Jonathan Swift Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, and poet


https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Jonathan_Swift

Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.


Surely mortal man is a broomstick!” Nature sent him into the world strong and lusty, in a thriving condition, wearing his own hair on his head, the proper branches of this reasoning vegetable, till the axe of intemperance has lopped off his green boughs, and left him a withered trunk;Meditation on a Broomstick (1703–1710)


 And surely one of the best rules in conversation is, never to say a thing which any of the company can reasonably wish had been left unsaid…
Hints Toward an Essay on Conversation

(1709)


Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.
The Examiner No. XIV (Thursday, November 9th, 1710)

 one enemy can do more hurt, than ten friends can do good.

Journal to Stella (30 June, 1711)


But nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches, as to conceive how others can be in want.
A Preface to the Bishop of Sarum’s Introduction to the Third Volume of the History of the Reformation of the Church of England (8 December, 1713)


Proper words in proper places, make the true definition of a style.
Letter to a Young Clergyman (January 9, 1720)


on proving Christianity to unbelievers
If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.
Letter to Miss Vanhomrigh (August 12, 1720)

 So weak thou art, that fools thy power despise;

And yet so strong, thou triumph’st o’er the wise.
To Love, found in Miss Vanhom­righ’s desk after her death, in Swift’s hand­writing


For, in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery…

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Volo ut sis!


 


And, as I see it, a gift from Hannah Arendt:
“This mere existence, that is, all that which is mysteriously given us by birth and which includes the shape of our bodies and the talents of our minds, can be adequately dealt with only by the unpredictable hazards of friendship and sympathy, or by the great and incalculable grace of love, which says with Augustine
, “Volo ut sis (I want you to be),”
Volo ut sis!


 

when victims come from privilege they’ve always had and fear it will be taken away


 


http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2018/04/privilege-blindness.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=BRSS&utm_campaign=Progressive+Christian&utm_content=497


Neil Carter writes:

The Christian message was predicated upon a martyrdom, and it was fashioned by a people suffering from persecution. Because of this, it will always make the most sense among groups of people who are similarly persecuted and underprivileged by their surroundings.

But put this same message into a subculture in which its adherents actually wield the positions of greatest civic and economic power and you get a grotesque monstrosity which goes around bullying others, then claiming victimhood every time the targets of their abuse try to defend themselves.


the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. -George Orwell

 


One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty…at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not.

George Orwell English author and journalist quotes


Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable…


Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.


 We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.


 Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion, and such truisms as that a machine-gun is still a machine-gun even when a “good” man is squeezing the trigger … have turned into heresies which it is actually becoming dangerous to utter.


He [Charles Dickens]is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity.
It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.

The choice before human beings, is not, as a rule, between good and evil but between two evils.

The fallacy is to believe that under a dictatorial government you can be free inside.

 To admit that an opponent might be both honest and intelligent is felt to be intolerable. It is more immediately satisfying to shout that he is a fool or a scoundrel, or both, than to find out what he is really like.


 Looking at the world as a whole, the drift for many decades has been not towards anarchy but towards the reimposition of slavery.


 The whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish day-dream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge.


 Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.


 A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible.


 If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.


 Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.


Public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law.

Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen.

 …below a certain income the petty crowds the large out of existence; one’s preoccupation is not with art or religion, but with bad food, hard beds, drudgery and the sack.


 Serenity is impossible to a poor man in a cold country and even his active thoughts will go in more or less sterile complaint.


 Think of life as it really is, think of the details of life; and then think that there is no meaning in it, no purpose, no goal except the grave. Surely only fools or self-deceivers, or those whose lives are exceptionally fortunate, can face that thought without flinching?

A Clergyman’s Daughter, Ch. 2 (1935)


 It is a mysterious thing, the loss of faith-as mysterious as faith itself. Like faith, it is ultimately not rooted in logic; it is a change in the climate of the mind.

A Clergyman’s Daughter, Ch. 5

The fact is that you cannot help living in the manner appropriate and developing the ideology appropriate to your income.
The Road to Wigan Pier Diary 6-10 February (1936)

 One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) – Full text online

 War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.


