node created 2019/09/29
That is one of the great mistakes people make: assuming that someone who does menial work does not like thinking. Physical labor is great for the mind, as it leaves all kinds of time to consider the world. Other work, like accounting or scribing, demands little of the body — but siphons energy from the mind.

If you wish to become a storyteller, here is a hint: sell your labor, but not your mind. Give me ten hours a day scrubbing a deck, and oh the stories I could imagine. Give me ten hours adding sums, and all you’ll have me imagining at the end is a warm bed and a thought-free evening.
The left needs to be more attuned to fraud that targets empathy, and the right needs to stop using the risk of fraud as an excuse to do nothing.
We must 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.
For two millennia the idea of getting a job was regarded as a fundamental attack against basic human rights and human dignity. Why? Because getting a job means accepting servitude to a master. It means saying, 'Okay, I'll rent myself to you for most of my waking life and I will follow your orders during this period.' That was considered an utter abomination. By now it's sort of taken for granted. But should we take it for granted? Or should we go back to the ideals of working people, classical liberals, Cicero, all the way to Abraham Lincoln, saying that this is not a decent way for human beings to live, that people should be in control of their own work and their own destiny. One of the founders of classical liberalism, Wilhelm von Humboldt, captured the point very lucidly. He said, suppose an artisan creates a beautiful object on command, in a job. We may admire what he did, but we despise what he is: a tool in the hands of others. That was common belief right through the nineteenth century. We now accept that renting yourself into servitude is one of the highest goals in life – an idea that would have been an abomination for 2000 years.
People are angry, frightened, desperate. This is actually pre-Trump. 40 years of neoliberalism have left the victims of this assault angry, resentful, isolated, contemptuous of government. It's in Europe, it's in the United States, you see it everywhere.

That's fertile territory for demagogues who can say "I can save you, follow me." It's also fertile territory for conspiracy theories. People want some understanding of what's happening; they're not getting it from the media, they're not getting it from the intellectual classes, they're certainly not getting it from the government. So they search around for something that'll explain it. Why is this happening to us? That's the kind of situation in which you do get conspiracy theories. [..] When you're living in an intellectual environment in which there are no answers, no coherent answers available, you're suffering, you don't see why, you turn to, you grasp on to something.


It's happening all over, and I think you can trace a good deal of it to the effects of neoliberalism. It had a goal, remember: the goal of neoliberalism was the transfer decisions, authority, away from the public to the hands of private power, and to atomize the population. You'll recall Margaret Thatcher, there is no society, just individuals tossed out into the market that somehow survive for themselves.


