Better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees.
Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena—homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth."The Origins of Totalitarianism"
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”
This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, or that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion."The Thing: Why I am a Catholic"
Since Hobbes was a philosopher, he could already detect in the rise of the bourgeoisie all those antitraditionalist qualities of the new class which would take more than three hundred years to develop fully. His Leviathan was not concerned with idle speculation about new political principles or the old search for reason as it governs the community of men; it was strictly a "reckoning of the consequences" that follow from the rise of a new class in society whose existence is essentially tied up with property as a dynamic, new property-producing device. The so-called accumulation of capital which gave birth to the bourgeoisie changed the very conception of property and wealth: they were no longer considered to be the results of accumulation and acquisition but their beginnings; wealth became a never-ending process of getting wealthier. The classification of the bourgeoisie as an owning class is only superficially correct, for a characteristic of this class has been that everybody could belong to it who conceived of life as a process of perpetually becoming wealthier, and considered money as something sacrosanct which under no circumstances should be a mere commodity for consumption.
Property by itself, however, is subject to use and consumption and therefore diminishes constantly. The most radical and the only secure form of possession is destruction, for only what we have destroyed is safely and forever ours. Property owners who do not consume but strive to enlarge their holdings continually find one very inconvenient limitation, the unfortunate fact that men must die. Death is the real reason why property and acquisition can never become a true political principle. A social system based essentially on property cannot possibly proceed toward anything but the final destruction of all property. The finiteness of personal life is as serious a challenge to property as the foundation of society, as the limits of the globe are a challenge to expansion as the foundation of the body politic. By transcending the limits of human life in planning for an automatic continuous growth of wealth beyond all personal needs and possibilities of consumption, individual property is made a public affair and taken out of the sphere of mere private life. Private interests which by their very nature are temporary, limited by man's natural span of life, can now escape into the sphere of public affairs and borrow from them that infinite length of time which is needed for continuous accumulation. This seems to create a society very similar to that of the ants and bees where "the Common good differeth not from the Private; and being by nature enclined to their private, they procure thereby the common benefit."
Since, however, men are neither ants nor bees, the whole thing is a delusion. Public life takes on the deceptive aspect of a total of private interests as though these interests could create a new quality through sheer addition. All the so-called liberal concepts of politics (that is, all the pre-imperialist political notions of the bourgeoisie)-such as unlimited competition regulated by a secret balance which comes mysteriously from the sum total of competing activities, the pursuit of "enlightened self-interest" as an adequate political virtue, unlimited progress inherent in the mere succession of events -have this in common: they simply add up private lives and personal behavior patterns and present the sum as laws of history, or economics, or politics. Liberal concepts, however, while they express the bourgeoisie's instinctive distrust of and its innate hostility to public affairs, are only a temporary compromise between the old standards of Western culture and the new class's faith in property as a dynamic, self-moving principle. The old standards give way to the extent that automatically growing wealth actually replaces political action.
Hobbes was the true, though never fully recognized, philosopher of the bourgeoisie because he realized that acquisition of wealth conceived as a never-ending process can be guaranteed only by the seizure of political power, for the accumulating process must sooner or later force open all existing territorial limits. He foresaw that a society which had entered the path of never-ending acquisition had to engineer a dynamic political organization capable of a corresponding never-ending process of power generation. He even, through sheer force of imagination, was able to outline the main psychological traits of the new type of man who would fit into such a society and its tyrannical body politic. He foresaw the necessary idolatry of power itself by this new human type, that he would be flattered at being called a power-thirsty animal, although actually society would force him to surrender all his natural forces, his virtues and his vices, and would make him the poor meek little fellow who has not even the right to rise against tyranny, and who, far from striving for power, submits to any existing government and does not stir even when his best friend falls an innocent victim to an incomprehensible raison d'etat.
For a Commonwealth based on the accumulated and monopolized power of all its individual members necessarily leaves each person powerless, deprived of his natural and human capacities. It leaves him degraded into a cog in the power-accurnulating machine, free to console himself with sublime thoughts about the ultimate destiny of this machine, which itself is constructed in such a way that it can devour the globe simply by following its own inherent law.
The ultimate destructive purpose of this Commonwealth is at least indicated in the philosophical interpretation of human equality as an "equality of ability" to kill. Living with all other nations "in the condition of a perpetuall war, and upon the confines of battle, with their frontiers armed. and canons planted against their neighbours round about," it has no other law of conduct but the "most conducing to [its] benefit" and will gradually devour weaker structures until it comes to a last war "which provideth for every man, by Victory, or Death.
