Hope and Vision

“Although we seem trapped in an age of anger and despair, the alternatives remain the same as in all other ages. We can scuttle—or we can sail the seas. Navigare necesse est. One must chart his course and sail.”
~ Allison Davis, first tenured African American professor at the University of Chicago, in a graduation address there in 1970

* * *

Empathy, Compassion, and Forgiveness

“I do not want to wage war with the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers. Looking aside, let that be my sole negation!”
~ Nietzsche

* * *

Knowledge, Truth, Understanding, etc.

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”
~ Epictetus

“Where misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood.”
~ Lionel Trilling

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
~ Charles Bukowski

“Like Burroughs, Spinoza shows that, far from being an aberrant condition, addiction is the standard state for human beings, who are habitually enslaved into reactive and repetitive behaviors by frozen images (of themselves and the world). Freedom, Spinoza shows, is something that can be achieved only when we can apprehend the real causes of our actions, when we can set aside the ‘sad passions’ that intoxicate and entrance us.”
~ Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, p. 73

“A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”
~ Marshall McLuhan

“Something like a shadow has fallen between present and past, an abyss wide as war that cannot be bridged by any tangible connection, so that memory is undermined and the image of our beginnings is betrayed, dissolved, rendered not mythical but illusory. We have connived in the murder of our own origins.”
~ Edward Abbey, Shadows from the Big Woods

“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”
~  Jean-Paul Sartre, “Anti-Semite and Jew”

* * *

Free Speech and Speaking Truth to Power

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
~ Elie Wiesel

“Being invisible and without substance, a disembodied voice, as it were, what else could I do? What else but try to tell you what was really happening when your eyes were looking through? And it is this which frightens me:

“Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?”
~ Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (Kindle Edition, p. 581)

* * *

Justice and Injustice

“It is a cruel Jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself up by his own bootstraps.”
~ Martin Luther King Jr.

“The inequities of our past collect interest.”
~ Cody Johnston, How To Pretend Systemic Racism Doesn’t Exist, Some More News

“It is…childish, in the deepest sense of being a child, ever to expect justice. There is none beneath our moon. One can only hope not to be destroyed entirely by injustice and, to put it cynically, one can very often flourish through an injustice obtaining in one’s favor. What matters finally is not the world’s judgment of oneself but one’s own judgment of the world. Any writer who lacks this final arrogance will not survive very long in America.”
~ Gore Vidal, United States: Essays 1952-1992

‎”I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”
~ Stephen Jay Gould

“[E]conomic injustice will stop the moment we want it to stop, and no sooner, and if we genuinely want it to stop the method adopted hardly matters.”
~ George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

“The American Revolution was waged to preserve the right to own slaves, unimpeded – Its Civil War was fought that we could all become slaves, undistinguished.”
~ Historical Documents

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”
~ Richard Buckminster Fuller

“More than once I have heard people say, “If only a new Black Panther Party could be organized, then we could seriously deal with The Man, you know?” But suppose we were to say: “There is no Man anymore.” There is suffering. There is oppression. There is terrifying racism. But this racism does not come from the mythical “Man.” Moreover, it is laced with sexism and homophobia and unprecedented class exploitation associated with a dangerously globalized capitalism. We need new ideas and new strategies that will take us into the twenty-first century.”
~ Angela Davis, The Meaning of Freedom (Kindle Locations 170-174)

“Anybody who understands the justice system knows innocent people are convicted every day.”
~ Gerald Kogan, Fla. Supreme Court Justice (Ret.)

“Most of the world’s economies and governments are under the control of corporations, which seem to be successfully tightening their grasp; at the same time the world itself is increasingly out of control. The corporatization of the world means the loss of economic and cultural diversity. Historian Arnold Toynbee cautioned that civilization is a movement, not a condition, and the rise of uniformity consistently marks its decline.”
~ Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest

* * *

Democracy, Freedom and Equality

“THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE MATTERS BECAUSE IT HELPS us see that we cannot have freedom without equality. It is out of an egalitarian commitment that a people grows— a people that is capable of protecting us all collectively, and each of us individually, from domination. If the Declaration can stake a claim to freedom, it is only because it is so clear-eyed about the fact that the people’s strength resides in its equality.”
Danielle Allen, Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (Kindle Locations 159-162).