The first acts, first acts, that both Thatcher and Reagan carried out was to demolish labour unions. First move, [in] both cases. Reagan went as far as authorizing scabs, you know, strike-breakers. Illegal in every country except, at times, South Africa. Did it right away. The labour unions had been smashed in both countries. Why? Well, it's one of the very few ways in which people can organize to protect themselves, so we've got to get rid of them. Eliminate public schools, but do it by underfunding, don't give enough funding so they don't work, then support private schools as an alternative. All throughout the society, eliminate the means for people to organize, act collectively, make decisions. Transferred into the hands of private power. And the results are predictable and perfectly plain.
Noam Chomsky
Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
"West India Emancipation" speech at Canandaigua, New York (1857)
We did not allow them to make an example of us.
Even though we have lost yardsticks by which to measure, and rules under which to subsume the particular, a being whose essence is a beginning may have enough of origin within himself to understand without preconceived categories and to judge without the set of customary rules which is morality.
“Understanding and Politics”
Is the world to be won over in such a wise, even after one has dominated it? Can a power persist and be applied, when it had to assert itself against the whole pressure of scorn and hatred which such methods invariably call forth? Is it not indeed a pathetic delusion, that a people who have put themselves or been put in the position of the German people today could ever conquer anything? A people intellectually debased and impoverished, morally degraded — and they expect to conquer the earth! It makes one laugh. We do not get the better of others by destroying ourselves; and nothing is more foolish than to take all idealism for stupidity. Truth, and the freedom to seek it, are not luxury-products which enervate a people and unfit them for the struggle of life. They belong to life, they are life’s daily bread. The saying “Truth is what profits me” springs from the depths; from the convulsions of an anti-idealistic ideal which deludes nobody, uses nobody to its own good, but simply hastens its own collapse. It is an open secret that German science is deteriorating, that Germany is falling behind in all the domains of the intellect. The process will go irresistibly on, it will be irretrievably consummated in fact, if the sort of people who have the say today are given enough time to put into execution their malignant program of national “fitness.”
foreword to Erika Mann's "School for Barbarians: Education Under the Nazis"
The glory of the German nation has always lain in a freedom which is the opposite of patriotic narrow-mindedness, and in a special and objective relation to mind. Germany gave birth to the phrase: “Patriotism corrupts history.” It was Goethe who said that. The true and extra-political nature of this people, its true vocation to mind and spirit, become clear today in the very immoderation, the “thoroughness” with which it abjures its best, its classic characteristics, offering them up on the altar of totalitarian politics at the behest of leaders who do not feel the sacrifice. This people of the “middle” is in actual fact a people of extremes. Shall we have power, shall we be political? Then away with spirit, away with truth and justice, independent knowledge and culture! Heroically it throws its humanity overboard, to put itself in alignment for world-mastery.
foreword to Erika Mann's "School for Barbarians: Education Under the Nazis"
We all grow up and inherit a certain vocabulary. We then have got to examine this vocabulary.
When the facts come home to us, let us try at least to make them welcome. Let us try not to escape into utopias—images, theories, or sheer follies.
In those who have suffered too many blows, in slaves for example, that place in the heart from which the infliction of evil evokes a cry of surprise may seem to be dead. But it is never quite dead; it is simply unable to cry out anymore.
I have seen that it is not man who is impotent in the struggle against evil, but the power of evil that is impotent in the struggle against man. The powerlessness of kindness, of senseless kindness, is the secret of its immortality. It can never by conquered. The more stupid, the more senseless, the more helpless it may seem, the vaster it is. Evil is impotent before it. The prophets, religious teachers, reformers, social and political leaders are impotent before it. This dumb, blind love is man’s meaning. Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil, struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer.
"Life and Fate"
It is undeniably true that the strong fraternal sentiments engendered by collective violence have misled many good people into the hope that a new community together with a new man will arise out of it. The hope is an illusion for the simple reason that no human relationship is more transitory than this kind of brotherhood which can be actualized only under conditions of immediate danger to life and limb.
I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.
Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.
"The Brothers Karamazov"
Lies by their very nature have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history.
I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.
The younger and healthier a woman is and the more her new and glossy body seems destined for eternal freshness, the less useful is artifice; but the carnal weakness of this prey that man takes and its ominous deterioration always have to be hidden from him... In any case, the more traits and proportions of a woman seem contrived, the more she delighted the heart of man because she seemed to escape the metamorphosis of natural things. The result is this strange paradox that by desiring to grasp nature, but transfigured, in woman, man destines her to artifice.
"The Second Sex"
If so few female geniuses are found in history, it is because society denies them any means of expression.
"The Second Sex"
Wieviel Schönes ist auf Erden
Unscheinbar verstreut;
Möcht ich immer mehr des inne werden:
Wieviel Schönheit, die den Taglärm scheut,
In bescheidnen alt und jungen Herzen!
Ist es auch ein Duft von Blumen nur,
Macht es holder doch der Erde Flur,
wie ein Lächeln unter vielen Schmerzen.
"In der Stille"
There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning.
Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying.
To will oneself moral and to will oneself free are one and the same decision.
"The Ethics of Ambiguity"
In fact, the sickness I was suffering from was that I had been driven out of the paradise of childhood and had not found my place in the world of adults. I had set myself up in the absolute in order to gaze down upon this world which was rejecting me; now, if I wanted to act, to write a book, to express myself, I would have to go back down there: but my contempt had annihilated it, and I could see nothing but emptiness. The fact is that I had not yet put my hand to the plow. Love, action, literary work: all I did was to roll these ideas round in my head; I was fighting in an abstract fashion against abstract possibilities, and I had come to the conclusion that reality was of the most pitiful insignificance. I was hoping to hold fast to something, and misled by the violence of this indefinite desire, I was confusing it with the desire for the infinite.
"Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter"
Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it.
"The Second Sex"
Youth and what the Italians so prettily call stamina. The vigor, the fire, that enables you to love and create. When you've lost that, you've lost everything.
"The Woman Destroyed"
The books I liked became a Bible from which I drew advice and support; I copied out long passages from them; I memorized new canticles and new litanies, psalms, proverbs, and prophecies, and I sanctified every incident in my life by the recital of these sacred texts. My emotions, my tears, and my hopes were no less sincere on account of that; the words and the cadences, the lines and the verses were not aids to make believe: but they rescued from silent oblivion all those intimate adventures of the spirit that I couldn’t speak to anyone about; they created a kind of communion between myself and those twin souls which existed somewhere out of reach; instead of living out my small private existence, I was participating in a great spiritual epic.
"Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter"
Art, literature, and philosophy are attempts to found the world anew on a human freedom: that of the creator; to foster such an aim, one must first unequivocally posit oneself as a freedom. The restrictions that education and custom impose on a woman limit her grasp of the universe...Indeed, for one to become a creator, it is not enough to be cultivated, that is, to make going to shows and meeting people part of one's life; culture must be apprehended through the free movement of a transcendence; the spirit with all its riches must project itself in an empty sky that is its to fill; but if a thousand fine bonds tie it to the earth, its surge is broken. The girl today can certainly go out alone, stroll in the Tuileries; but I have already said how hostile the street is: eyes everywhere, hands waiting: if she wanders absentmindedly, her thoughts elsewhere, if she lights a cigarette in a cafe, if she goes to the cinema alone, an unpleasant incident can quickly occur; she must inspire respect by the way she dresses and behaves: this concern rivets her to the ground and self. "Her wings are clipped." At eighteen, T.E. Lawrence went on a grand tour through France by bicycle; a young girl would never be permitted to take on such an adventure...Yet such experiences have an inestimable impact: this is how an individual in the headiness of freedom and discovery learns to look at the entire world as his fief...[The girl] may feel alone within the world: she never stands up in front of it, unique and sovereign.
"The Second Sex"
To be oneself, simply oneself, is so amazing and utterly unique an experience that it's hard to convince oneself so singular a thing happens to everybody.
"Prime of Life"
Even if one is neither vain nor self-obsessed, it is so extraordinary to be oneself - exactly oneself and no one else - and so unique, that it seems natural that one should also be unique for someone else.
"The Woman Destroyed"
To abstain from politics is in itself a political attitude.
"Prime of Life"
No one would take me just as I was, no one loved me; I shall love myself enough, I thought, to make up for this abandonment by everyone. Formerly, I had been quite satisfied with myself, but I had taken very little trouble to increase my self-knowledge; from now on, I would stand outside myself, watch over and observe myself; in my diary I had long conversations with myself. I was entering a world whose newness stunned me. I learned to distinguish between distress and melancholy, lack of emotion and serenity; I learned to recognize the hesitations of the heart, and its ecstasies, the splendor of great renunciations, and the subterranean murmurings of hope. I entered into exalted trances, as on those evenings when I used to gaze upon the sky full of moving clouds behind the distant blue of the hills; I was both the landscape and its beholder: I existed only through myself, and for myself… My path was clearly marked: I had to perfect, enrich and express myself in a work of art that would help others to live.
We can play a society-wide game of make-believe that sex doesn't matter, reinforced with severe social penalties for noncompliance, or we can speak clearly and defend women's rights when those rights are under attack. We can't do both.
Ideology is a specious way of relating to the world. It offers human beings the illusion of an identity, of dignity, and of morality while making it easier for them to part with them.
"The Power of the Powerless" (1978)
Gender ideology is Queer Theory in action; the goal is to stop things making sense & to stop you from even caring if things make sense. This is a juvenile theology that appeals to those who wish that wishing made it so.
We will beat the machine. We will win.