By "Victory or Death," the Leviathan can indeed overcome all political limitations that go with the existence of other peoples and can envelop the whole earth in its tyranny. But when the last war has come and every man has been provided for, no ultimate peace is established on earth: the power-accumulating machine, without which continual expansion would not have been achieved, needs more material to devour in its never-ending process. If the last victorious Commonwealth cannot proceed to "annex the planets," it can only proceed to destroy itself in order to begin anew the never-ending rocess of power generation."The Origins of Totalitarianism"
What does censorship reveal? It reveals fear.
Don’t collect data. If you know everything about yourself, you know everything. There is no use burdening yourself with a lot of data. Once you understand yourself, you understand human nature and then the rest follows.
We all need to try to understand what is happening. We need to try to understand what is happening, and in my humble opinion, ideology is only going to get in your way. Nobody understands what is happening, not Buddhists, not Christians, not government scientists... no one understands what is happening. So forget ideology. They betray. They limit. They lead astray.
Nobody is smarter than you are. And what if they are? What good is their understanding doing you? People who walk around saying, ‘Well, I don’t understand quantum physics, but somewhere, somebody understands it.’. That’s not a very helpful attitude toward preserving the insights of quantum physics.
Just deal with the raw data, and trust yourself. Inform yourself.
What does “inform yourself” mean? It means transcend and mistrust ideology. Go for direct experience. What do you think when you face the waterfall? What do you think when you have sex? What do you think when you take psilocybin? Everything else is unconfirmable rumor, useless, probably lies. So liberate yourself from the illusion of culture. Take responsibility for what you think and what you do.
[Q: Isn't there a certain calculus that someone who is sitting in the shoes of a Condoleezza Rice can make, that they're responsible for the best outcome for American citizens, and there's an upside of going into Iraq which is we get one of the greatest material possessions in world's history, and there're downsides which are: we upset the international community, and maybe there's more terrorism. Couldn't you envision a calculus where they say, sure, that's the reason, and it's a good reason, let's do it. What's the flaw in the calculus?]
Oh, I think that's exactly their calculus. But then we ought to just be honest and say, "Look, we're a bunch of Nazis." So fine, let's just drop all the discussion, we save a lot of trees, we can throw out the newspapers and most of the scholarly literature, and just come out, state it straight, and tell the truth: we'll do whatever we want because we think we're gonna gain by it. And incidently, it's not American citizens who'll gain. They don't gain by this. It's narrow sectors of domestic power that the administration is serving with quite unusual dedication...Talk titled "Why Iraq?" at Harvard University, November 4, 2002
Also, bear in mind, people ought to be pretty critical about the Nuremberg principles. I don't mean to suggest they're some kind of model of probity or anything. For one thing, they were ex post facto. These were determined to be crimes by the victors after they had won. Now, that already raises questions. In the case of the American presidents, they weren't ex post facto. Furthermore, you have to ask yourself what was called a "war crime"? How did they decide what was a war crime at Nuremberg and Tokyo? And the answer is pretty simple. and not very pleasant. There was a criterion. Kind of like an operational criterion. If the enemy had done it and couldn't show that we had done it, then it was a war crime. So like bombing of urban concentrations was not considered a war crime because we had done more of it than the Germans and the Japanese. So that wasn't a war crime. You want to turn Tokyo into rubble? So much rubble you can't even drop an atom bomb there because nobody will see anything if you do, which is the real reason they didn't bomb Tokyo. That's not a war crime because we did it. Bombing Dresden is not a war crime. We did it. German Admiral Gernetz -- when he was brought to trial (he was a submarine commander or something) for sinking merchant vessels or whatever he did -- he called as a defense witness American Admiral Nimitz who testified that the U.S. had done pretty much the same thing, so he was off, he didn't get tried. And in fact if you run through the whole record, it turns out a war crime is any war crime that you can condemn them for but they can't condemn us for. Well, you know, that raises some questions.
I think one ought to raise many questions about the Nuremberg tribunal, and especially the Tokyo tribunal. The Tokyo tribunal was in many ways farcical. The people condemned at Tokyo had done things for which plenty of people on the other side could be condemned. Furthermore, just as in the case of Saddam Hussein, many of their worst atrocities the U.S. didn't care about. Like some of the worst atrocities of the Japanese were in the late '30s, but the U.S. didn't especially care about that. What the U.S. cared about was that Japan was moving to close off the China market. That was no good. But not the slaughter of a couple of hundred thousand people or whatever they did in Nanking. That's not a big deal.
