node created 2019/09/29
I have spoken here of what ought and ought not to be done, of what is morally repugnant, and of what is dangerous. I am, of course, aware of the fact that these judgements of mine have themselves no moral force except on myself. Nor, as I have already said, do I have any intention of telling other people what tasks they should and should not undertake. I urge them only to consider the consequences of what they do do. And here I mean not only, not even primarily, the direct consequences of their actions on the world about them. I mean rather the consequences on themselves, as they construct their rationalizations, as they repress the truths that urge them to different courses, and as they chip away at their own autonomy. That so many people ask what they must do is a sign that the order of being and doing has become inverted. Those who know who and what they are do not need to ask what they should do. And those who must ask will not be able to stop asking until they begin to look inside themselves. It it is everyone's task to show by example what questions one can ask of oneself, and to show that one can live with the few answers there are.
"Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation" (1976)
We have a big argument here about whether Nicaragua and Cuba are sending arms to El Salvador. Well, I don't know, so far there's no evidence that they are, but that's not really the interesting question. I mean, you gotta watch the way questions are framed by the propaganda system. The way it's framed is, the doves say they're not sending arms, and the hawks say they are sending arms. But the real question, which is being suppressed in all of this, is, "Should they be sending arms?"

And the answer is of course, "Yes." [applause] Everybody should be sending arms. You see, that question is not raised. Just as if, somebody was talking in, say, the Soviet Union, and the question came up, "Should somebody send arms to Afghan rebels?" Well, of course not, you know, that's terrorism or something like that. The point is that it's perfectly legitimate to send arms to people who finally try to use violence in self-defense against a gang of mass murderers installed by a foreign power. Of course it's legitimate to send them arms.
Talk at UC Berkeley on U.S. foreign policy in Central America (May 14, 1984)
What is to be done? The answer is easy. It has always been easy. Stop saying "not in my name" and start saying "over my dead body". That's what we did. It works. Do it.
The reason I hate ads is because it's a legitimized way of abuse, of hurting other people. I'm gonna be a father at some point, and I dread the day I have to explain to my kid that modern civilization is in this weird state, where it's "friendly" in the sense that you don't generally have to fear strangers, but it's also overrun by malicious actors trying to suck your money and happiness dry. Our civilization pays lip service to being cooperative, yet so much of it is still adversarial.
For the idea of humanity, when purged of all sentimentality, has the very serious consequence that in one form or another men must assume responsibility for all crimes committed by men and that all nations share the onus of evil committed by all others. Shame at being a human being is the purely individual and still non-political expression of this insight.
"Organized Guilt and Universal Responsibility"
Lies by their very nature have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history.
When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.
When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.
Since no one really knows anything about God, those who think they do are just troublemakers.
We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.
You never need an argument against the use of violence, you need an argument for it.
Give them a chance. Give them money. Don't dole them out poetry-books and railway-tickets like babies. Give them the wherewithal to buy these things. When your Socialism comes it may be different, and we may think in terms of commodities instead of cash. Till it comes give people cash, for it is the warp of civilisation, whatever the woof may be. The imagination ought to play upon money and realise it vividly, for it's the - the second most important thing in the world. It is so slurred over and hushed up, there is so little clear thinking - oh, political economy, of course, but so few of us think clearly about our own private incomes, and admit that independent thoughts are in nine cases out of ten the result of independent means. Money: give Mr. Bast money, and don't bother about his ideals. He'll pick up those for himself.
The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.
Take away freedom of speech, and the creative faculties dry up.
All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. [..] But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
I can have no other notion of all the other governments that I see or know, than that they are a conspiracy of the rich, who, on pretence of managing the public, only pursue their private ends, and devise all the ways and arts they can find out; first, that they may, without danger, preserve all that they have so ill-acquired, and then, that they may engage the poor to toil and labour for them at as low rates as possible, and oppress them as much as they please; and if they can but prevail to get these contrivances established by the show of public authority, which is considered as the representative of the whole people, then they are accounted laws.
"Utopia" (1517)
You don't wanna hear my message. You spent fifty years evolving a propaganda system that'll take the truth and change it into what you wanna hear. You don't wanna hear shit that's gonna mean you might have to give up something. You don't want it. All you wanna do is sit on your fat, dividend-drawing ass and draw dividends.
"Punishment Park"
I never joined the army because at ease was never that easy to me. Seemed rather uptight still. I don't relax by parting my legs slightly and putting my hands behind my back. That does not equal ease. At ease was not being in the military. I am at ease, bro, because I am not in the military.
The industry just a better built cell block
"Hip Hop"
We gotta come to some new ideas about life folks ok? I'm not being blase about abortion, it might be a real issue, it might not, doesn't matter to me. What matters is that if you believe in the sanctity of life then you believe it for life of all ages. That's what I hate about this child-worship syndrome going on. "Save the children! They're killing children! How many children were at Waco? They're killing children!" What does that mean? They reach a certain age and they're off your fucking love-list? Fuck your children, if that's the way you think then fuck you too. You either love all people of all ages or you shut the fuck up.
Good works, because they must be forgotten instantly, can never become part of the world; they come and go, leaving no trace. They truly are not of this world.
"The Human Condition"
Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.
"Nineteen Eighty-Four"