 Every war, when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defence against a homicidal maniac.


 The essential job is to get people to recognise war propaganda when they see it, especially when it is disguised as peace propaganda.

Review of The Men I Killed by Brigadier-General F. P. Crozier, CB, CMG, DSO, in New Statesman and Nation (28 August 1937)

 One is almost driven to the cynical conclusion that men are only decent when they are powerless.

Review of The Freedom of the Streets by Jack Common, June 1938, pp. 335-6

 we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. It is not merely that at present the rule of naked force obtains almost everywhere. Probably that has always been the case. Where this age differs from those immediately preceding it is that a liberal intelligentsia is lacking.

 Bully-worship, under various disguises, has become a universal religion,


 Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.


Individual salvation implies liberty, which is always extended by Catholic writers to include the right to private property. But in the stage of industrial development which we have now reached, the right to private property means the right to exploit and torture millions of one’s fellow creatures.

 The past is a curious thing. It’s with you all the time. I suppose an hour never passeqs without your thinking of things that happened ten or twenty years ago, and yet most of the time it’s got no reality, it’s just a set of facts that you’ve learned, like a lot of stuff in a history book.

Then some chance sight or sound or smell, especially smell, sets you going, and the past doesn’t merely come back to you, you’re actually in the past.
Coming Up for Air, Part I, Ch. 4 (1939)

 It is not possible for any thinking person to live in such a society as our own without wanting to change it.

“Why I Joined the Independent Labour Party”, New Leader (24 June 1939)

 So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.

Inside the Whale (1940) [1]


 Dickens’s attitude is easily intelligible to an Englishman, because it is part of the English puritan tradition, which is not dead even at this day. The class Dickens belonged to, at least by adoption, was growing suddenly rich after a couple of centuries of obscurity. It had grown up mainly in the big towns, out of contact with agriculture, and politically impotent; government, in its experience, was something which either interfered or persecuted. Consequently it was a class with no tradition of public service and not much tradition of usefulness. What now strikes us as remarkable about the new moneyed class of the nineteenth century is their complete irresponsibility; they see everything in terms of individual success, with hardly any consciousness that the community exists.

“Charles Dickens” (1939)

 you can only create if you can care

A joke worth laughing at always has an idea behind it, and usually a subversive idea.


The thing that drove Dickens forward into a form of art for which he was not really suited, and at the same time caused us to remember him, was simply the fact that he was a moralist, the consciousness of ‘having something to say’. He is always preaching a sermon, and that is the final secret of his inventiveness. For you can only create if you can care. Types like Squeers and Micawber could not have been produced by a hack writer looking for something to be funny about. A joke worth laughing at always has an idea behind it, and usually a subversive idea. Dickens is able to go on being funny because he is in revolt against authority, and authority is always there to be laughed at.
“Charles Dickens” (1939)

 When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page. It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer. I feel this very strongly with Swift, with Defoe, with Fielding, Stendhal, Thackeray, Flaubert, though in several cases I do not know what these people looked like and do not want to know. What one sees is the face that the writer ought to have. Well, in the case of Dickens I see a face that is not quite the face of Dickens’s photographs, though it resembles it. It is the face of a man of about forty, with a small beard and a high colour. He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.

“Charles Dickens” (1939)

 The truth is that Dickens’s criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. Hence the utter lack of any constructive suggestion anywhere in his work.


He attacks the law, parliamentary government, the educational system and so forth, without ever clearly suggesting what he would put in their places. Of course it is not necessarily the business of a novelist, or a satirist, to make constructive suggestions, but the point is that Dickens’s attitude is at bottom not even destructive. There is no clear sign that he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that he believes it would make very much difference if it were overthrown.


For in reality his target is not so much society as ‘human nature’.


It would be difficult to point anywhere in his books to a passage suggesting that the economic system is wrong as a system.

“Charles Dickens” (1939)

I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his ‘message’, and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a ‘message’, whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it.


All art is propaganda.

not all propaganda is art. 


