It is no accident that modern education doesn't teach the distinction between symbol and thing — if it did, education as we know it would fall apart. After that, after education reshaped itself to provide actual knowledge instead of the symbolic representation of knowledge, the society around us would be transformed.

But in the meantime, most "educated" people cannot tell the difference between a fact and an idea, the most common confusion of symbol and thing. Most believe if they collect enough facts, this will compensate for their inability to grasp the ideas behind those facts.
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
Stallman is just always swimming against the tide of what people actually want.

Isn't that the mark of a thinking man? A drug dealer gives people what they want; a thinker tells them what they should want. So what if they don't listen? That's the normal division of labor: the prophet warns and the people ignore him.
How does it become a man to behave toward the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.
"Civil Disobedience"
We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and – in spite of True Romance magazines – we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely – at least, not all the time – but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.
Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.
Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows.
[Humans] have been genetically programmed through hunting behavior: cooperation and sharing. Cooperation between members of the same band was a practical necessity for most hunting societies; so was the sharing of food. Since meat is perishable in most climates except that of the Arctic, it could not be preserved. Luck in hunting was not equally divided among all hunters; hence the practical outcome was that those who had luck today would share their food with those who would be lucky tomorrow. Assuming hunting behavior led to genetic changes, the conclusion would be that modern man has an innate impulse for cooperation and sharing, rather than for killing and cruelty.
"The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness"
[Bradley Manning] ought to be regarded as a hero... Like the trade agreement, the public has a right to know what's being done to them by their so-called elected representatives, but there's a principle that he's violating, namely that power has to be protected from scrutiny... that's the principle of every dictatorship... you can hear it from the high priests of government. Bradley Manning is violating that.
You can do anything you want with an idea. It can be as big as you want. It doesn’t have to solve a minor problem that nobody ever really realized was a problem. It doesn’t have to fit into something the size of a button crammed into a “folder” the size of a button on a screen the size of a playing card. But everywhere I look, I see tiny little ideas, ideas that are almost petty in their inconsequentiality. And I come back to those cliches, and I think the real problem is in how little thought goes into the language these people use. When the language you employ to communicate your ideas is small and boring, your ideas are going to be small and boring. And when all your ideas are small and boring, your future gets dimmer and dimmer and more claustrophobic until it’s finally just a pinpoint of light on a dark screen, in danger of going out at any time.
Part of understanding the creative urge is understanding that it's primal. Wanting to change the world is not a noble calling, it's a primal calling.
Eventually, I realized that I had two choices. I could struggle for stupid stuff - for some trinkets and creature comforts - or I could make a choice to struggle for something that would make a better life for myself, my children and their children. You either work for yourself and your people or you work for the oppressor. Those are the two things that all young people in the United States have to decide, basically, and that they’re not going to participate in their own self-destruction.
The ceaseless, senseless demand for original scholarship in a number of fields, where only erudition is now possible, has led either to sheer irrelevancy, the famous knowing of more and more about less and less, or to the development of a pseudo-scholarship which actually destroys its object.
You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
Ah, yeah. We're gonna go to Mars. And then of course we're gonna colonize deep space. With our microwave hot dogs and plastic vomit, fake dog shit and cinnamon dental floss, lemon-scented toilet paper and sneakers with lights in the heels. And all these other impressive things we've done down here. But let me ask you this: what are we gonna tell the intergalactic council of ministers the first time one of our teenage mothers throws their newborn baby into a dumpster? How are we gonna explain that to the space people? How are we gonna let them know that our ambassador was only late for the meeting because his breakfast was cold and he had to spend half an hour punching his wife around the kitchen? And what are they gonna think when they find out, its just a local custom, that over 80 million women in the Third world have had their clitorises forcibly removed in order to reduce their sexual pleasure so they won't cheat on their husbands? Can't you just sense how eager the rest of the universe is for us to show up?
"Complaints and Grievances"
An idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it.
The similarities between this kind of terror and plain gangsterism are too obvious to be pointed out. This does not mean that Nazism was gangsterism, as has sometimes been concluded, but only that the Nazis, without admitting it, learned as much from American gangster organizations as their propaganda, admittedly, learned from American business publicity.