That primal clarity lives within us still, and you can only sedate a giant for so long.

The primal giant will rise, will crush the machine and the CIA black sites, will crack open Gitmo and devour Hollywood, will defecate on the Pentagon and wipe its ass with Langley, and will howl at the moon and banish the narrative matrix to wherever deleted files go.

And we will be free. And we will be vast. And we will look at each other with unpolluted eyes for the very first time.

And we will go out into the world, the real world, the original world, walking with our original feet and looking with our original eyes.

Our seeds now great forests.

Tortured no more.
To will oneself free is also to will others free.
You deserve a lover who takes away the lies and brings you hope, coffee, and poetry.
Languages have great reserves of life. They can absorb masses of hysteria, illiteracy and cheapness [..] But there comes a breaking point. Use a language to conceive, organize, and justify Belsen; use it to make out specifications for gas ovens; use it to dehumanize man during twelve years of calculated bestiality. Something will happen to it. [..] Something will happen to the words. Something of the lies and sadism will settle in the marrow of the language. Imperceptibly at first, like the poisons of radiation sifting silently into the bone. But the cancer will begin, and the deep-set destruction. The language will no longer grow and freshen. It will no longer perform, quite as well as it used to, its two principal functions: the conveyance of humane order which we call law, and the communication of the quick of the human spirit which we call grace.
"Language and Silence"
Sexual assault and domestic violence are difficult things to talk about. Talk about them anyway.
All violence consists of some people forcing others, under threat of suffering or death, to do what they do not want to do.
You are not the darkness you endured. You are the light that refused to surrender.
What I propose, therefore, is very simple: it is nothing more than to think what we are doing.
"The Human Condition"
If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.
I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.
If you are a writer for a specific nation or a specific race, then fuck you.
There are some whose hearts are so large that they can be entered without knocking. There are some whose hearts are so frail that they can be broken with a finger.
If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.