All art is propaganda. Neither Dickens himself nor the majority of Victorian novelists would have thought of denying this. On the other hand, not all propaganda is art. As I said earlier, Dickens is one of those writers who are felt to be worth stealing. He has been stolen by Marxists, by Catholics and, above all, by Conservatives. The question is, What is there to steal? Why does anyone care about Dickens? Why do I care about Dickens?
“Charles Dickens” (1939)


The outstanding, unmistakable mark of Dickens’s writing is the unnecessary detail.
“Charles Dickens” (1939)

We are in a strange period of history in which a revolutionary has to be a patriot and a patriot has to be a revolutionary.
Letter to The Tribune (20 December 1940), later published in A Patriot After All, 1940-1941 (1999)

 The wider course would be to say that there are certain lines along which humanity must move, the grand strategy is mapped out, but detailed prophecy is not our business. Whoever tries to imagine perfection simply reveals his own emptiness.

“Why Socialists Don’t Believe in Fun”, Tribune (20 December 1943)

 All the cults that have been fashionable in the last dozen years, Communism, Fascism, and pacifism, are in the last analysis forms of power worship.

“The English People” (written Spring 1944, published 1947)[3]

  •  Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war.
  • Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war.
There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.

Review of The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek and The Mirror of the Past by K. Zilliacus, reviewed in The Observer (9 April 1944).


Most of them [British inteligencia] are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side.

Letter to H. J. Wilmett (18 May 1944), published in The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell: As I Please, 1943-1945 (2000),


 Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.

“Benefit Of Clergy: Some Notes On Salvador Dalí,” Dickens, Dali & Others: Studies in Popular Culture (1944) [5]


 …tanks, battleships and bombing planes are inherently tyrannical weapons, while rifles, muskets, long-bows, and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while

a simple weapon — so long as there is no answer to it — gives claws to the weak.

“You and the Atom Bomb”, Tribune (19 October 1945)

the social structure that would probably prevail in a state which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of “cold war” with its neighbors.

Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralised police state.


[Atomic weapons or weapons of mass destruction are likely]…to put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a “peace that is no peace.”


Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.
“Revenge is Sour”, Tribune (9 November 1945)

Only the minority of sadists, who must have their “atrocities” from one source or another, take a keen interest in the hunting-down of war criminals and quislings.

“Revenge is Sour”, Tribune (9 November 1945)


Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country.


 The relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection.

even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.

“Freedom of the Park”, Tribune (7 December 1945)


The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.


If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion.


Sometimes paraphrased as “Liberty is telling people what they do not want to hear.”
The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

“In Front of Your Nose”, Tribune (22 March 1946)


…if we kill all pleasure in the actual process of life, what sort of future are we preparing for ourselves? If a man cannot enjoy the return of spring, why should he be happy in a labour-saving Utopia? What will he do with the leisure that the machine will give him?

“Some Thoughts on the Common Toad”, Tribune (12 April 1946)


The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.

“Some Thoughts on the Common Toad,” Tribune (12 April 1946, page 10, last paragraph)


In a Society in which there is no law, and in theory no compulsion, the only arbiter of behaviour is public opinion


…public opinion, because of the tremendous urge to conformity in gregarious animals, is less tolerant than any system of law.


 When human beings are governed by “thou shalt not”, the individual can practise a certain amount of eccentricity: when they are supposedly governed by “love” or “reason”, he is under continuous pressure to make him behave and think in exactly the same way as everyone else.A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.

“Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool,” Polemic (March 1947) – Full text online]


 If you turn the other cheek, you will get a harder blow on it than you got on the first one. This does not always happen, but it is to be expected, and you ought not to complain if it does happen. The second blow is, so to speak, part of the act of turning the other cheek. First of all, therefore, there is the vulgar, common-sense moral drawn by the Fool: “Don’t relinquish power, don’t give away your lands.” But there is also another moral. Shakespeare never utters it in so many words, and it does not very much matter whether he was fully aware of it. It is contained in the story, which, after all, he made up, or altered to suit his purposes. It is: “Give away your lands if you want to, but don’t expect to gain happiness by doing so. Probably you won’t gain happiness. If you live for others, you must live for others, and not as a roundabout way of getting an advantage for yourself.”

“Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool,” Polemic (March 1947)


…if you have embraced a creed which appears to be free from the ordinary dirtiness of politics — a creed from which you yourself cannot expect to draw any material advantage — surely that proves that you are in the right? And the more you are in the right, the more natural that everyone else should be bullied into thinking likewise.

“Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool,” Polemic (March 1947)


No one can look back on his schooldays and say with truth that they were altogether unhappy.

“Such, Such Were The Joys” (May 1947); published in Partisan Review (September/October 1952)


It is difficult for a statesman who still has a political future to reveal everything that he knows: and in a profession in which one is a baby at 50 and middle-aged at seventy-five…


At present I do not feel I have seen more than the fringe of poverty.

The Paris slums are a gathering-place for eccentric people — people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life and given up trying to be normal or decent. Poverty frees them from normal standards of behaviour, just as money frees people from work. Some of the lodgers in our hotel lived lives that were curious beyond words.

Ch. 1


Poverty is what I am writing about, and I had my first contact with poverty in this slum. The slum, with its dirt and its queer lives, was first an object-lesson in poverty, and then the background of my own experiences.


in reality car en realite, what is the duration of the supreme moment of love? It is nothing, an instant, a second perhaps. A second of ecstasy, and after that- dust, ashes, nothingness.”

Ch. 2, Charlie


For, when you are approaching poverty, you make one discovery which outweighs some of the others. You discover boredom and mean complications and the beginnings of hunger, but you also discover the great redeeming feature of poverty: the fact that it annihilates the future. Within certain limits, it is actually true that the less money you have, the less you worry…three francs will feed you till tomorrow, and you cannot think further than that. You are bored, but you are not afraid. You think vaguely, ‘I shall be starving in a day or two–shocking, isn’t it?’ And then the mind wanders to other topics. A bread and margarine diet does, to some extent, provide its own anodyne…

You have talked so often of going to the dogs–and well, here are the dogs, and you have reached them, and you can stand it. It takes off a lot of anxiety.

Ch. 3


Hunger reduces one to an utterly spineless, brainless condition, more like the after-effects of influenza than anything else.


It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.

Ch. 9; a remark by Boris

 On the whole, the two hours when one was perfectly and wildly happy seemed worth the subsequent headache. For many men in the quarter, unmarried and with no future to think of, the weekly drinking-bout was the one thing that made life worth living.

Ch. 17


Being a beggar, he said, was not his fault, and he refused either to have any compunction about it or to let it trouble him. He was the enemy of society, and quite ready to take to crime if he saw a good opportunity.


 He refused on principle to be thrifty.
  • In the summer he saved nothing, spending his surplus earnings on drink,as he did not care about women.
  • If he was penniless when winter came on, then society must look after him.
  • He was ready to extract every penny he could from charity, provided that he was not expected to say thank you for it.
  • He avoided religious charities, however, for he said it stuck in his throat to sing hymns for buns. He had various other points of honour; for instance,
  • it was his boast that never in his life, even when starving, had he picked up a cigarette end.
  • He considered himself in a class above the ordinary run of beggars, who, he said, were an abject lot, without even the decency to be ungrateful.

On “Bozo”, in Ch. 30


He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him), and took a sort of pleasure in thinking that human affairs would never improve.


Sometimes, he said, when sleeping on the Embankment, it had consoled him to look up at Mars or Jupiter and think that there were probably Embankment sleepers there. He had a curious theory about this. Life on earth, he said, is harsh because the planet is poor in the necessities of existence. Mars, with its cold climate and scanty water, must be far poorer, and life correspondingly harsher. Whereas on earth you are merely imprisoned for stealing sixpence, on Mars you are probably boiled alive. This thought cheered Bozo, I do not know why. He was a very exceptional man.

Ch. 30


 A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, bronchitis etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course — but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless.

He seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what should justify him according to our ethical ideas, he pays for it over and over in suffering.

Ch. 31


A word becomes an oath
because it means a certain thing,
and, because it has become an oath,
it ceases to mean that thing.
Ch. 32

 A word becomes an oath because it means a certain thing, and, because it has become an oath, it ceases to mean that thing.


It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level.

