You can not, without guilt and disgrace, stop where you are. The past and the present call on you to advance. Let what you have gained be an impulse to something higher. Your nature is too great to be crushed. You were not created what you are, merely to toil, eat, drink, and sleep, like the inferior animals. If you will, you can rise.
A totalitarian state simply enunciates official doctrine -- clearly, explicitly. Internally, one can think what one likes, but one can only express opposition at one's peril. In a democratic system of propaganda no one is punished (in theory) for objecting to official dogma. In fact, dissidence is encouraged. What this system attempts to do is to fix the limits of possible thought: supporters of official doctrine at one end, and the critics -- vigorous, courageous, and much admired for their independence of judgment -- at the other. The hawks and the doves. But we discover that all share certain tacit assumptions, and that it is these assumptions that are really crucial. No doubt a propaganda system is more effective when its doctrines are insinuated rather than asserted, when it sets the bounds for possible thought rather than simply imposing a clear and easily identifiable doctrine that one must parrot -- or suffer the consequences. The more vigorous the debate, the more effectively the basic doctrines of the propaganda system, tacitly assumed on all sides, are instilled. Hence the elaborate pretense that the press is a critical dissenting force -- maybe even too critical for the health of democracy -- when in fact it is almost entirely subservient to the basic principles of the ideological system: in this case, the principle of the right of intervention, the unique right of the United States to serve as global judge and executioner. It is quite a marvelous system of indoctrination.

Here is still another example along the same lines. Look at this quotation from the Washington Post, a paper that is often regarded as the most consistent critic of the war among the national media. This is from an editorial of April 30, 1975, entitled "Deliverance":

For if much of the actual conduct of Vietnam policy over the years was wrong and misguided - even tragic - it cannot be denied that some part of the purpose of that policy was right and defensible. Specifically, it was right to hope that the people of South Vietnam would be able to decide on their own form of government and social order. The American public is entitled, indeed obligated, to explore how good impulses came to be transmuted into bad policy, but we cannot afford to cast out all remembrance of that earlier impulse.

What were the "good impulses"? When precisely did the United States try to help the South Vietnamese choose their own form of government and social order? As soon as such questions are posed, the absurdity becomes evident. From the moment that the American-backed French effort to destroy the major nationalist movement in Vietnam collapsed, the United States was consciously and knowingly opposed to the organized political forces within South Vietnam, and resorted to increasing violence when these political forces could not be crushed. But these facts, easily documented, must be suppressed. The liberal press cannot question the basic doctrine of the state religion, that the United States is benevolent, even though often misguided in its innocence, that it labors to permit free choice, even though at times some mistakes are committed in the exuberance of its programs of international goodwill. We must believe that we "Americans" are always good, though, to be sure, fallible:

For the fundamental "lesson" of Vietnam surely is not that we as a people are intrinsically bad, but rather that we are capable of error - and on a gigantic scale....

Note the rhetoric: "we as a people" are not intrinsically bad, even if we are capable of error. Was it "we as a people" who decided to conduct the war in Vietnam? Or was it something that had rather more to do with our political leaders and the social institutions they serve? To pose such a question is of course illegitimate, according to the dogmas of the state religion, because that raises the question of the institutional sources of power, and such questions are only considered by irrational extremists who must be excluded from debate (we can raise such questions with regard to other societies, of course, but not the United States).
To state it in slightly different terms: in those critical years [roughly from age 17 to 20] I learned how to be alone.

This formulation doesn't really capture my meaning. I didn't, in any literal sense learn to be alone, for the simple reason that this knowledge had never been unlearned during my childhood. It is a basic capacity in all of us from the day of our birth. However these 3 years of work in isolation, when I was thrown onto my own resources, following guidelines which I myself had spontaneously invented, instilled in me a strong degree of confidence, unassuming yet enduring, in my ability to do mathematics, which owes nothing to any consensus or to the fashions which pass as law.


By this I mean to say: to reach out in my own way to the things I wished to learn, rather than relying on the notions of the consensus, overt or tacit, coming from a more or less extended clan of which I found myself a member, or which for any other reason laid claim to be taken as an authority. This silent consensus had informed me, both at the lyé and at the university, that one shouldn't bother worrying about what was really meant when using a term like "volume", which was "obviously self-evident", "generally known", "unproblematic", etc. I'd gone over their heads, almost as a matter of course, even as Lesbesgue himself had, several decades before, gone over their heads. It is in this gesture of "going beyond", to be something in oneself rather than the pawn of a consensus, the refusal to stay within a rigid circle that others have drawn around one - it is in this solitary act that one finds true creativity. All others things follow as a matter of course.
"The Life of a Mathematician - Reflections and Bearing Witness" (1986)