More specific in totalitarian propaganda, however, than direct threats and crimes against individuals is the use of indirect, veiled, and menacing hints against all who will not heed its teachings and, later, mass murder perpetrated on "guilty" and "innocent" alike. People are threatened by Communist propaganda with missing the train of history, with remaining hopelessly behind their time, with spending their lives uselessly, just as they were threatened by the Nazis with living against the eternal laws of nature and life, with an irreparable and mysterious deterioration of their blood. The strong emphasis of totalitarian propaganda on the "scientific" nature of its assertions has been compared to certain advertising techniques which also address themselves to masses. And it is true that the advertising columns of every newspaper show this "scientificality," by which a manufacturer proves with facts and figures and the help of a "research" department that his is the "best soap in the world." [1] It is also true that there is a certain element of violence in the imaginative exaggerations of publicity men, that behind the assertion that girls who do not use this particular brand of soap may go through life with pimples and without a husband, lies the wild dream of monopoly, the dream that one day the manufacturer of the "only soap that prevents pimples" may have the power to deprive of husbands all girls who don't use his soap. Science in the instances of both business publicity and totalitarian propaganda is obviously only a surrogate for power. The obsession of totalitarian movements with "scientific" proofs ceases once they are in power. The Nazis dismissed even those scholars who were willing to serve them, and the Bolsheviks use the reputation of their scientists for entirely unscientific purposes and force them into the role of charlatans.

But there is nothing more to the frequently overrated similarities between mass advertisement and mass propaganda. Businessmen usually do not pose as prophets and they do not constantly demonstrate the correctness of their predictions. The scientificality of totalitarian propaganda is characterized by its almost exclusive insistence on scientific prophecy as distinguished from the more old-fashioned appeal to the past. Nowhere does the ideological origin, of socialism in one instance and racism in the other, show more clearly than when their spokesmen pretend that they have discovered the hidden forces that will bring them good fortune in the chain of fatality.

There is of course a great appeal to the masses in "absolutist systems which represent all the events of history as depending upon the great first causes linked by the chain of fatality, and which, as it were, suppress men from the history of the human race" (in the words of Tocqueville). But it cannot be doubted either that the Nazi leadership actually believed in, and did not merely use as propaganda, such doctrines as the following: "The more accurately we recognize and observe the laws of nature and life, . . . so much the more do we conform to the will of the Almighty. The more insight we have into the will of the Almighty, the greater will be our successes." [2] It is quite apparent that very few changes are needed to express Stalin's creed in two sentences which might run as follows: "The more accurately we recognize and observe the laws of history and class struggle, so much the more do we conform to dialectic materialism. The more insight we have into dialectic materialism, the greater will be our success." Stalin's notion of "correct leadership," [3] at any rate, could hardly be better illustrated.

Totalitarian propaganda raised ideological scientificality and its technique of making statements in the form of predictions to a height of efficiency of method and absurdity of content because, demagogically speaking, there is hardly a better way to avoid discussion than by releasing an argument from the control of the present and by saying that only the future can reveal its merits. However, totalitarian ideologies did not invent this procedure, and were not the only ones to use it. Scientificality of mass propaganda has indeed been so universally employed in modern politics that it has been interpreted as a more general sign of that obsession with science which has characterized the Western world since the rise of mathematics and physics in the sixteenth century; thus totalitarianism appears to be only the last stage in a process during which "science has become an idol that will magically cure the evils of existence and transform the nature of man." [4] And there was, indeed, an early connection between scientificality and the rise of the masses. The "collectivism" of masses was welcomed by those who hoped for the appearance of "natural laws of historical development" which would eliminate the unpredictability of the individual's actions and behavior. [5] There has been cited the example of Enfantin who could already "see the time approaching when the 'art of moving the masses' will be so perfectly developed that the painter, the musician, and the poet-will possess the power to please and to move with the same certainty as the mathematician solves a geometrical problem or the chemist analyses any substance," and it has been concluded that modern propaganda was born then and there. [6]
[1] Hitler's analysis of "War Propaganda" (Mein Kampf, Book I, chapter vi) stresses the business angle of propaganda and uses the example of publicity for soap. Its importance has been generally overestimated, while his later positive ideas on "Propaganda and Organization" were neglected.