Ch. 33


I shall never again think that all tramps are drunken scoundrels, nor expect a beggar to be grateful when I give him a penny, nor be surprised if men out of work lack energy, nor subscribe to the Salvation Army, nor pawn my clothes, nor refuse a handbill, nor enjoy a meal at a smart restaurant. That is a beginning.

Ch. 38
Burmese Days (1934)Edit


It is one of the tragedies of the half-educated that they develop late, when they are already committed to some wrong way of life.

Ch. V


Envy is a horrible thing. It is unlike all other kinds of suffering in that there is no disguising it, no elevating it into tragedy. It is more than merely painful, it is disgusting.

Ch. XX

Envy is a horrible thing. It is unlike all other kinds of suffering in that there is no disguising it, no elevating it into tragedy. It is more than merely painful, it is disgusting.

Ch. XX


 If you have no money, men won’t care for you, women won’t love you; won’t, that is, care for you or love you the last little bit that

matters.


He had reached the age when the future ceases to be a rosy blur and becomes actual and menacing.
Ch. 3

 This life we live nowadays! It’s not life, it’s stagnation, death-in-life. Look at all these bloody houses, and the meaningless people inside them! Sometimes I think we’re all corpses. Just rotting upright.

Ch. 5


Take a cock pheasant, for example. He jumps up on the hen’s backs without so much as a with your leave or by your leave. And no sooner is it over than the whole subject is out of his mind. He hardly even notices his hens any longer; he ignores them, or simply pecks them if they come too near his food. He is not called upon to support his offspring, either. Lucky pheasant! How different from the lord of creation, always on the hop between his memory and his conscience

Ch. 6


He liked to think of the lost people, the under-ground people: tramps, beggars, criminals, prostitutes. It is a good world that they inhabit, down there in their frowzy kips and spikes. He liked to think that beneath the world of money there is that great sluttish underworld where failure and success have no meaning; a sort of kingdom of ghosts where all are equal.


That was where he wished to be, down in the ghost-kingdom, below ambition.


Many of the normal motives of civilized life–snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.–had simply ceased to exist. The ordinary class-division of society had disappeared to an extent that is almost unthinkable in the money-tainted air of England; there was no one there except the peasants and ourselves, and no one owned anyone else as his master. Of course such a state of affairs could not last. It was simply a temporary and local phase in an enormous game that is being played over the whole surface of the earth.


However much one cursed at the time, one realized afterwards that one had been in contact with something strange and valuable. One had been in a community where hope was more normal than apathy or cynicism, where the word ‘comrade’ stood for comradeship and not, as in most countries, for humbug. One had breathed the air of equality.


The thing that attracts ordinary men to Socialism and makes them willing to risk their skins for it, the ‘mystique’ of Socialism, is the idea of equality…


One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty…at certain levels of civilization it does not exist, but as a positive force there is nothing to set beside it. Christianity and international Socialism are as weak as straw in comparison with it. Hitler and Mussolini rose to power in their own countries very largely because they could grasp this fact and their opponents could not.

The Lion and the Unicorn (1941), Part I: England Your England


[A] world in which it is wrong to murder an individual civilian and right to drop a thousand tons of high explosive on a residential area does sometimes make me wonder whether this earth of ours is not a loony bin made use of by some other planet.


Is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion a genuine document?  Did Trotsky plot with the Nazis?  How many German aeroplanes were shot down in the Battle of Britain?  Does Europe welcome the New Order?  In no case do you get one answer which is universally accepted because it is true: in each case you get a number of totally incompatible answers, one of which is finally adopted as the result of a physical struggle.

   History is written by the winners.


The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits ‘atrocities’ but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future.

“As I Please,” Tribune (4 February 1944)[8]


Ideas may not change, but emphasis shifts constantly. It could be claimed, for example, that the most important part of Marx’s theory is contained in the saying: ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ But before Marx developed it, what force had that saying had? Who had paid any attention to it? Who had inferred from it — what it certainly implies — that laws, religions and moral codes are all a superstructure built over existing property relations?

