Quotes

Time for our monthly selection of amusing, interesting and thought-provoking quotes.

Strong espresso drinks are all that stand between us and total creative defeat.
Hari Kunzru

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
Charles Darwin; The Descent of Man (1871)

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenceless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgement simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
Dietrich Sonhoeffen (1906-1945) “On Stupidity” in Letters and Papers from Prison

What a society chooses to allow of female toplessness, as with art, speaks volumes. It is entirely possible to see how a society’s rules governing access to women’s bodies continue, ultimately, to be rules governing what is considered a male property right. There are constant contestations over breastfeeding in public, toplessness on beaches, bare breasted political protesting, and what constitutes obscenity and pornography. In mainstream views and in social media, for example, female toplessness is largely prohibited, while barely camouflaged sexually objectifying pornography, that prioritizes male sexual pleasure, is not.
Soraya Chemaly, from the Foreword to Bare Reality.

There comes a time in life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is part of life, getting back up is living.
Unknown

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
Martin Luther King, A Testament of Hope

No person who can read is ever successful at cleaning out an attic.
Ann Landers

One of Joyce’s most valuable bequests to writers is that none of them ever need to write a novel like Ulysses again; a benefaction unhappily sometimes disregarded, especially in the US. One feels that Joyce, even if pretty able, is not quite in the Proust, Dostoevsky, even Balzac, class; useful to be learnt from, but not to be imitated … His obsession with himself, paying a good dividend in certain respects, was a handicap in others, narrowing the sphere of vision. As regards the novel itself, one wishes the Brothel scene was done in the same manner as the Martello Tower. I feel certain Joyce simply found himself unable to bring that off, falling back faute de mieux on ‘experimental’ methods, not because those really gave a better picture. Perhaps it might be argued this stuck closer to the Ulysses myth.
Anthony Powell, Journals 1982-1986, 20 June 1986
With thanks to Peter Kislinger

You can outsource anything you like folks, but you cannot outsource the responsibility or the liabilities.
Unknown

Terrorists want people to fear. Demagogues [eg. Trump] encourage fear. Great leaders like FDR say, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Lawrence M Krauss

It is hardest to talk about civil rights after an atrocity. To many people it feels beside the point, or even part of the problem. People are in no mood for “niceties”, for giving terrorists the liberties which they seem hell bent on destroying. These are the danger times. Human rights, civil liberties – whatever you want to call them – are designed for times like this. They are a moral check list. An insurance policy against our worst natures. Because at times like this, when the world is fearful and trust is in short supply, we need to remember that our judgement in the better times was sound … human rights have a lot to offer in this conversation. Not least because as lucid as we feel after a terrorist attack, the policy responses which emerge from the aftermath may simply be wrong.
Barrister Adam Wagner; Rights Information; 5 June 2017

Regulations (and the removal of regulations) are not ends in themselves.
A regulation is there to provide that outcomes will be (are are likely to be) different from what they would be, *but for* the regulation.
Certain bad outcomes can be avoided; certain public goods and public benefits can be achieved. In both cases, individuals would not be able to do this for themselves without the regulation.

David Allen Green at Jack of Kent blog

What, if anything, can be done to prevent further terrorist attacks in the UK? There is a dearth of sensible ideas but no shortage of suggestions from the nation’s politicians and columnists. UK prime minister Theresa May characterised last week’s atrocity as an attack on the UK’s liberal values, and suggested the nation could more expediently resolve this conflict by further abandoning those very same values.
May called for more to be done to make online communications less secure, echoing predecessor David Cameron’s sentiment that there should be no form of communication that the government cannot intercept.
While this strategy would effectively destroy the safe operation of the UK’s digital infrastructure, it does mean we can look forward to an end to religious strife, as gods of all denominations would be sidelined by an all-knowing state. At the pearly gates, British citizens could anticipate being met by a minister clutching their internet search history and a disapproving glare.

“Feedback”; New Scientist; 17 June 2017

Clothes largely cut off the experience of pleasurable sensations of the skin. Natural skin sensation, the play of air, sun, and wind upon the body, can be very pleasurable … The nudist movement almost certainly reflects the desire for more freedom of communication through the skin.
Ashley Montagu, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin

And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy, you may find in them a harness and a chain. Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your body and less of your raiment, for the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.
Khalil Gibran