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Choice Words

Posts tagged politics:

To write in plain vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.

—George Orwell, “The Prevention of Literature

We do not get to vote on who owns what, or on relations in factory and so on, for all this is deemed beyond the sphere of the political, and it is illusory to expect that one can actually change things by “extending” democracy to ple’s control. Radical changes in this domain should be made outside the sphere of legal “rights”, etcetera: no matter how radical our anti-capitalism, unless this is understood, the solution sought will involve applying democratic mechanisms (which, of course, can have a positive role to play)- mechanisms, one should never forget, which are themselves part of the apparatus of the “bourgeois” state that guarantees the undisturbed functioning of capitalist reproduction. In this precise sense, Badiou hit the mark with his apparently wired claim that “Today, the enemy is not called Empire or Capital. It’s called Democracy.” it is the “democratic illusion” the acceptance of democratic procedures as the sole framework for any possible change, that blocks any radical transformation of capitalist relations.

—Slavoj Žižek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously

I am against bigness and greatness in all their forms, and with the invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, stealing in through the crannies of the world like so many soft rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, and yet rending the hardest monuments of man’s pride, if you give them time. The bigger the unit you deal with, the hollower, the more brutal, the more mendacious is the life displayed. So I am against all big organizations as such, national ones first and foremost; against all big successes and big results; and in favor of the eternal forces of truth which always work in the individual and immediately unsuccessful way, under-dogs always, till history comes, after they are long dead, and puts them on top.

—William James

(Source: experimentaltheology.blogspot.fr)

Science fiction lends itself readily to imaginative subversion of any status quo. Bureaucrats and politicians, who can’t afford to cultivate their imaginations, tend to assume it’s all ray-guns and nonsense, good for children. A writer may have to be as blatantly critical of utopia as Zamyatin in We to bring the censor down upon him. The Strugatsky brothers were not blatant, and never … directly critical of their government’s policies. What they did, which I find most admirable then and still do now, was to write as if they were indifferent to ideology—something many of us writers in the Western democracies had a hard time doing. They wrote as free men write.

—Ursula K. Le Guin, forward to Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

On voit que Rassi était à peu près l’homme parfait à la cour : sans honneur et sans humeur.

—Stendhal, La Chartreuse de Parme

Reading aloud is, like breastfeeding, ever the policy-maker’s friend: they take all these cohort studies that show wealthy kids doing better than poor ones, and they ask themselves not “How shall we redistribute wealth?”, but rather “How can we persuade the poor to replicate the behaviour of the wealthy?”. Framed like that, it’s easy. You just tell them; they ignore you; they fail to reap the benefits supplied by your superior parenting role-model, but now it’s not your fault, it’s their own. Job done.

—Zoe Williams, “David Cameron’s reading to children speech: between the lines.” The Guardian Books Blog. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2012/jan/19/david-cameron-reading-children-speech

When high office is bestowed on unworthy men, so far from making them worthy, it only betrays them and reveals their unworthiness.

—Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

En politique et dans la vie, il s’agit souvent d’éviter des malheurs.

—Herman Van Rompuy, Le Monde

…torture has perhaps saved some at the expense of honour, by uncovering thirty bombs, but at the same time it has created fifty new terrorists who, operating in some other way and in other place, would cause the death of even more innocent people.

—Albert Camus qtd. by Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962

France was back in a self-critical and hopeless mood, which expressed itself (as I had known so well in de Gaulle’s time) by being as tiresome as possible to everyone else.

—British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan qtd. by Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962.