If something in the exterior world makes you discontent, then it is not that object which troubles you, but rather your judgement of it; yet to blot out this judgement instantly is within your power. And if your dissatisfaction is based on the condition of your soul, who can prohibit you from correcting your views? Likewise, if you are discontent because you are not doing what seems reasonable to you, why not be active rather than discontent? "But something stronger than me is obstructing me." Still, do not be discontent; for the cause for your inaction is not within you. "But life has no meaning for me if this is not done." Well then, end your life, as calm as if you had succeeded; but don't forget to forgive your adversaries."Meditations"
My life is a hesitation before birth.Diary, 24th January 1922
The complexity of the so-called individual that’s been praised for decades in America somehow has narrowed itself to the ‘me’. When I was a young girl we were called citizens – American citizens. We were second-class citizens, but that was the word. In the 50s and 60s they started calling us consumers. So we did – consume. Now they don’t use those words any more – it’s the American taxpayer and those are different attitudes.
The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.
I know of no more encouraging fact than the ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so make a few objects beautiful. It is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look. This morally we can do.
If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
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)
If the ability to tell right from wrong should have anything to do with the ability to think, then we must be able to "demand" its exercise in every sane person no matter how erudite or ignorant."The Life of the Mind: The Groundbreaking Investigation on How We Think"
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
Being compassionate is an act of resistance; it is different from being caring, or passive. Compassion, literally meaning ‘to suffer with’, is rooted in our loving desire to be alongside one another in our common struggle for a better spiritual and social reality. Compassion is an act of resistance because the compassionate cannot rest until all suffering has ended. Compassion is the recognition that none of us are free until we are all free.
So, never be afraid. Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion, against injustice and lying and greed. If you, not just you in this room tonight, but in all the thousands of other rooms like this one about the world today and tomorrow and next week, will do this, not as a class or classes, but as individuals, men and women, you will change the earth; in one generation all the Napoleons and Hitlers and Caesars and Mussolinis and Stalins and all the other tyrants who want power and aggrandizement, and the simple politicians and time-servers who themselves are merely baffled or ignorant or afraid, who have used, or are using, or hope to use, man’s fear and greed for man’s enslavement, will have vanished from the face of it.address to the the graduating class at University High School, Oxford, Mississippi on May 28, 1951
In his stunning 2010 book, “The Death of the Liberal Class”, the seminary-trained journalist, Chris Hedges observes that for the most part, the institutions which have been pillars of liberalism, including the media, the university, the arts, the unions, the Democratic party, and the mainline churches have bought into the neoliberal ideology of corporate-capitalism, which revolves around the mythology of growth at the expense of human and nonhuman wellbeing, thriving, and increasingly, life itself.
In a word, political liberals talk a good talk but (just like political conservatives) have sold out people at the bottom and the planet. A splintering of “causes” and the reduction of politics to “issues” has left the liberal class “obsolete” and clinging “to its positions of privilege within liberal institutions.” And “[l]iberal religious institutions,” writes Hedges, “which should concern themselves with justice, embrace a cloying personal piety… and small, self-righteous acts of publicly conspicuous charity.”
If Hedges is correct, then Douthat is also correct about one thing: the Church should split from the secular liberal class. We should split from those who talk a good game but make peace with all manner of corporations whose time has frankly come.
We might start by challenging the power of coal, oil, and gas industries and the big banks that fund them, as has been prophetically suggested by Bill McKibben, a lay-Methodist, in this disturbing new piece in Rolling Stone. Thankfully, resistance of this sort is now official church policy since Resolution B023 on climate justice was adopted by this year’s General Convention.
In theological terms, we are tasked with affirming life in this moment of planetary exhaustion and pervasive social death. Ours are the works of resistance and restoration, of resurrection and reconciliation. Such works require us, always, to undertake some risk.
If something is right (or wrong) for us, it’s right (or wrong) for others. It follows that if it’s wrong for Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and a long list of others to bomb Washington and New York, then it’s wrong for Rumsfeld to bomb Afghanistan (on much flimsier pretexts), and he should be brought before war crimes trials.
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.
The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest.
Where could we be now if we hadn’t repressed half of our society throughout our entire history?
It is in the very nature of things human that every act that has once made its appearance and has been recorded in the history of mankind stays with mankind as a potentiality long after its actuality has become a thing of the past. No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes."Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
The pressures on businesspeople to operate in ways that do not conform to the rules of a healthy and authentic community have the effect of rotting out the moral core of the modern business executive. He is encouraged to live a lie — believing one thing but living another; believing that long-term customer relationships matter but operating as if next quarter's EPS is the only thing that really does.
The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.
One can disintegrate the world by means of very strong light. For weak eyes the world becomes solid, for still weaker eyes it seems to develop fists, for eyes weaker still it becomes shamefaced and smashes anyone who dares to gaze upon it.The Third Notebook, December 8, 1917