Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Memorable words for the mindlessness of our age

E. E. Cummings (1894-1962) "To be nobody but yourself in a world that's doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting."

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970 )"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."

Andre Gide: (1869-1951) "Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." "Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it."

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) "And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

An old woman responding to a threat from terrorists in El Salvador, 1982 “You can kill me, you can kill my family, kill my neighbors, but you can’t kill us all.”

Jean de La Fontaine
(1621-1695) "Nothing is more dangerous than a friend without discretion; even a prudent enemy is preferable."

Lady Marguerite Gardiner (1789-1849)"There are no persons capable of stooping so low as those who desire to rise in the world."

Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) "Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty."

Will Rogers: (1879-1938) "When people start taking the comedian seriously and the politician as a joke, everything changes." "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer."

Adlai E. Stevenson Jr. (1900-1965) "My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular." [Under this definition, Cambridge Massacchusetts, and the state of Massachusetts are not free societies. ed.]

Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) "We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."

Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) "Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well."

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) "The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone."

Viggo Anderson (1946- ) "The eyes carry information to the brain."

Dr. Seuss (1904-1991 Theodor Seuss Geisel) "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."

Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945 Hitler's Minister of Propaganda) "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)"In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."

William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008) "I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.

Voltaire (Fran├žois Marie Arouet, 1694-1778) "Common sense is not so common." "Doubt is not a pleasant mental state, but certainty is a ridiculous one." "Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world."

Michael Bloomberg (1942 - Democrat, Republican, Independent 3-Term Mayor of New York City and Billionaire) "Last time I checked, the pharmaceutical industry doesn't make a lot of money."

George W. Bush, Genocidal murderer, (1946 - ) "Intentions get overwhelmed by perceptions."

John Tudor "Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology."

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) "The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."

Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) "There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) "There is something even more valuable to civilization than wisdom, and that is character."
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) "If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened."

Michel de Montaigne: (1533-1592) "The most manifest sign of wisdom is a continual cheerfulness."

Aldous Huxley: (1894-1963) "I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself."

T. S. Eliot: (1888-1965) "Half the harm that is done in this world
Is due to people who want to feel important
They don’t mean to do harm ­
But the harm does not interest them.
Or they do not see it, or they justify it
Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle
To think well of themselves."

Burt Prelutsky, (1940- Columnist) "Surely something must be terribly wrong with a man who seems to be far more concerned with a Jew building a house in Israel than with a Muslim building a nuclear bomb in Iran."

Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947) "An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less."

Henry Kissinger: (1923 - )"In this world it is often dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, but to be a friend is fatal."

Socrates: (469BC-399BC) "He is the richest who is content with the least."

Leo Tolstoy: (1828-1910) "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

P.J. O'Rourke (A Parliament of Whores) "Imagine if all of life were determined by majority rule. Every meal would be a pizza. Every pair of pants, even those in a Brooks Brothers suit, would be stone-washed denim. Celebrity diet and exercise books would be the only thing on the shelves at the library. And - since women are a majority of the population- we'd all be married to Mel Gibson."

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) "Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."

Orson Welles (as Harry Lime in The Third Man, 1949) "In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had 500 years of democracy and peace -- and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Tacitus: (c. 56 AD-c. 117) "The more corrupt the state, the more it legislates."

Ralph Waldo Emerson: (1803-1882) "Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing."

Doug Hoffman: (2009 Conservative Party Candidate for US Rep. NY 23rd District) "Congress fiddles while our economy burns. They lack common sense."

Rich Lowry: (On ObamaCare) "A shimmering mirage of wishful thinking and willful dishonesty."

President Obama (as he loses public support.) "We cannot wait any longer [. . .] There comes a time to remember the fierce urgency of right now."

Marek Edelman, leader of Warsaw Ghetto uprising. (1919?-2009) "Man is evil, by nature man is a beast. People have to be educated from childhood, from kindergarten, that there should be no hatred."

Adis Medunjanin (24 in January 2010, Queens, NY man accused of training with al Qaeda): "We love death more than you love life."

Edward Moore Kennedy (1932-2009): "Do we operate under a system of equal justice or one for the average citizen and one for the high and mighty?"

Robert Novak: (1931-2009) “Always love your country — but never trust your government!

Calvin Coolidge: (1872-1933) “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in Dead Pool: "Opinions are like a**holes. Everybody's got one."

Lyndon Johnson: (1908-1973) “The difference between liberals and cannibals is that cannibals don’t eat their friends and family members.”

Margaret Thatcher: (1925 -) "The problem with socialism is that eventually, you run out of others people's money."

John Adams: (1735-1826) "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

Abraham Lincoln: (1809-1865) "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

Thomas Jefferson: (1743-1826) "Merchants have no country." “In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

James Madison: (1751-1836) “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

Mark Twain: (1835-1910) "Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing often and for the same reason."
"It's not what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you think you know for sure that just ain't so."

Maggie Gallagher: (1960 - ) "Politicians can pass a bill saying a chicken is a duck and that doesn't make it true. Truth matters."

