It is human nature to have culture…. We can’t rely on our instincts; we need an instruction manual. And culture is the manual.
Only we can tell us how to live. There is nothing to prevent us from deciding that the goal of life should be to be as unnatural as possible. “Human nature” is just another looking glass.
from “The Looking Glass,” Louis Menand, The New Yorker, Aug 26. 2019, p. 86
What Ails the Right Isn’t (Just) Racism,
“parading, talking about, and applauding our sameness” seems wise when possible.
“showy celebration of an absolute insistence upon individual autonomy and unconstrained diversity pushes those by nature least equipped to live comfortably in a liberal democracy not to the limits of their tolerance, but to their intolerant extremes.”
By Adam Gopnik
The New Yorker, 9/2/2018
If there is to be a lesson taken from the literature of espionage, it is that the surfaces we see generally have the greatest significance, and the most obvious-seeming truths about other countries’ plans and motives are usually more predictive than the sharpest guesses at hidden ones. A corollary of this truth is that the best way to project power is not to do wrong secretly but to do good openly. How intelligent is national intelligence? Why, exactly as smart as we are. It’s a terrifying thought.
How do you make democracy with an undemocratic people?
–From the documentary, What is Democracy?, Astra Taylor
‘It’s easy to fool people when they’re already fooling themselves.’ – Quentin Beck (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
‘People, they need to believe. And nowadays, they’ll believe anything.’ – Quentin Beck (Spider-Man: Far From Home)
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.
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. In Germany, Goethe, Schiller, and Lessing 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.”
In the next century, Diderot was admired by Balzac, Delacroix, Stendhal, Zola, and Schopenhauer. According to Comte, Diderot was the foremost intellectual in an exciting age. 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.”
…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
“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
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.
“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.