Quotes of the day: Addiction

Published Friday, October 09, 2015 @ 11:08 PM EDT
Oct 09 2015

A moderate addiction to money may not always be hurtful; but when taken in excess it is nearly always bad for the health.
Clarence Day

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.
Frank Herbert

All sin tends to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is what is called damnation.
W.H. Auden

Being inoffensive, and being offended, are now the twin addictions of the culture.
Martin Amis

Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists.
Cornel West

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire, then wrote the piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer? And if so, why?
Bennett Cerf

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.
Carl Jung

I'll tell you why I like the cigarette business. It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It's addictive. And there's fantastic brand loyalty.
Warren Buffett

I'm addicted to placebos. I'd quit, but it wouldn't matter.
Steven Wright

If addiction is judged by how long a dumb animal will sit pressing a lever to get a 'fix' of something, to its own detriment, then I would conclude that netnews is far more addictive than cocaine.
Rob Stampfli

If you say a modern celebrity is an adulterer, a pervert and a drug addict, all it means is that you've read his autobiography.
P.J. O'Rourke

In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.
Ivan Illich

It is no defense of superstition and pseudoscience to say that it brings solace and comfort to people... If solace and comfort are how we judge the worth of something, then consider that tobacco brings solace and comfort to smokers; alcohol brings it to drinkers; drugs of all kinds bring it to addicts; the fall of cards and the run of horses bring it to gamblers; cruelty and violence bring it to sociopaths. Judge by solace and comfort only and there is no behavior we ought to interfere with.
Isaac Asimov

Like so many addicts, I'd thought that if I could only sort out my life, I could then sort out my drinking. It was a revelation to see that it would be simpler the other way around
Pete Townshend

Love and joy are incredibly habit-forming; often a single exposure is enough to cause permanent addiction.
John Brunner

Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate.
Dave Barry

Money doesn't mind if we say it's evil, it goes from strength to strength. It's a fiction, an addiction, and a tacit conspiracy.
Martin Amis

Of what use is the universe? What is the practical application of a million galaxies? Yet just because it has no use, it has a use- which may sound like a paradox, but is not. What, for instance, is the use of playing music? If you play to make money, to outdo some other artist, to be a person of culture, or to improve your mind, you are not really playing- for your mind is not on the music. You don't swing. When you come to think of it, playing or listening to music is a pure luxury, an addiction, a waste of valuable time and money for nothing more than making elaborate patterns of sound.
Alan Watts

People get addicted to good e-mail like they get addicted to good chocolate.
Andy Brack

Since this is the age of science, not religion, psychiatrists are our rabbis, heroin is our pork, and the addict is the unclean person.
Thomas Szasz

So long as men denounce each other as mentally sick (homosexual, addicted, insane, and so forth)- so that the madman can always be considered the Other, never the Self- mental illness will remain an easily exploitable concept, and Coercive Psychiatry a flourishing institution.
Thomas Szasz

The pleasures of love are for those who are hopelessly addicted to another living creature.
Robertson Davies

The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

There is nothing an addict likes more, or that serves as better pretext for continuing his present way of life, than to place the weight of responsibility for his situation somewhere other than on his own decisions.
Theodore Dalrymple

Too many young folk have addiction to superficial things and not enough conviction for substantial things like justice, truth and love.
Cornel West

We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.
Santosh Kalwar

We are all addicts in various stages of degradation where I live on the Upper West Side, some to heroin, some to small dogs, and some to the New York Times. The heroin is cut, the dogs are paranoid, and the Times cheats by skimping on the West Coast ball scores. No matter, each of us goes upon the street solely in pursuit of his own particular curse.
Murray Kempton

Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass the result is the same: addiction.
William S. Burroughs

Why is it drug addicts and computer aficionados are both called users?
Clifford Stoll

You know how I got addicted to cocaine? I tried it. The problem with drugs is that they work- right up until the moment they decimate your life.
Aaron Sorkin

You know, I go to the theatre to be entertained... I don't want to see plays about rape, sodomy and drug addiction... I can get all that at home.
Peter Cook


(October 10 is also the birthday of Harold Pinter and Helen Hayes.)