Humpty Dumpty (In Alice in Wonderland) "When I use a word, it means exactly what I want it to. No more no less."

Groucho Marx: (Julius Henry, 1890-1977) "Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read."

John Adams:  Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

Aldous Huxley :Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

Fuller Shite: Get the facts, or the facts will get you. And when you get them, get them right, you little fuckers!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Le Marche Futile

At last, we have arrived. After centuries of trying to improve our lot, become more humane, democratic, better educated, after getting to a point where we started to believe in our best ideas and finest ideals, to actualize them, to become inclusive of difference, to explore the world under the umbrella of multiculturalism, we have arrived at an unexpected destination. We have arrived at "teh stoopid".

This misspelling appeared on the Internet a few years back in response to some inanity posted by some looney on some forum. It was a rightwing comment that elicited this wonderful riposte. The original was something along the lines of "Teh STOOPID! It hurts!!"

This covers our current situation. All our collective efforts to create a "better world" have produced the opposite effect. The current state of our world is not good. It is our sad fate to have ushered into this world almost exactly what we have been trying to delete.

A sober contemplation of our world reveals that we have failed to achieve our visions of justice. We have failed to achieve peace, brotherhood, equality, solidarity. Instead of caring about each other, a viciousness has set in and hardened our hearts against each other and against the beauty that is this world.

Not because we reject our ideals as unworthy, no. This has happened to us because we didn't care enough to do anything about the incremental steps that led us here. Instead of extending ourselves for the good of our neighbors and society, we turned our compassion on its head and decided that the needy were somehow unworthy. We did this by denying in our hearts that human suffering is a condition of humanity and not of the one or two examples we cite to alleviate our own suffering. The poor, the homeless, the less fortunate all became the scapegoats for the hollowness that we feel inside. It is this hollow that has emptied out our world of all the qualities we aspired to express.

Many will say that this prognosis is naive or too idealistic, but I reject such self-serving criticisms from those whose real effort is to deny that what I am writing is indeed true. All of us who bought into the idea that money is more important than humanity, that acquisition of wealth is superior to distribution of resources, that privilege trumps the rights of all other humans, it is we who are the destroyers of our world.
For when we choose for ourselves and forget to choose for others as well, we end up choosing for the others all that which we would never choose for ourselves. In choosing for ourselves ruthlessly, we negate all the others who lack the opportunities that come our way.
But these choices were as fake as the consumer choices one makes in the soda aisle at the supermarket. Selfish choices create a selfish world. In choosing for the lies of market freedom and political liberty, we have fallen in step with those who know only greed and selfishness. We march in a futile parade, because the parade is not about any social values, only about personal and alienating values.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

...Mr. Nice Guy...

As the stream of police trucks and machinery arrive around the US to stop the legitimate protest and free exercise of rights by the citizens of the "world's greatest democracy", it is hard to see the end of this in anything but misery and violence, and triumph.
The people have spoken and the special interests have reacted with mace, lies, beatings, deception. How do they think this will end? The beauty of this moment lies in the history of social movements that demanded justice and fairness. "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.", said Ghandi. The man who helped free India, the father of that nation, the world's greatest democracy, knew of what he spoke. Obviously, such wisdom is wasted on the anti-democratic forces of the right, but rest assured The People of United States and the people of this planet know the value of Ghandi's struggles and insight.
"...then you win."

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Disappointing satisfaction

Disappointment implies satisfaction, but where is it born? Not in the same heart that feels the Void.
Not the emptiness that we fear, that friend called Death; that pure emptiness. Disappointment rides on the back of our attractions and commitments, scourging them with whips of prejudice and rejection. We fail as we choose and we are less as we become our choices. To not ally ourselves with the failed spectacle of daily life is to choose for ourselves in our empty hollowness.
Can’t see it? Can’t open our eyes to the blindness of preference and the failure of identifying with a world that can’t deliver what we really need? This constant choosing that claims to manifest us, make us belong, is weakness writ large.
The blind, at least, have the satisfaction that comes with their darkened sight. They know that they will never see. That must bring some peace, surely? Something less to have to choose for?
The rest of us, striving in this other darkness, have the illusion of light and understanding. We, the slaves of the sun and moon, see much less, because we deploy obstructions of preference. Embellishment is colour, form and structure.
What we like and what we hate stand in our way, and we think it is a bridge. But what bridge is so certain that it won’t collapse when overburdened?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The order of things

Chaos is the bed of creation. It affords possibility and being.

Order arises from chaos, yet the 2nd law of thermodynamics claims the opposite.
Entropy is the supreme chaos, yet affords no possibility.

Human affairs; the will to power and the order imposed on beings.
For all the reasons we inherently accept, we allow an order to be imposed on us as individuals.
This imposition is defining. It becomes you as you acquiesce to its dictates.
You become the role describing your behavior, your attitudes, your concerns and values, ultimately.
The myth of individual liberty claims for each of us the choice of being who we are.
The considered view of this myth against the backdrop of imposed order reveals unfreedom.

Even in democratic moments, the order is evident. Debates are limited to issues, these defined by the interests vested in the process of political economy.