1944)

In the nineteenth century some parts of the world were unexplored, but there was almost no restriction on travel.  Up to 1914 you did not need a passport for any country except Russia.  The European emigrant, if he could scrape together a few pounds for the passage, simply set sail for America or Australia, and when he got there no questions were asked.


from about 1600 to 1850, the land-grabbers did not even have the excuse of being foreign conquerors; they were quite frankly taking the heritage of their own countrymen, upon no sort of pretext except that they had the power to do so.[19]


I saw great battles reported where there had been no fighting, and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who had never seen a shot fired hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines’.
§ 4


Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.


By “nationalism” I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled “good” or “bad.” But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.


one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people.


 Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.


Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception.

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.


Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.


PACIFIST. Those who “abjure” violence can only do so because others are committing violence on their behalf.


I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution.


There is no crime, absolutely none, that cannot be condoned when 'our' side commits it.
"The Prevention of Literature" (1946)Edit
Published in Polemic (January 1946); Full text online – alternate site

Wikiquote Hannah Arendt Jewish-American political theorist quotes



https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt#Quotes


Man cannot be free if he does not know that he is subject to necessity, because his freedom is always won in his never wholly successful attempts to liberate himself from
necessity.


warmth, and their humanity, are well-known characteristics of all oppressed people. They grow out of suffering and they are the proudest possession of all pariahs.


Hatred and love belong together, and they are both destructive; you can afford them only in private and, as a people, only so long as you are not free.
Letter to James Baldwin (21 November 1962).


 Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.
On Revolution (1963), ch. 2.


The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.
The New Yorker (12 September 1970).

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil,

The Life of the Mind (1978), “Thinking”

The cultural treasures of the past, believed to be dead, are being made to speak, in the course of which it turns out that they propose things altogether different than what had been thought.
“Martin Heidegger at Eighty,” in Heidegger and Modern Philosophy: Critical Essays (1978) by Michael Murray, p. 294.

 In its flight from death, the craving for permanence clings to the very things sure to be lost in death.

p. 17
The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)Edit

…to turn our backs on the destructive forces of the century is of little avail.

The trouble is that our period has so strangely intertwined the good with the bad that without the imperialists’ “expansion for expansion’s sake,” the world might never have become one; without the bourgeoisie’s political device of “power for power’s sake,” the extent of human strength might never have been discovered; without the fictitious world of totalitarian movements, in which with unparalleled clarity the essential uncertainties of our time have been spelled out, we might have been driven to our doom without ever becoming aware of what has been happening.
And if it is true that in the final stages of totalitarianism an absolute evil appears (absolute because it can no longer be deduced from humanly comprehensible motives), it is also true that without it we might never have known the truly radical nature of Evil.
Preface to the first edition, written in the summer of 1950.

 What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one.


In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. […]


Persecution of powerless or power-losing groups may not be a very pleasant spectacle, but it does not spring from human meanness alone. What makes men obey or tolerate real power and, on the other hand, hate people who have wealth without power, is the rational instinct that power has a certain function and is of some general use.


…exploitation and oppression still make society work and establish some kind of order. Only wealth without power or aloofness without a policy are felt to be parasitical, useless, revolting, because such conditions cut all the threads which tie men together.


Wealth which does not exploit lacks even the relationship which exists between exploiter and exploited; aloofness without policy does not imply even the minimum concern of the oppressor for the oppressed.
Part 1, Ch. 1, § 1.


A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses.

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible, world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything is possible and that nothing was true.

The mixture in itself was remarkable enough, because it spelled the end of the illusion that gullibility was a weakness of unsuspecting primitive souls and cynism the vice of superior and refined minds.

Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the
most fantastic statements one day, and trust if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.
Part 3, Ch. 2 The Totalitarian Movement, page 80


The Nazis were ‘convinced that evil-doing in our time has a morbid force of attraction,’


experience has proven time and again that the propaganda value of evil deeds and general contempt for moral standards is independent of mere self-interest, supposedly the most powerful psychological factor in politics.
Part 3, Ch. 1 § 1.

 The totalitarian movements aim at and succeed in organizing masses—not classes,


The only man for whom Hitler had ‘unqualified respect’ was ‘Stalin the genius’


…Stalin trusted only one man and that was Hitler.
Part 3, Ch. 1 § 1.