Categories: Addiction; Quotes of the day; Quotes on a topic

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Quotes of the day: Che Guevara

Published Thursday, October 08, 2015 @ 3:19 PM EDT
Oct 08 2015

Ernesto "Che" Guevara (June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967), commonly known as el Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


Cruel leaders are replaced only to have new leaders turn cruel.

Democracy cannot consist solely of elections that are nearly always fictitious and managed by rich landowners and professional politicians.

Everything we thought and felt in that past period ought to be deposited in an archive, and a new type of human being created.

Far more important than a good remuneration is the pride of serving one's neighbor.

If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.

Justice remains the tool of a few powerful interests; legal interpretations will continue to be made to suit the convenience of the oppressor powers.

Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.

Much more definitive and much more lasting than all the gold that one can accumulate is the gratitude of a people.

One must harden without ever losing tenderness.

Real revolutionaries adorn themselves on the inside, not on the surface.

Silence is argument carried out by other means.

The desire to sacrifice an entire lifetime to the noblest of ideals serves no purpose if one works alone.

The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.

The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.

The university cannot be an ivory tower, far away from the society, removed from the practical accomplishments of the Revolution. If such an attitude is maintained, the university will continue giving our society lawyers that we do not need.

We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.

We should not allow the word "democracy" to be utilized apologetically to represent the dictatorship of the exploiting classes.

When forces of oppression come to maintain themselves in power against established law, peace is considered already broken.

Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote... the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.

Words that do not match deeds are unimportant.


(October 9 is also the birthday of John Lennon.)

Categories: Che Guevara; Quotes of the day

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Quotes of the day: Wendell Willkie

Published Wednesday, October 07, 2015 @ 10:43 PM EDT
Oct 07 2015

Wendell Lewis Willkie (February 18, 1892 – October 8, 1944) was a corporate lawyer in the United States and a dark horse candidate who became the Republican Party nominee for president in 1940. A member of the liberal wing of the party, he crusaded against those domestic policies of the New Deal that he thought were inefficient and anti-business. Willkie, an internationalist, needed the votes of the large isolationist element, so he waffled on the bitterly debated issue of America's role in World War II, losing support from both sides. His opponent, incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt, won the 1940 election with 55% of the popular vote and 85% of the electoral vote. Afterward, Roosevelt found Willkie to be compatible politically with his plans and brought him aboard as an informal ambassador-at-large. Willkie criss-crossed the globe and brought home a vision of "One World" freed from imperialism and colonialism. Following his journeys, Willkie wrote One World; a bestselling account of his travels and meetings with the Allied heads of state, as well as ordinary citizens and soldiers in regions such as Russia and Iran. His liberalism lost him supporters in the Republican Party and he dropped out of the 1944 race, then several months later died of a heart attack. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A good catchphrase can obscure analysis for fifty years.

A true world outlook is incompatible with a foreign imperialism, no matter how high-minded the governing country.

And political parties, overanxious for vote catching, become tolerant to intolerant groups.

Education is the mother of leadership.

Emancipation came to the colored race in America as a war measure. It was an act of military necessity. Manifestly it would have come without war, in the slower process of humanitarian reform and social enlightenment.

For now more than ever, we must keep in the forefront of our minds the fact that whenever we take away the liberties of those we hate, we are opening the way to loss of liberty for those we love.

Free men are the strongest men.

Freedom is an indivisible word. If we want to enjoy it, and fight for it, we must be prepared to extend it to everyone, whether they are rich or poor, whether they agree with us or not, no matter what their race or the color of their skin.

I have noticed, with much distress, the excessive wartime activity of the investigating bureaus of Congress and the administration, with their impertinent and indecent searching out of the private lives and the past political beliefs of individuals.

If we want to talk about freedom, we must mean freedom for others as well as ourselves, and we must mean freedom for everyone inside our frontiers as well as outside.

In addition, as citizens, we must fight in their incipient stages all movements by government or party or pressure groups that seek to limit the legitimate liberties of any of our fellow citizens.

In no direction that we turn do we find ease or comfort. If we are honest and if we have the will to win we find only danger, hard work and iron resolution.

It is from weakness that people reach for dictators and concentrated government power. Only the strong can be free. And only the productive can be strong.

It is, therefore, essential that we guard our own thinking and not be among those who cry out against prejudices applicable to themselves, while busy spawning intolerances for others.

No man has a right in America to treat any other man 'tolerantly,' for tolerance is the assumption of superiority.

