)
Illness as Metaphor, 1978


He hurts himself who hurts another man,
And evil planning harms the planner most.

Hesiod (c.700 BC)
Works and Days
Translated by Dorothea Schmidt Wender
In Hesiod and Theognis, 1973

The seeds of our own punishment are sown at the same time we commit sin.

Hesiod (c.700 BC)
Alternate translation of previous quotation?

Why not whip the teacher when the pupil misbehaves?

Diogenes of Sinope (c.410-c.320 BC)
Herakleitos and Diogenes
Part 2, Fragment 99
Translated by Guy Davenport, 1976

The generality of men are naturally apt to be swayed by fear rather than reverence, and to refrain from evil rather because of the punishment that it brings than because of its own foulness.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Nicomachean Ethics
Book 10, Chapter 9

Rewards and punishments are the lowest form of education.

Chuang-tzu (c.369-c.286 BC)
Teaching and Sayings of Chuang Tzu, 2001
Translated by H.A. Giles, 1889

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Bible, Proverbs 23:13-14

Executions, far from being useful examples to the survivors, have, I am persuaded, a quite contrary effect, by hardening the heart they ought to terrify. Besides, the fear of an ignominous death, I believe, never deterred anyone from the commission of a crime, because in committing it the mind is roused to activity about present circumstances.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1759-1797)
Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway,
and Denmark
, 1796
Letter 19

Let us have compassion for those under chastisement. Alas, who are we ourselves? Who am I and who are you? Whence do we come and is it quite certain that we did nothing before we were born? The earth is not without some resemblance to a gaol. Who knows but that man is a victim of divine justice? Look closely at life. It is so constituted that one senses punishment everywhere.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Les Miserables, 1862
Part 4, Book VII, Chapter 1

We must remember that in nature there are neither rewards or punishments -- there are consequences.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)
"The I-Black Debate"
The Christian Religion
Part I, 1881

The broad effects which can be obtained by punishment in man and beast are the increase of fear, the sharpening of the sense of cunning, the mastery of the desires; so it is that punishment tames man, but does not make him "better."

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Genealogy of Morals, 1887
Essay 2, Aphorism 15

One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted; and a community is infinitely more brutalised by the habitual employment of punishment than it is by the occasional occurence of crime.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
"The Soul of Man Under Socialism"
Fortnightly Review
London, February 1891

The reformative effect of punishment is a belief that dies hard, chiefly I think, because it is so satisfying to our sadistic impulses.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1967)
Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind: Man's Unfortunate Experiences
With His Self-Made Enemies,Including Sadistic Impulses
, 1946

A man's ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear and punishment and hope of reward after death.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"Religion and Science"
The World As I See It, 1935

My religion is cosmic, and my God is too universal to concern himself with the intentions of every human being. I do not accept a religion of fear; my God will not hold me responsible for the actions that necessity imposes. My God speaks to me through his laws. Shouldn't we do good for the sake of doing good, and not because we fear punishment or hope for reward in a life to come?

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man, 1983
"Third Conversation With Einstein", 14 September 1948
by William Hermanns

You've got to get the ordinary man into the state in which he says 'Sadism' automatically when he hears the word Punishment. And then one would have carte blanche. ...What had hampered every English police force up to date was precisely the idea of deserved punishment. For desert was always finite: you could do so much to the criminal and no more. Remedial treatment, on the other hand, need have no fixed limit; it could go on till it had effected a cure, and those who were carrying it out would decide when that was. And if the cure were humane and desirable, how much more prevention?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
That Hideous Strength, 1946
Chapter 3 "Belbury and St. Anne's-on-the-Hill"

No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes. On the contrary, whatever the punishment, once a specific crime has appeared for the first time, its reappearance is more likely than its initial emergence could have been.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, 1963
Chapter 15, Epilogue

Retaliation is related to nature and instinct, not to law. Law, by definition, cannot obey the same rules as nature.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
"Reflections on the Guillotine"
Resistance, Rebellion and Death, 1961

But what then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? For there to be equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
"Reflections on the Guillotine"
Resistance, Rebellion and Death, 1961

If he who breaks the law is not punished, he who obeys it is cheated. This, and this alone, is why law-breakers ought to be punished: to authenticate as good, and to encourage as useful, law-abiding behavior. The aim of criminal law cannot be correction or deterrence; it can only be maintenence of the legal order.

Thomas Szasz (b.1920)
The Second Sin, 1973

I agree with the death penalty. I think that people would be alive today if there were a death penalty.

Nancy Reagan (b.1923)
Interview with Barbara Walters
Tuesday, 02 June 1981

[Capital punishment is] our society's recognition of the sanctity of human life.

Senator Orrin Grant Hatch (b.1934)
16 May 1988
New York Times, 17 May 1988

In any country there must be people who have to die. They are the sacrifices any nation has to make to achieve law and order.

Idi Amin Dada


[see also: HUMOR]

For my own part I think no innocent species of wit or pleasantry should be suppressed; and that a good pun may be admitted among the smaller excellencies of lively conversation.

James Boswell (1740-1795)
Life of Johnson, 1791
19 June 1784 entry

If by worst be only meant the most far-fetched and startling, we agree to it. A pun is not bound by the laws which limit nicer wit. It is a pistol let off at the ear; not a feather to tickle the intellect.

Charles Lamb (1775-1834)
Last Essays of Elia, 1833
"Popular Fallacies",
Number IX "That the Worst Puns Are the Best"

A pun does not commonly justify a blow in return. But if a blow were given for such cause, and death ensued, the jury would be judges both of the facts and of the pun, and might, if the latter were of an aggravated character, return a verdict of justifiable homicide.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, 1858
Chapter 1


[see also: MEANING]

You do not have the right to eliminate yourself, you do not belong to you. You belong to the universe. The significance of you will forever remain obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your significance if you apply yourself to converting all your experience to highest advantage of others. You and all men are here for the sake of other men.

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)
Ideas and Integrities, 1963

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Last update: 03-July-2015
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