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.
These definitions coincide with the terms which, since Greek antiquity, have been used to define the forms of government as the rule of man over man—of one or the few in monarchy and oligarchy, of the best or the many in aristocracy and democracy, to which today we ought to add the latest and perhaps most formidable form of such dominion, bureaucracy, or the rule by an intricate system of bureaux in which no men, neither one nor the best, neither the few nor the many, can be held responsible, and which could be properly called the rule by Nobody. Indeed, if we identify tyranny as the government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done. It is this state of affairs which is among the most potent causes for the current world-wide rebellious unrest.
"On Violence"
Keep your heart clear and transparent
And you will never be bound.
A single disturbed thought, though,
Creates ten thousand distractions.
Let myriad things captivate you
And you'll go further and further astray.
How painful to see people
All wrapped up in themselves.
Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.
I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.
The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same form of mental pathology does not make these people sane.
With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.
The danger of computers becoming like humans is not as great as the danger of humans becoming like computers.
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
Column in Newsweek (21 January 1980)
I haven't got a speech. I didn't plan words. I didn't even try to I just knew I had to get here, to stand here, and I wanted you to listen.

To really listen, not just pull a face like you're listening, like you do the rest of the time. A face that you're feeling instead of processing.

You pull a face, and poke it towards the stage, and we lah-di-dah, we sing and dance and tumble around. And all you see up here, it's not people, you don't see people up here, it's all fodder. And the faker the fodder, the more you love it, because fake fodder's the only thing that works any more. It's all that we can stomach.

Actually, not quite all. Real pain, real viciousness, that, we can take. Yeah, stick a fat man up a pole. We laugh ourselves feral, because we've earned the right, we've done cell time and he's slacking, the scum, so ha-ha-ha at him!

Because we're so out of our minds with desperation, we don't know any better. All we know is fake fodder and buying shit. That's how we speak to each other, how we express ourselves, is buying shit.

What, I have a dream? The peak of our dreams is a new app for our Dopple, it doesn't exist! It's not even there! We buy shit that's not even there.

Show us something real and free and beautiful. You couldn't.

Yeah? It'd break us. We're too numb for it. I might as well choke. It's only so much wonder we can bear.

When you find any wonder whatsoever, you dole it out in meagre portions. Only then until it's augmented, packaged, and pumped through 10,000 preassigned filters till it's nothing more than a meaningless series of lights, while we ride day in day out, going where? Powering what? All tiny cells and tiny screens and bigger cells and bigger screens and fuck you!

Fuck you, that's what it boils down to. Fuck you for sitting there and slowly making things worse. Fuck you and your spotlight and your sanctimonious faces.

Fuck you all for thinking the one thing I came close to never meant anything. For oozing around it and crushing it into a bone, into a joke. One more ugly joke in a kingdom of millions.

Fuck you for happening. Fuck you for me, for us, for everyone.

Fuck you!
The Black Mirror
But when they plunder from these miners, these children, my fellow citizens, countrymen, thrown out on the highways and mother insulted — do you think that they will be good citizens when they grow up? I don't. The revenge and resentment will be buried there if they grow into manhood, it will develop, they will kill, they will murder to get even with those who robbed them. I want you to stop that. I don't want it to go on. Your Governor may, but I don't. I want the children to have the best of influence, I want the children to have good schooling, I want women to know nothing but what is good, I want to leave to this nation a nobler manhood and greater womanhood. Can I do it? No, I can't, boys, with the administration you have got, I can't do it.

I can do it if you men and women will stand together, find out the seat of the disease and pull it up by the roots.

Take possession of that state house, that ground is yours. (Someone interrupted, and the speaker said "Shut your mouth.")

You built that state house, didn't you? You pay the public officials, don't you? You paid for that ground, didn't you? (Cries of: "Yes," "yes.")

Then, who does it belong to? Then why did the militia chase you off? You have been hypnotized. The trouble has been that they wanted the slave system to continue. They have had a glass for you and your wives and children to look into. They have you hypnotized.
It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous, wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man’s shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency is tolerated. I have heard some of my townsmen say, “I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico;—see if I would go”; and yet these very men have each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute. The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war; is applauded by those whose own act and authority he disregards and sets at naught; as if the state were penitent to that degree that it differed one to scourge it while it sinned, but not to that degree that it left off sinning for a moment. Thus, under the name of Order and Civil Government, we are all made at last to pay homage to and support our own meanness. After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.
People don't like seeing others in pain, but instead of comforting them or letting them vent, most people try to make it stop. Stopping isn't always the best solution. Just like my doctor trying to hook me up with meds. I need to vent and cry and curl up in a ball and refuse to eat and then eat everything in sight and listen to sad music and angry music and sleep in his t-shirts and be anti-social and overly social and figure it out.
What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road? The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated. The worst is atomic war. The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
Let no man imagine that he has no influence. Whoever he may be, and wherever he may be placed, the man who thinks becomes a light and a power.
The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.
Oh, if only I could tell someone about my pain and misery! Even myself! Perhaps if I could tell myself about it in some new way it might have the power to shed some light on what had happened and on what would become of me.