[2] See Martin Bormann's important memorandum on the "Relationship of National Socialism and Christianity" in Nazi Conspiracy, VI, 1036 ff.

[3] Stalin, Leninism (1933), Vol. II, chapter III.

[4] Eric Voegelin, "The Origins of Scientism," in Social Research, December, 1948.

[5] See F. A. v. Hayek, "The Counter-Revolution of Science," in Economica, Vol. VIII (February, May, August, 1941), p. 13.

[6] 1bid., p. 137. The quotation is from the Saint-Simonist magazine Producteur, I, 399.

"The Origins of Totalitarianism"
Just as love is an orientation which refers to all objects and is incompatible with the restriction to one object, so is reason a human faculty which must embrace the whole of the world with which man is confronted.

1/5 of a degree C is not a "tiny amount".

Sure, it makes no difference to whether you want to put a sweater on, but that's not the point. The troposphere is vast, and 0.2 C represents an immense amount of kinetic energy, which in turn drives dramatic changes in circulation and precipitation patterns. You can get a sense for this by calculating how much energy an average of 0.2 C represents.

Start with this: how much does a cubic meter of air weigh? Have you ever thought about that? A cubic meter of dry air at sea level weighs about 2.7 pounds. How much energy does it take to raise 2.7 pounds of dry air by 0.2 degrees? It turns out you can look that kind of thing up. It takes about 245 joules.

Now take that 245 joules/m^3 and multiply it by the volume of the troposphere. As you recall from calculus, you can approximate this by taking the surface area of a sphere 6,371,000 meters in radius and multiplying by the troposphere's roughly 11 km height. You should end up with a figure on the order of magnitude of 10^18 joules.

Or you can think of that as being roughly the same as 20,000 Hiroshima sized bombs. Granted the density of air 10 km up is somewhat less, but we haven't factored in the gigatons of water vapor in the atmosphere. Or interactions with the oceans; most of the excess energy goes into the oceans, and that in turn affects climate in countless ways. That's how palm trees grow in Southern Britain, even though Cornwall's further north than Maine.

And yet... You just can't feel a 0.2C change. Then again you can't feel the Coriolis force either, but that can bend a subtle pressure gradient hundreds of miles long into a cyclone, a feat no human agency can resist, much less match.

Scale matters. If there's anything scientific and mathematical literacy should teach, it's that. That's why the future of the planet can't be trusted to a semi-literate ignoramus.
The internet was our garden. And a beautiful garden it was. Sure, some fed agency created it, but let's face it, they used a fraction of the lot and we didn't really care for their supersecret bases they had littered about. There was so much empty space in between! And that lot we cultivated. We built a few nice trees and in their shadows we relaxed, we planted beautiful roses and yes, a few fruits and vegetables because, hey, it's always better if you grow it yourself. And ... heh, well, yeah, we had a few corners here or there where we grew that "special weed", ya know, but nobody really gave a shit, it was just us.

We were pretty good gardeners. Well, you pretty much had to be in those days, if you didn't know your way 'round with rake and shovel, you didn't really get much out of it. Still, we were quite happy with it. So happy actually that we thought we should share that. I mean, there's so many people out there who don't even know just how great the garden is! And we invited them in. They looked around and, well, most of them didn't quite "get" it. Sure, it was nice, here or there, well, if you're into botany, that is, but it's kinda hard to get around and find your way through the jungle, and using a machete wherever you go, phew, hard work! But a few of them stayed. They didn't quite know what they do, but we handed them a few saplings and some seed and some actually managed to learn a thing or two about gardening. Sure, of course a few smartasses tried to steal our stuff, but we usually didn't have much of a problem to whack them with our shovel and get our stuff back. And, heh, yeah, we, too, went into each other's yards and played some pranks on each other, painted their roses black and the like, but it was all in good fun! And hey, they sure liked our ... ya know, "special stuff". They still had no idea how to grow it, but they were quite willing to help us share everything with everyone, as long as they got their share, too. And, well, why not, pass the blunt!

That was about when the corporations noticed that, hey, where did all the people go? They took a look at the garden and they went batshit crazy. I mean, sure, we knew that it's great, but we never saw anyone go so insane about it. They saw it as the next big thing to make money with, and we laughed. Money? With this? Dude, you can't make money out of a system based on freedom and sharing! Everything in here is free. Yeah, in both ways.