“The difficulty in securing democracy has been that more attention has been paid to defending it as a philosophy than to developing the methodology by which it could be made to function in life.”
~ Harrison S. Elliott, The Process of Group Thinking

“None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes.”
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“[M]ingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of AMERICA.”
~ Thomas Paine

“Politically, the weakness of the argument has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they chose evil.”
~ Hannah Arendt, 1964

“When the oppressors give me two choices, I always take the third.”
~ Meir Berliner (died fighting the SS at Treblinka)

* * *

Economics and Class

“Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
~ Abraham Lincoln

“Any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another.”
~ Plato, Greek philosopher and economist, 427– 347 B.C.E.

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”
~ Plutarch, Greco-Roman historian, 46– 120 C.E.

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast , and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you , That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
~ Matthew 19: 21– 24

“Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many.”
~ Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776)

“The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”
~ Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)

“The causes which destroyed the ancient republics were numerous; but in Rome, one principal cause was the vast inequality of fortunes.”
~ Noah Webster, American editor, 1758– 1843

“No person, I think, ever saw a herd of buffalo, of which a few were fat and the great majority lean. No person ever saw a flock of birds, of which two or three were swimming in grease, and the others all skin and bone.”
~ Henry George, American reformer, 1839– 1897

“The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. president, 1858– 1919

“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
~ Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court justice, 1856– 1941

“An oligarchy of private capital cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society because under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information.”
~ Albert Einstein

“The preferential treatment that the rich get from the government came into sharp focus with the compensation for the families of the victims of the 9/ 11 attack. Wealthy families received substantially higher compensations than poor families did, even though the former were better equipped to absorb the loss than the latter. It is clear that what’s missing is a principle that would govern the redistribution of income by the government. Without it, the government spends taxes to shore up the existing distribution of income, no matter how unequal it is.”
~ Moshe Adler, American economist, 1948–

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
~ Pope Francis I, 1936–

“Poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”
~ Nelson Mandela, 1918– 2013

“The distribution of wealth is not determined by nature. It is determined by policy.”
~ Eric Schneiderman, New York State attorney general, 1954–

“American inequality didn’t just happen. It was created.”
~ Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize– winning economist, 1943–

* * *

Violence, War, and Military

“I believe that in every country the people themselves are more peaceably and liberally inclined than their governments.”
~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial complex would have to remain, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
~ George Kennan, 1987

* * *

Literature and Language

“The English language lacks a word to describe the emotional suffering caused by human cruelty. There are words for damaging actions—abuse, rape, assault—but the aftereffects are devoid of such singular representation. Medicine attempts to remedy the problem by introducing the word trauma into our common vocabulary. The Oxford English Dictionary defines trauma as an external bodily injury and the condition that emerges in its aftermath (1989). When William James used the term in 1895 to relay the psychological impact of mentally unbearable events, he described it as “thorns in the spirit” (as cited in Oxford English Dictionary, 1989). For those whose lives are irrevocably altered by cruelty, there may be no better description.”
~ Laura Kerr, Dissociation in Late Modern America: A Defense Against Soul? 

“There are the seductive voices of the night; the Sirens, too, sing that way. It would be doing them an injustice to think that they wanted to seduce; they knew they had claws and sterile wombs, and they lamented this aloud. They could not help it if their laments sounded so beautiful.”
~ Kafka, The Sirens

“Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.”
~ Franz Kafka, “Leopards In the Temple”

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.”
~ Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

* * *

Self and Identity, Culture and Society

“But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of social relations.”
~ Karl Marx, “Theses On Feuerbach”, 1845

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