 What will happen once the authentic mass man takes over, we do not know yet, although it may be a fair guess that he will have more in common with the meticulous, calculated correctness of Himmler than with the hysterical fanaticism of Hitler,


The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous (making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive), robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life.

The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous (making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive), robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life.
In a sense they took away the individual’s own death, proving that henceforth nothing belonged to him and he belonged to no one.

His death merely set a seal on the fact that he had never existed.

Part 3, Ch. 12, § 3.

The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.
Part 3, Ch. 13, § 3.

Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963)Edit
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963)

 [H]e was genuinely incapable of uttering a single sentence that was not a cliché.[…]


 (when he did succeed in constructing a sentence of his own, he repeated it until it became a cliché)


The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely to think from the standpoint of somebody else.

 No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against the words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.

Ch. III.

What stuck in the minds of these men who had become murderers was simply the notion of being involved in something historic, grandiose, unique (“a great task that occurs once in two thousand years”),

The troops of the Einsatzgruppen had been drafted from the Armed S.S., a military unit with hardly more crimes in its record than any ordinary unit of the German Army, and their commanders had been chosen by Heydrich from the S.S. élite with academic degrees. Hence the problem was how to overcome not so much their conscience as the animal pity by which all normal men are affected in the presence of physical suffering. The trick used by Himmler … consisted in turning these instincts around, as it were, in directing them toward the self. So that instead of saying: What horrible things I did to people!, the murderers would be able to say: What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!
Ch. VI.

 “How was it possible that all of you honorable generals could continue to serve a murderer with such unquestioning loyalty?,” replied that it was “not the task of a soldier to act as judge over his supreme commander. Let history do that or God in Heaven.”

Ch. VIII.

 Eichmann, much less intelligent and without any education to speak of, at least dimly realized that it was not an order but a law which had turned them all into criminals.


 The distinction between an order and the Führer’s word was that the latter’s validity was not limited in time and space, which is the outstanding characteristic of the former. This is also the true reason why the Führer’s order for the Final Solution was followed by a huge shower of regulations and directives, all drafted by expert lawyers and legal advisors, not by mere administrators; this order, in contrast to ordinary orders, was treated as a law.

 …the resulting legal paraphernalia, far from being a mere symptom of German pedantry and thoroughness, served most effectively to give the whole business its outward appearance of legality.


…just as the law in civilized countries assumes that the voice of conscience tells everybody, “Thou shalt not kill,” even though man’s natural desires and inclinations may at times be murderous, so the law of Hitler’s land demanded that the voice of conscience tell everybody: “Thou shalt kill,”


…although the organizers of the massacres knew full well that murder is against the normal desires and inclinations of most people. Evil in the Third Reich had lost the quality by which most people recognize it — the quality of temptation.


under conditions of terror, most people will comply but some people will not, just as the lesson of the countries to which the Final Solution was proposed is that “it could happen” in most places but it did not happen everywhere.


Humanly speaking, no more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation.
Ch. XIV.

…the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.


 From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it implied — as had been said at Nuremberg over and over again by the defendants and their counsels — that this new type of criminal, who is in actual fact hostis generis humani, commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong.


No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes. On the contrary, whatever the punishment, once a specific crime has appeared for the first time, its reappearance is more likely than its initial emergence could ever have been.
Epilogue.
Crises of the Republic (1969)Edit

 The chief reason warfare is still with us is neither a secret death-wish of the human species, nor an irrepressible instinct of aggression, nor, finally and more plausibly, the serious economic and social dangers inherent in disarmament, but the simple fact that no substitute for this final arbiter in international affairs has yet appeared on the political scene.

“On Violence”.

The point, as Marx saw it, is that dreams never come true.
“On Violence”.

Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance.
“On Violence”.

 The defiance of established authority, religious and secular, social and political, as a world-wide phenomenon may well one day be accounted the outstanding event of the last decade.

“Civil Disobedience”.

Man’s urge for change and his need for stability have always balanced and checked each other,

Foremost among the stabilizing factors, more enduring than customs, manners and traditions, are the legal systems that regulate our life in the world and our daily affairs with each other.
“Civil Disobedience”.