No man has the right to use the great powers of the Presidency to lead the people, indirectly, into war.

The constitution does not provide for first and second class citizens.

The defense of our democracy against the forces that threaten it from without has made some of its failures to function at home glaringly apparent.

The test of good manners is to be able to put up pleasantly with bad ones.

Today it is becoming increasingly apparent to thoughtful Americans that we cannot fight the forces and ideas of imperialism abroad and maintain any form of imperialism at home. The war has done this to our thinking.

When we talk of freedom and opportunity for all nations, the mocking paradoxes in our own society become so clear they can no longer be ignored.


(October 8 is also the birthday of Frank Herbert and Harvey Pekar.)

Categories: Quotes of the day; Wendell Willkie

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Quotes of the day: Desmond Tutu

Published Tuesday, October 06, 2015 @ 3:10 PM EDT
Oct 06 2015

Desmond Mpilo Tutu (b October 7, 1931) is a South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. He was the first black Archbishop of Cape Town and bishop of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (now the Anglican Church of Southern Africa). Tutu's admirers see him as a man who since the demise of apartheid has been active in the defense of human rights and uses his high profile to campaign for the oppressed. He has campaigned to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning, homophobia and transphobia. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984; the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986; the Pacem in Terris Award in 1987; the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999; the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2007; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

Children are a wonderful gift. They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things and to expose sham and humbug for what they are.

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.

Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

Forgiveness is an absolute necessity for continued human existence.

Freedom and liberty lose out by default because good people are not vigilant.

Fundamental rights belong to the human being just because you are a human being.

Good is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death.

History, like beauty, depends largely on the beholder.

I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.

I will never tell anyone to pick up a gun. But I will pray for the man who picks up a gun, pray that he will be less cruel than he might otherwise have been....

I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.

If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

It is for real that injustice and oppression will not have the last word. There was a time when Hitler looked like he was going to vanquish all of Europe, and where is he now?

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.

Resentment and anger are bad for your blood pressure and your digestion.

Sometimes you want to whisper in God's ear, 'God, we know you are in charge, but why don't you make it slightly more obvious?'

There are different kinds of justice. Retributive justice is largely Western. The African understanding is far more restorative- not so much to punish as to redress or restore a balance that has been knocked askew.

We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.

We who advocate peace are becoming an irrelevance when we speak peace. The government speaks rubber bullets, live bullets, tear gas, police dogs, detention, and death.

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

Without forgiveness, there's no future.

You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.


(October 7 is also the birthday of Tim Minchin.)

Categories: Desmond Tutu; Quotes of the day

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Quotes of the day: Anwar El Sadat

Published Monday, October 05, 2015 @ 4:15 PM EDT
Oct 05 2015

Muhammad Anwar El Sadat (December 25, 1918 – October 6, 1981) was the third President of Egypt, serving from 15 October 1970 until his assassination by fundamentalist army officers on 6 October 1981. Sadat was a senior member of the Free Officers who overthrew King Farouk in the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, and a close confidant of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, under whom he served as Vice President twice and whom he succeeded as President in 1970. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


Fear is, I believe, a most effective tool in destroying the soul of an individual - and the soul of a people.

He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality.

I believe that for peace a man may, even should, do everything in his power. Nothing in this world could rank higher than peace.

I do not care for socially recognizable success. I only value that success which I can feel within me, which satisfies me, and which basically stems from self-knowledge.

I was brought up to believe that how I saw myself was more important than how others saw me.

If human values were relative, all laws-whether those based on revealed religions or those devised by man-would become meaningless.

If you don't have the power to change yourself, then nothing will change around you.

Land is immortal, for it harbors the mysteries of creation.

Most people seek after what they do not possess and are enslaved by the very things they want to acquire.

No man can be honest with others unless he is true to himself.

Peace is much more precious than a piece of land... let there be no more wars.

Real success is success with self. It's not in having things, but in having mastery, having victory over self.

Russians can give you arms but only the United States can give you a solution.

Suffering crystallizes a soul's intrinsic strength; for it is through suffering that a man of mettle can come into his own, and fathom his own depths.

There can be hope only for a society which acts as one big family, not as many separate ones.

There is no happiness for people at the expense of other people.

