Denis Diderot

I do not flatter myself into thinking that, when the great revolution comes, my name will still survive…. This feeble work [the History of the Two Indies], whose sole merit will be to have inspired better books, will undoubtedly be forgotten. But at least I will be able to tell myself that I contributed as much as possible to the happiness of my fellow men, and prepared, perhaps from afar, the improvement of their lot. This sweet thought will for me take the place of glory. It will be the charm of my old age and the consolation of my final moment.
–Denis Diderot

From Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely, by Andrew S. Curran



From the wikipedia:

Diderot’s contemporary, and rival, Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote in his Confessions that after a few centuries Diderot would be accorded as much respect by posterity as was given to Plato and Aristotle.[70] In Germany, GoetheSchiller, and Lessing[72] expressed admiration for Diderot’s writings, Goethe pronouncing Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew to be “the classical work of an outstanding man” and that “Diderot is Diderot, a unique individual; whoever carps at him and his affairs is a philistine.”[45][73]

In the next century, Diderot was admired by BalzacDelacroixStendhalZola, and Schopenhauer.[74] According to Comte, Diderot was the foremost intellectual in an exciting age.[75] Historian Michelet described him as “the true Prometheus” and stated that Diderot’s ideas would continue to remain influential long into the future. Marx chose Diderot as his “favourite prose-writer.”[76]


…the distribution of resources is often portrayed as a zero-sum game. There is only so much money to go around…. The situation is ripe for a politics of resentment…. People regularly view politics in terms of opposition to other social groups….

from The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker, by Katherine J. Cramer

Status Anxiety

“Populist movements, Bell believed, are a response to the anxieties of what Hofstadter had called “status politics,” or the uncertainty generated by the fact that in America, you can never be sure where you really stand in the social hierarchy. In this sense, the curse of populism is intimately connected to the blessings of social mobility. It is because we lack firm status positions that status becomes so important in our politics.”

From The Politics of Petulance: America in an Age of Immaturity, by Alan Wolfe. p. 48

By DeRay Mckesson

From On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope, By DeRay Mckesson:

There was a time when I believed that racism was rooted in self-interest or economics — the notion that white supremacy emerged as a set of ideas to codify practices rooted in profit. I now believe that the foundation of white supremacy rests in a preoccupation with dominance at the expense of others, and that the self-interest and economic benefits are a result, not a reason or cause. I believe this because of the way that white supremacy still proliferates in contexts where there is no self-interest other than the maintenance of power.  I have seen it hold sway even in contexts where it does not materially benefit the white people who hold the beliefs.

p. 30

James Baldwin (1985)

“The present social and political apparatus cannot serve the human need…. In the United States the idea of community scarcely means anything anymore, except among the submerged, the Native American, the Mexican, the Puerto Rican, the Black.” 

From “The Evidence of Things Not Seen” (1985) by James Baldwin

Quoted in “James Baldwin: Pessimist, Optimist, Hero” by
By Holland Cotter
The literary figure is the glowing subject of a group exhibition, curated by the New Yorker critic Hilton Als, that is part personal narrative, part study of his influence on contemporary artists.

Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

Gandhi and King on Nonviolence

Mahatma Gandhi
VinothChandar / Foter / CC BY

A nonviolent revolution is not a program for the seizure of power. It is a program for the transformation of relationships ending in a peaceful transfer of power.
MOHANDAS K. GANDHI, 1942, Gandhi on Non-Violence, 1, ed. Thomas Merton, 1964

A nonviolent system of government is clearly an impossibility so long as the wide gulf between the rich and the hungry millions persists…. A violent and bloody revolution is a certainty one day unless there is a voluntary abdication of riches and the power that riches give, and a sharing of them for the common good.
MOHANDAS K. GANDHI, Constructive Program: Its Meaning and Place, 13, 1945

The nonviolent approach does not immediately change the heart of the oppressor. It first does something to the hearts and souls of those committed to it. It gives them new self-respect; it calls up resources of strength and courage that they did not know they had. Finally it reaches the opponent and so stirs his conscience that reconciliation becomes a reality.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Stride Toward Freedom, 11, 1958

The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the beloved community.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Stride Toward Freedom, 11, 1958

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: (1) collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, (2) negotiation, (3) self-purification, and (4) direct action.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” 16 April 1963

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Nobel Peace Prize acceptance address, Oslo, 11 December 1964

Cornel West Quotes

Cornel_West_2QUOTES FROM CORNEL WEST, talk, New York Catholic Worker, 8 November 2013, “The Legacy of Dorothy Day,” Catholic Agitator, February 2014

When you think of Dorothy Day, you think of love overflowing.

It takes courage to be a nonconformist, to be willing to be a witness to something grander than one’s self.

In the end, love will have the last word for Dorothy Day, because she was, in fact, a woman not just of faith, but a sister of what we in the black Baptist tradition call “thick faith.” We have many folk in the pew that have faith, but I am talking about the ones that have that thick faith, the ones that go all the way down.

We can love our enemies. It does not matter what our enemies are doing at the moment. Their deeds do not fully define their humanity; they can change in the same way you have changed in your own lives. You do not want to be frozen in any particular moment that definitely defines you. I know I was a gangster before I met Jesus, and the best I will ever be is a redeemed sinner with gangster proclivities and gangster memories, hence the need for grace to fall back on something that can sustain me.

Why is it we have a criminal justice system that cannot manage to put one Wall Street executive in jail after massive criminality, insider trading, market manipulation, fraudulent accounting across the board. And why is it when they are caught they are asked, “Hey JP Morgan, what do you want? Thirteen billion [dollars]?” They get huge tax write offs and no one taking personal responsibility. And yet, this is the same ruling class, with major ideologues representing its interests, saying to poor people, “When you make bad choices you must have personal responsibility; pull yourself up by your own boot-straps.” They do not believe in bailouts for the poor, yet when they [i.e., the financiers] get in trouble, its $767 billion with $85 billion [more] every month for over two and a half years…. And we wonder why it is that we are wrestling with such cultural decay, especially for our young people. [slightly modified]

The heroes are usually holy fools, the question is, can we be holy fools against worldly indifference and callousness? To be a holy fool is to be on fire with a love committed to justice. In any historical moment, when there are enough holy fools on fire, that fire can spread like a prairie fire and affect others, become contagious, shatter their sleepwalking, wake them up, and let them straighten their backs and stand up for justice.