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Totalitarianism begins in contempt for what you have. The second step is the notion: “Things must change—no matter how, Anything is better than what we have.” Totalitarian rulers organize this kind of mass sentiment, and by organizing it articulate it, and by articulating it make the people somehow love it. They were told before, thou shalt not kill; and they didn’t kill. Now they are told, thou shalt kill; and although they think it’s very difficult to kill, they do it because it’s now part of the code of behavior. They learn whom to kill and how to kill and how to do it together. This is the much talked about Gleichschaltung—the coordination process. You are coordinated not with the powers that be, but with your neighbor—coordinated with the majority. But instead of communicating with the other you are now glued to him. And you feel of course marvelous. Totalitarianism appeals to the very dangerous emotional needs of people who live in complete isolation and in fear of one another.
The graduation of cynicism expressed in a hierarchy of contempt is at least as necessary in the face of constant refutation as plain gullibility. The point is that the sympathizers in front organizations despise their fellow-citizens' complete lack of initiation, the party members despise the fellow-travelers' gullibility and lack of radicalism, the elite formations despise for similar reasons the party membership, and within the elite formations a similar hierarchy of contempt accompanies every new foundation and development. The result of this system is that the gullibility of sympathizers makes lies credible to the outside world, while at the same time the graduated cynicism of membership and elite formations eliminates the danger that the Leader will ever be forced by the weight of his own propaganda to make good his own statements and feigned respectability. It has been one of the chief handicaps of the outside world in dealing with totalitarian systems that it ignored this system and therefore trusted that, on one hand, the very enormity of totalitarian lies would be their undoing and that, on the other, it would be possible to take the Leader at his word and force him, regardless of his original intentions, to make it good. The totalitarian system, unfortunately, is foolproof against such normal consequences; its ingeniousness rests precisely on the elimination of that reality which either unmasks the liar or forces him to live up to his pretense. While the membership does not believe statements made for public consumption, it believes all the more fervently the standard cliches of ideological explanation, the keys to past and future history which totalitarian movements took from nineteenth-century ideologies, and transformed, through organization, into a working reality.
"The Origins of Totalitarianism"
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.
Let's take robots on assembly lines: If it's used to free up the workforce for more creative work, say, controlling production, making decisions about it, finding creative ways to act and so on, then it's to the good. If it's used as a device to maximize profit and throw people into the trashcan, then it's not good.
My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one's actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.
The Bush Administration do have moral values. Their moral values are very explicit: shine the boots of the rich and the powerful, kick everybody else in the face, and let your grandchildren pay for it. That simple principle predicts almost everything that's happening.
Interview by Steve Scher on KUOW, in Seattle, Washington, April 20, 2005
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. 'Patriotism' is its cult... Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one's country which is not part of one's love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.
[Justice] demands seclusion, it permits sorrow rather than anger, and it prescribes the most careful abstention from all the nice pleasures of putting oneself in the limelight.
"Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil"
To abstain from politics is in itself a political attitude.
"Prime of Life"
By encouraging, or even requiring, students to take stands where they have neither the knowledge nor the intellectual training to seriously examine complex issues, teachers promote the expression of unsubstantiated opinions, the venting of uninformed emotions, and the habit of acting on those opinions and emotions, while ignoring or dismissing opposing views, without having either the intellectual equipment or the personal experience to weigh one view against another in any serious way
We spend huge amounts of energy and time trying to convince each other that our needs are whats best for everyone else.