To be gripped by fear is, I believe, the most degrading of all emotions for a human being. In fear personality disintegrates, the human will is paralyzed, and man acts as an automaton.

Two places in this world make it impossible for a man to escape from himself: a battlefield and a prison cell.


(October 6 is also the birthday of Thor Heyerdahl and Shana Alexander.)

Categories: Anwar El Sadat; Quotes of the day

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Quotes of the day: Bart Ehrman

Published Sunday, October 04, 2015 @ 2:13 PM EDT
Oct 04 2015

Bart D. Ehrman (b. October 5, 1955) is an American New Testament scholar, currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a leading scholar in his field, having written and edited over 25 books, including three college textbooks, and has also achieved acclaim at the popular level, authoring five New York Times bestsellers. Ehrman's work focuses on textual criticism of the New Testament, the historical Jesus, and the development of early Christianity. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A fundamentalist is no fun, too much damn, and not enough mental.

Faith is not historical knowledge, and historical knowledge is not faith.

For most people, the Bible is a non-problematic book. What people don't realize is that they're reading translations of texts, and we don't have the originals.

Henotheism is the view that there are other gods, but there is only one God who is to be worshipped. The Ten Commandments express a henotheistic view, as does the majority of the Hebrew Bible.

If Jesus had not been declared to be God, his followers would have remained a sect within Judaism.

Jesus was a first-century Jew, and when we try to make him into a twenty-first century American we distort everything he was and everything he stood for.

One of the most amazing and perplexing features of mainstream Christianity is that seminarians who learn the historical-critical method in their Bible classes appear to forget all about it when it comes time for them to be pastors.

Orthodoxy is my doxy and heterodoxy is your doxy.

Precisely those conservative evangelical scholars who claim that mass hallucinations don't happen are the ones who deny that the Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared to hundreds or thousands of people at once, even though we have modern, verified eyewitness testimony that she has.

Scholars sometimes use technical terms for no good reason, other than the fact that they are the technical terms scholars use.

The problem then with Jesus is that he cannot be removed from his time and transplanted into our own without simply creating him anew.

The search for truth takes you where the evidence leads you, even if, at first, you don't want to go there.

There are few things more dangerous than inbred religious certainty.

What you can control are your attitudes about the things in your life. And so it is your inner self, your attitudes, that you should be concerned about.

You can't believe something just because someone else desperately wants you to.


(October 5 is also the birthday of Denis Diderot and Neil deGrasse Tyson.)

Categories: Bart Ehrman; Quotes of the day

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Quotes of the day: Janis Joplin

Published Saturday, October 03, 2015 @ 10:36 PM EDT
Oct 03 2015

Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was a US singer-songwriter who first rose to fame in the late 1960s as the lead singer of the psychedelic/acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as a solo artist with her own backing groups, The Kozmic Blues Band and The Full Tilt Boogie Band. Her first ever large scale public performance was at the Monterey Pop Festival; this led her to becoming very popular and one of the major attractions at the Woodstock festival and the Festival Express train tour. Joplin charted five singles; other popular songs include: "Down on Me"; "Summertime"; "Piece of My Heart"; "Ball 'n' Chain"; "Maybe"; "To Love Somebody"; "Kozmic Blues"; "Work Me, Lord"; "Cry Baby"; "Mercedes Benz"; and her only number one hit, "Me and Bobby McGee". (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


Audiences like their blues singers to be miserable.

Being an intellectual creates a lot of questions and no answers.

Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.

If I hold back, I'm no good. I'm no good. I'd rather be good sometimes, than holding back all the time.

On stage, I make love to 25,000 different people, then I go home alone.

Rock on out.

Tomorrow never happens. It’s all the same f***ing day, man.

You are what you settle for.

You can destroy your now by worrying about tomorrow.

You got to get it while you can.

You know why we're stuck with the myth that only black people have soul? Because white people don't let themselves feel things.


(October 14 is also the birthday of Rutherford B. Hayes, Damon Runyan, and Jackie Collins.)

Categories: Janis Joplin; Quotes of the day

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Quotes of the day: John Perry Barlow

Published Friday, October 02, 2015 @ 5:44 PM EDT
Oct 02 2015

John Perry Barlow (b. October 3, 1947) is an American poet and essayist, a retired Wyoming cattle rancher, and a cyberlibertarian political activist who has been associated with both the Democratic and Republican parties. He is also a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead and a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Freedom of the Press Foundation. Since May 1998, he has been a Fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He has been identified by Time magazine as one of the "School of Rock: 10 Supersmart Musicians". (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


Any powerful technology has sauce for the goose and the gander... It's just an extension of humanity.