True. You can't make money in such a system. Unless of course you change the rules. And changing the rules, they could.

I can't help but think that this must be how the natives of the US felt after they were "discovered". Because we had to face that there are suddenly areas in what we considered OUR garden where we couldn't go anymore. Worse, something that was the staple of our culture, going to a guy who did something great and asking him for a sapling of his wonderful tree. Became anathema. Instead of you SHOULD imitate and build on top of mine, the new creed was you MUST NOT. This rule, of course, did only surface after they themselves took from our gardens what they could possible rake together quickly. You might understand our utter disbelief and of course outrage when we noticed that turnabout is not fair game.

Well, we have had our share of trolls and nuisances before. Long before we already had to deal with people who trampled through our gardens or were a general pest. Our solution was simple, we took our superior gardening skills and whacked them from here to next week with our shovels 'til they either learned to play nice or left for good. This didn't work out so well this time. No, not because they had the better gardeners. But they didn't need to. They had a much more powerful weapon in their arsenal: The law. First, they ensured that the laws would benefit them, and then they used it against us. And despite how despicable it may be, we have to admit that it is quite efficient to have others take care of your battles, especially when you know that you cannot win a conventional war.

And now we're sitting here in what's left of our once beautiful garden. The once mighty jungle has been tamed and civilized, what used to be interesting and a land for explorers is now divided into lots that you may buy instead of simply use. You can get there easier now... well, if you prefer using long winding roads to a direct route, but the long winding roads are necessary so you pass by all the billboards that block your view to what's really interesting. Of course you may not step anywhere, only where you're allowed to, and don't even think about taking anything, rest assured it's for sale, not free.

So we're sitting here now, at the edge of something we once knew as beautiful and free. We're looking at it and we wonder what we did wrong. Where did we fail? And I can only come up with one solution for when we try something like this again: Don't invite the masses in. Keep it to yourself. It's the only way how you can really keep it. And the only way you can do without a camo net over your herb garden.
Tyranny is content with lawlessness; total terror replaces the fences of law and the lawfully established and orderly channels of human communication with its iron ring, which links everybody so tightly to everybody else that not only the space of freedom, as it exists in constitutional states between citizens, but even the desert of neighbourlessness and mutual suspicion disappears, so that it is as if everybody melted together into giant being of enormous proportions. This too does the for a totalitarian environment so well prepared vernacular express in its own way when it no longer speaks of "the" Russians or "the" French, but tells us what "the" Russian or "the" Frenchman wants.
"Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft" p. 682
Everyone has an internal eye. It always watching. It has been slowly constructed by society at large and by your friends and family, and it checks you for unacceptable behaviour. If you have had it around for long enough, you actually start to believe that the eye is you, and that you’re “being reasonable” or some other rationalization.

But the eye isn’t you at all. It is a prison, and you have justified its existence by obeying it. It’s strong because you let it be strong.

But the secret, the part that’s amazing, is that it can’t do anything to stop you, even if it wanted to. It’s an eye. It can only watch. The rest of you is free to act as you wish.
I'd rather be someone's shot of whiskey than everyone's cup of tea.
The easy possibility to write letters must - seen theoretically - have brought a terrible disruption of the souls into the world. It is communication with ghosts, and not just with the ghost of the receiver, but with one's own ghost as well, which develops under the hand in the letter one is writing, or even in a series of letters, where on letter substantiates the other and can call on it as witness. How could the idea come up that humans can communicate with each other through letters! One can think of a person that is far away, or touch a person that is close by, everything else is above the power of humans. But writing letters means to bare oneself in front of the ghosts, which they are greedily waiting for. Written kisses don't arrive at their place, but get drunk out by the ghosts on the way. Because of this plentiful food they multiply so outrageously. Humanity is feeling that and fighting against it, it has, to disable the ghostly between humans, and to achieve the natural communication, the peace of souls, invented the train, the car, the airplane, but it's too late, apparently they are inventions made while falling, the opponent is so much calmer and stronger, and invented after mail the telegraph, the telephone, wireless telegraphy. The ghosts won't starve, but we will perish.
letter to Milena Jesenská (March 1922)
A man's work is nothing but the slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
Wisdom consists in doing the next think you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.