In reality, people and their needs are on as wide a spectrum, as the needs of a cactus and a banyan tree. And it doesn't end there, to create another layer of confusion, those needs are continuously changing with time and context.
Human beings can be beautiful. If they are not beautiful it is entirely their own fault. It is what they do to themselves that makes them ugly. The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.
We have to create culture, don't watch TV, don't read magazines, don't even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you're worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you're giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told 'no', we're unimportant, we're peripheral. 'Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.' And then you're a player, you don't want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.
Charity is the drowning of rights in the shithole of mercy.
"Well, it's not really about espionage, it's about the people, and how they interact."

"Yeah, you can't really research a spy drama, because it's secret. I mean that's the one thing that's, you know, not secret."
Every powerful state relies on specialists whose task is to show that what the strong do is noble and just and, if the weak suffer, it is their fault.

In the West, these specialists are called "intellectuals" and, with marginal exceptions, they fulfill their task with skill and self-righteousness, however outlandish the claims, in this practice that traces back to the origins of recorded history.
The ordinary man with extraordinary power is the chief danger for mankind - not the fiend or the sadist.
Our main way of relating ourselves to others is like things relate themselves to things on the market. We want to exchange our own personality, or as one says sometimes, our "personality package", for something. Now, this is not so true for the manual workers. The manual worker does not have to sell his personality. He doesn't have to sell his smile. But what you might call the "symbolpushers" , that is to say, all the people who deal with figures, with paper, with men, who manipulate - to use a better, or nicer, word - manipulate men and signs and words, all those today have not only to sell their service but in the bargain they're to sell their personality, more or less. There are exceptions.
I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility [that is, the later judgment of historians] has to make up for the want of legal responsibility [that is, legal consequences during the rulers' lifetimes]. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it. That is the point at which . . . the end learns to justify the means. You would hang a man of no position, . . . but if what one hears is true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William III ordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greater names coupled with the greater crimes. You would spare these criminals, for some mysterious reason. I would hang them, higher than Haman, for reasons of quite obvious justice; still more, still higher, for the sake of historical science....
The third world is not a reality, but an ideology.
All the guys at the bar, Jimmy, all the girls; they don't show up at your wake. Not because they don't like you. But because, they never knew your last name. Then a month later, someone tells them, "Oh, Jimmy died." "Jimmy who?" "Jimmy the Cop." "Ohhh," they say, "him". And all the people on the job, all those people you spent all the hours in the radio cars with, the guys with their feet up on the desk, tellin' stories, who shorted you on your food runs, who signed your overtime slips. In the end, they're not gonna be there either. Family, that's it. Family, and if you're lucky, one or two friends who are the same as family. That's all the best of us get. Everything else is just...
"The Wire"
They looked at each other for a moment.

The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was a very long moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from.

For Arthur, who would usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone for long enough with a Swiss cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who wakes one morning to find the door to his cage hanging quietly open and the savanna stretching grey and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking.

He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.

He didn't realize that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones until now it said something it had never said to him before, which was "yes."
"Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"
To live under constraint is a misfortune, but there is no constraint to live under constraint.
Don't worry, we're OK, though frightened and angry. Moscow is full of tanks and military machines, I hate them. They try to close all mass media, they shutted up CNN an hour ago, Soviet TV transmits opera and old movies. But, thanks Heaven, they don't consider RELCOM mass media or they simply forgot about it. Now we transmit information enough to put us in prison for the rest of our life :-). Hope all will turn out well at long last...
I have 50 pink unicorns in this box. I can't show you because it would compromise their safety. I have them working on a cigarette that stops lung cancer.
All real living is meeting.