But generally speaking, I felt to engage in the political process was to sully oneself to such a degree that whatever came out wasn't worth the trouble put in.

But groundless hope, like unconditional love, is the only kind worth having.

Google, Amazon, Apple. Any number of cloud providers and computer service providers who can increasingly limit your access to your own information, control all your processing, take away your data if they want to, and observe everything you do; in a way, that does give them some leverage over your own life.

How thin can I spread myself before I'm no longer 'there'?

I had always thought that the idea of love at first sight was one of those things invented by lady novelists from the South with three names.

I have yet to hear anyone say something that seemed likely to mitigate the idiocy of this age.

I look forward to the day when I can be Republican again.

I personally think intellectual property is an oxymoron. Physical objects have a completely different natural economy than intellectual goods. It's a tricky thing to try to own something that remains in your possession even after you give it to many others.

I think that humor is part of what saves us from despair.

I think the 'counterculture' believes that there are ways to manage being the world's most powerful country that involve creation of consensus- ruling by virtuous example rather than by force of arms.

I'm still strongly opposed to antismoking laws, strongly opposed to any law that regulates personal behavior.

If all ideas have to be bought, then you have an intellectually regressive system that will assure you have a highly knowledgeable elite and an ignorant mass.

If you have the 'Total Information Awareness' project working, it might be relatively easy to find everyone who had bought more than a ton of fertilizer and 500 gallons of diesel in the last year, which would be a great way of spotting potential Tim McVeighs- but it would also spot half the farmers and ranchers in America.

In Cyberspace, the First Amendment is a local ordinance.

Incompetence is a double-edged banana.

It's widely assumed that you can't compete with free, and that seems like a reasonable thing to think. But this has not been my experience.

Most libertarians are worried about government but not worried about business. I think we need to be worrying about business in exactly the same way we are worrying about government.

Most scientific revelations happened after the pursuit of knowledge quit being secret and hermetic.

Our universities are so determined to impose tolerance that they'll expel you for saying what you think and never notice the irony.

Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds.

So I'm just waiting until one party or the other actually gets a moral compass and a backbone.

The 'Total Information Awareness' project is truly diabolical- mostly because of the legal changes which have made it possible in the first place. As a consequence of the Patriot Act, government now has access to all sorts of private and commercial databases that were previously off limits.

The government targets 'Anonymous' for the same reason it targets al-Qaida- because they're the enemy.

The Internet amplifies power in all respects. It can grossly exaggerate the power of the individual.

The Internet is the most liberating tool for humanity ever invented, and also the best for surveillance. It's not one or the other. It's both.

The Internet may well disempower the nation state, but at the same time, it also strengthens certain specific state functions- like surveillance. As a political entity, it doesn't empower the nation sate. It creates the availability of much more data than the digestive system of the nation state could possibly assimilate.

The Internet treats censorship as a malfunction and routes around it.

The one thing that I know government is good for is countervailing against monopoly. It's not great at that either, but it's the only force I know that is fairly reliable.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.


(October 3 is also the birthday of Gore Vidal and Thomas Wolfe.)

Categories: John Perry Barlow; Quotes of the day

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Satire as truth

Published Thursday, October 01, 2015 @ 11:35 PM EDT
Oct 01 2015

(Click for full article).


(October 2 is the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi, Groucho Marx, and Graham Greene.)

Categories: Second Amendment; The Onion

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We are free to do whatever we can afford- or, not much.

Published Wednesday, September 30, 2015 @ 5:50 PM EDT
Sep 30 2015

"Churlish," by Ed from Gin and Tacos. The best explanation for the attitudes in this county.

Over a decade ago I sat in a lecture hall and listened to a visiting scholar of English history talk about the end of Roman rule in Britain and the remarkable – it may be fair to say incomprehensible – speed and comprehensiveness with which a previously undistinguished group of people called the Saxons became the cultural hegemon of what is today the United Kingdom. As this is a topic about which I knew (and know) next to nothing I was an easy mark; impressing me was like sinking a half-inch putt. I'm forever indebted to that person whose name I have completely forgotten, though, for giving me one of my favorite examples / metaphors / anecdotes for explaining what is wrong, and I mean what is really, fundamentally wrong, with the way people in the United States view politics and their rights as citizens today: the Churl.