But the consideration should address childhood, primarily. By the time one has matured into oneself defined by the context of imposed order/culture, very little originality remains from which to effect a deconstruction. Such attempts usually end in demolition.

The problem is encountered at birth and deepens with time. It is not enough to be born. One needs to become. And here is the crux of the problem. What to become, who to become. As if the self you are, your original consciousness is unacceptable.

The Ethic of Rejection

"Why?" Perhaps the most important question that arises in the quest for meaning, “Why?” is the standard for action and belief. By asking it, we can arrive at the validity of our logic.

Why, for example, do I choose to be a kind person, or why do I choose to be dirty...basically, why do I choose anything? Choice is a necessity, surely, but the chosen is queried or ought be. It is the mark of the examined life, it defines our position in the moral universe, so to speak.

The most basic form of the question is why am I alive? Why do I exist? These questions are fundamental in the quest for meaning and identity. Despite being essentially unanswerable with any certainty, the questions put us in the position of having to justify our existence and help define the quality of our lives.

When we act, when we choose to act in a given way, when we choose to be ethical it is because the question “why” informs us that our choice has inherent meaning for the kind of person one wishes to be.

From this beginning I want to explore the choices that flow from the asking of why.
In particular, I wish to explore the “problem of choice” and the nature of offerings, temptations and desires. In the attempt to find or construct meaning, I must choose carefully, and it is here that the issue of acceptance or rejection enters into the discussion.

Our world is a realm of choice. When we in the West speak of freedom, we mean freedom of choice, the biblical variant that allows us to choose between good and evil, specifically. But choice extends from the base of good and evil to the store shelves that display a myriad of products. Do good and evil apply to these quotidian choices? Does choosing a soda instead of a fruit juice amount to an ethical choice? Does brand loyalty imply moral characteristics? Is choosing one product over another a choice of one way of being over another way?

On the face of it, it seems a dubious proposition, afterall, most economic choices are a matter of price and affordability. But when we choose to boycott a product or manufacturer for use of slave labor or inhumane work conditions, the economics flow into ethics and morality. Buying products that cause physical harm to the workers who produce said product is a choice that some would call evil. Buying FSC trademark lumber can be seen as good. But where does this lead? In a consumer culture, the availability of new model goods seems to be the defining quality of choice. The latest phone or game console, the new model car or fashion item hardly seem to require much soul-searching. However, as the boycott represents a moral choice made through economics, the choice of any product is fraught with grave ethical consequences.

In the larger context of culture, choice has great import. Whether one chooses a given political ideology, party or policy is a matter of life and death in some cases. Nazism remains abhorrent, except to those who choose racism and genocidal policies. History is replete with ideologies that have been relegated to the ash heap. Our time seems to be no different as regards these choices.
Our age of consumer capitalism has already shown us that we choose deforestation, strip-mining, nuclear power and sweatshop manufacturing. We generally choose for these things in an act of willful ignorance, much the way “good Germans” chose the evil of the Nazi reign of terror and war.
The consequences for such willful ignorance was the destruction of Germany and it's subsequent partition. The choices made had dire consequences indeed.

Bringing us back to today; the economics of our lives should be a constant reminder of the necessity of making the good choice and not just the affordable, popular or trendy choice. Despite our thinking that our money is honestly earned, we fail to consider how easily that can become blood money.

I am not interested in writing a moral diatribe against our way of life, but I may have little room for anything less. Though I am loathe to agree with the extreme judgment that we are all just so many “little Eichmanns”, working at the levers of a system of death and destruction, the choices we make and pay for are inescapably tied to this system. As surely as pulling the trigger on an M16, buying Israeli products helps injure and kill Palestinians. I am not intentionally ascribing to antisemitism any moral authority, on the contrary, I am suggesting that the immorality is of our own making. By choosing to support economically the State of Israel, we choose to support its policies and practices.
To avoid such moral turpitude requires a firm commitment to an ethic of rejection.

What is meant by ethic of rejection? “Ethics” is the start of morality. The choices we make for ourselves, the choices that tell us who we are and what kind of person we are derive from acceptance or rejection of ethical premises and imperatives that are intimately tied to our quotidian practice.


It is an unfortunate development in post-modern societies that populations accept extreme psychological and behavioral control.
 The question deserves to be asked, "Why do we permit subjugation of our right to decide how to live?"
 There co-exists in this tolerance for control a tendency toward willful ignorance and avoidance. If we can just avoid the issues we can avoid having to choose for our selves and our lives.

 I am not a libertine or a libertarian, but I feel constrained by societal limitations placed on my experience of my own freedom and right to choose. I reject political claims that a human cannot be trusted to choose and to control ones own destiny. I reject the rules imposed on me by those who profit from terror, those who restrict and profile us for the sake of avoiding their own sins. I reject those who would tell me what I can drink, watch, smoke, think, say...I reject those who expect me to be what they want me to be.
I refuse this vile conformity that makes us all poorer, with the exception of those who are getting richer from our subjection. It is time to reject and to refuse the corrupt authority that is enslaving us incrementally.