Revolutionaries do not make revolutions! The revolutionaries are those who know when power is lying in the street and when they can pick it up.

 For the trouble with lying and decieving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide.


 truth, even if it does not prevail in public, possesses an ineradicable primacy over all falsehoods.

“Lying in Politics”
The Life of the Mind (1971/1978)Edit
( Hannah ARENDT, 1978, The Life of the Mind, New York, Harcourt )


 Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality.

p. 4.

Could the activity of thinking as such, the habit of examining whatever happens to come to pass or to attract attention, regardless of results and specific content, could this activity be among the conditions that make men abstain from evil-doing?
p. 5.

 Kant … discovered “the scandal of reason,” that is the fact that our mind is not capable of certain and verifiable knowledge regarding matters and questions that it nevertheless cannot help thinking about.

p. 14.


…reason and intellect, coincides with a distinction between two altogether different mental activities, thinking and knowing.
p. 14.


 Kant stated defensively that he had “found it necessary to deny knowledge. . . to make room for faith,” but he had not made room for faith; he had made room for thought, and he had not “denied knowledge” but separated knowledge from thinking.

p. 14.

 The need of reason is not inspired by the quest for truth but by the quest for meaning.


 “inside we are all alike,” just as the science of physiology and medicine relies on the sameness of our inner organs. […]


 […]the simple-minded positivism that believes it has found a firm ground of certainty if it only excludes all mental phenomena from consideration and holds fast to observable facts.

p. 39.

…the paradoxical condition of a living being that, though itself part of the world of appearances, is in possession of a faculty, the ability to think, that permits the mind to withdraw from the world without ever being able to leave it or transcend it.

p. 45.

 …the only relevant question is whether the semblances are inauthentic or authentic ones, whether they are caused by dogmatic beliefs and arbitrary assumptions, mere mirages that disappear upon closer inspection, or whether they are inherent in

the paradoxical condition of a living being that, though itself part of the world of appearances, is in possession of a faculty, the ability to think, that permits the mind to withdraw from the world without ever being able to leave it or transcend it.
p. 45.

 To expect truth to come from thinking signifies that we mistake the need to think with the urge to know.

p. 61.

 Kant […] stated that he had “found it necessary to deny knowledge […] to make room for faith,” but all he had “denied” was knowledge of things that are unknowable, and he had not made room for faith but for thought.

p. 63.


 Since it is always the same person whose mind thinks, wills, and judges, the autonomous nature of these activities has created great difficulties.


The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen.


What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed.

Source: Hannah Arendt: From an Interview. Comments made in 1974

 Totalitarianism begins in contempt for what you have.

  “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.


Totalitarianism appeals to the very dangerous emotional needs of people who live in complete isolation and in fear of one another.

 If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer.



lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history.

On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind.
It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.


The main characteristic of any event is that it has not been foreseen.

We don’t know the future but everybody acts into the future.

 What actually happens is entirely contingent, and contingency is indeed one of the biggest factors in all history.

after the experience of Auschwitz it looks as though all of history—or at least history since the Middle Ages — had no other aim than Auschwitz…. This, is the real problem of every philosophy of history how is it possible that in retrospect it always looks as though it couldn’t have happened otherwise?

the truly radical nature of Evil.


…to turn our backs on the destructive forces of the century is of little avail.

The trouble is that our period has so strangely intertwined the good with the bad that
  • without the imperialists’
“expansion for expansion’s sake,” the world might never have become one;
  • without the bourgeoisie’s political device of “power for power’s sake,” the extent of human strength might never have been discovered;
  • without the fictitious world of totalitarian movements, in which with unparalleled clarity the essential uncertainties of our time have been spelled out, we might have been driven to our doom without ever becoming aware of what has been happening.

    And if it is true that in the final stages of totalitarianism an absolute evil appears (absolute because it can no longer be deduced from humanly comprehensible motives), it is also true that without it we might never have known the truly radical nature of Evil.

  • -Hannah Arendt
Preface to the first edition, written in the summer of 1950.