Aside from being the root of names like Charles and its Germanic cousin Carl, we know "churl" as the root of the regrettably rare adjective "churlish," or "rude in a surly, mean spirited way." This seems unnecessary until you realize that rudeness does not automatically imply the latter part, and in fact a good deal of rudeness is cloaked in politeness or ignorance. But I digress. The word "churl" as a noun is still used by some English speakers of a more antiquated bent to refer to a mean spirited person. Its archaic meaning, though, is for a person of low class. Specifically, in early Saxon England the churls were the lowest class of free people, which is to say they were not nobles nor royalty nor clergy, but nor were they serfs. They were essentially peasants; poor, but with the social and practical advantage of not being bound to a manor as serfs were. They were, in words used by the Mystery Lecturer that I will never forget, "possessing the freedom of the upper classes but without the economic means to take advantage of it." They could go wherever they wanted to and do whatever pleased them, in other words, if only they had any money. Alas, they didn't. So all that freedom was for naught, except inasmuch as it permitted them to look at serfs as their inferiors.

This is such a perfect analogy for the state in which the majority – and I do mean the overwhelming majority – of Americans find themselves today that I can hardly believe I was lucky enough to stumble across it. The great masses of Americans cling so desperately to their own imagined versions of things like freedom of religion and right to bear arms because those are the only freedoms they can claim without deceiving themselves to have. If those are taken away they would be forced to recognize how truly un-free in any useful sense they are. If people are unable to find work that pays a sufficient amount to cover life's necessities and to live in a manner and place of their choosing, then all of their many intangible rights and freedoms guaranteed by law provide only a superficial – important, but superficial nonetheless – freedom. We are free, in short, to do whatever we can afford, which, in the majority of cases, is to say "Not much."

A few weeks ago I posted about one of the last major manufacturers – Mitsubishi Motors – in the area closing operations in Central Illinois. Last week the colossus of the non-Chicago part of the Illinois economy, Caterpillar, announced that it is laying off 10,000 workers. Ten thousand. The vast majority of those figure to be in Peoria, Caterpillar's already cripplingly depressed, moribund, and crumbling home base. Without going deep into the intricacies of local politics, Caterpillar, along with a few hospitals and one small university, is the only place one can work in this city and hope to make what has traditionally been considered middle class income. In Peoria one is either unemployed, in the low wage service industry, paid to care for the large, old, dying population, or working for Cat and its associated suppliers. There is nothing else here. The people laid off by Cat are not going to find comparable jobs here. Their choices will be to stay here and accept a job hovering precariously above the minimum wage, probably serving food, stocking store shelves, or manning a cash register, or to move to a state devoid of labor laws and accept manufacturing work at a vastly lower wage.

If those were my options, I would be working overtime mentally to conceive of some way I could define myself as free too. Without implying that the government owes everyone a job of their choosing in the exact location of their choosing, it's fair to say that if you can't find work that pays enough to live a life that gives you real choices and options then you are free only in the sense that you are not imprisoned (although there will be plenty of that as well) and nobody can tell you how many Jesus fish and Rush Limbaugh bumper stickers you can put on your car, nor how many expensive guns you can hoard in your meager home that you struggle to afford. Americans obsess over those largely symbolic freedoms, the threats to which exist only in their own imaginations, because even though we dare not admit it we understand that many of us lack anything better. Like denials of alcoholism are often directly proportional to the probability that one is indeed an alcoholic, the extent to which any people are truly free when they go to such comical excesses with such regularity to declare how free they are is to be evaluated with skepticism. By silent consensus this country has chosen "Fake it 'til you make it" as a coping mechanism in the face of stagnant or declining incomes and a constantly shrinking selection of choices and opportunities beyond at-will, low paid employment at The Company's pleasure. We have a country in which you can buy as many guns as you want but can't count on having a job beyond the end of business today. We can refuse to bake cakes for gay people but we can't decide where and how we want to live. Freedoms are not all created equal, and we content ourselves with the ones that do us the least good.

Categories: Gin and Tacos; KGB Opinion

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