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.

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.

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


Welcome to our monthly collection of quotes which have amused, interested or inspired us over recent weeks.

You bustle around tutting and narrowing your eyes, in the manner of a dog territorially pissing on a lamppost.
[Emma Beddington]

His virtues were so conspicuous that his enemies, unable to overlook them, denied them, and his friends, to whose loose lives they were a rebuke, represented them as vices. They are here commemorated by his family, who shared them.
[Ambrose Bierce, American Writer, 1842-1914]

In those rare cases where states have managed to destroy their opponents by repression, they have often destroyed also the foundations of a healthy and vital body politic, and been consumed by a destructive institutional paranoia. Rational behaviour has little to do with any of this. Reason, after all, so rarely governs politics. This is particularly the case for governments nervously fingering the hair trigger of emergency.
[Stephen Alford; The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I]

A danger to any state is the powerful and often circular logic of conspiracy. It is pronounced when fear translates into a sense or feeling of national vulnerability, something very dangerous when it is institutionalized by any government that possesses the coercive means to make its will felt. This is especially true of countries where a narrow or isolated governing elite puts its own political survival before everything else, and where the instruments of the modern state can be used to subdue opposition at home or even abroad. These elites tend to see as identical their self-interest as a governing group and the welfare of the public body. They invest in propaganda. They promote a fear or hatred of outsiders. They feel beset by their enemies. We see regimes like this governing today. All of this may have been true of Elizabethan England … certainly the Elizabethan state was busily fashioning the tools of modern government in conditions of war and emergency in Reformation Europe.
[Stephen Alford; The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I]

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
[Douglas Adams]

If you go far enough back, all our ancestors were Pagans. They practised religions that had few creeds or dogmas. There were no prophets. There were myths and legends, but no scriptures to be taken literally. These religions were based on the celebration of the seasonal cycles of nature. They were based on what people did, not what people believed.
[Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon]

Hope and wish for it otherwise as we will, there is no evidence of an external grace shining down upon us, no demonstrable destiny or purpose assigned us, no second life vouchsafed us for the end of the present one. We are, it seems, completely alone.
[EO Wilson]

[The] meaning of life … is whatever gives you joy, or consoles you when life has got you down. It is something you believe or do that makes your life worth living. And by “you” I mean not the collective you but the individual you.
[John Horgan at Scientific American blogs]

The meaning of life belongs in the category of beauty, not truth. It is an aesthetic and hence fundamentally subjective phenomenon.
[John Horgan at Scientific American blogs]

And most of the harmful consequences of beliefs stem from the insistence of believers that everyone agree with them … The notion that there is one true meaning of life is not only wrong. It may be the worst idea that humans have ever invented, in terms of how much harm it has caused.
[John Horgan at Scientific American blogs]

Het Zesde Metaal had their fourth album ‘Calais’ coming out last year and we were stunned! Even though they are singing in West-Flemish dialect, which is practically incomprehensible for the biggest part of Belgium and the rest of the world, everyone feels it, that folky music. The electronic elements on the new album are a real enrichment.
[Quoted by Emma Beddinton at Belgian Waffling]

You have only one choice when things aren’t going well: find a way to pay the bills.
[Lord Heseltine]

True love is finding that one person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.

Not everyone will understand your journey. That’s okay. You’re here to live your life, not to make everyone understand.

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.

We’ll sooner or later accept that politicians are, even at their best, parasites. We are the host and they will adapt or die as we change.
[Dan Harmon]

Real ale is a balanced diet as long as you have a pint (250 calories) in each hand.
[John Hein]

As long as we live in this world we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face up to what challenges us. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but everyone who has to undergo hardship, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome what troubles us.
[Dalai Lama]


So here we have this month’s collection of quotes …

It’s a crufty pile of ad-hocery, but it works.
[Alex Parker]

The more extremism surrounds me – of any hue, religious, political, right, left – the more I find that I react with an extremism of my own. I am becoming extremely moderate, extremely reasonable, extremely centrist, extremely keen to understand others. If there is such a thing as a fundamentalist moderate, I think I’m turning into one. For what other choice is there, as the world becomes harder and more jagged, than to allow oneself to become softer and more flexible? What other strategy, if faced with an implacable wall, than to seep in through the cracks? What other option, when confronted by inhumanity, than to become more human?
[Alex Andreou on Facebook]

This is an article in support of fairness and inclusivity … I am fully in favour of fairness. I am fully in favour of inclusivity. Fairness and inclusivity are not natural, however. They are artificial human constructs. Nature is not fair and it is not inclusive. Human beings, as a naturally occurring animal species, are not fair or inclusive unless we try very hard to be, unless we go against our natural inclinations.
[Brad Warner at http://hardcorezen.info/monks-depend-on-soldiers/5308]

Ripping down … public protections means freedom for billionaires and corporations from the constraints of democracy. This is what Brexit – and Donald Trump – are all about. The freedom we were promised is the freedom of the very rich to exploit us.
[George Monbiot at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/04/ripping-up-protections-brexit-trump-freedom]

If the government agrees to a “bonfire of red tape”, we would win bent bananas and newt-squashing prerogatives. On the other hand, we could lose our rights to fair employment, an enduring living world, clean air, clean water, public safety, consumer protection, functioning public services, and the other distinguishing features of civilisation. Tough choice, isn’t it?
[George Monbiot at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/04/ripping-up-protections-brexit-trump-freedom]

Whenever we hear the word freedom, we should ask ourselves, “Freedom for whom, at whose expense?”
[George Monbiot at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/04/ripping-up-protections-brexit-trump-freedom]

At last a use for children. Accessible food orderers for those wanting chips and chicken nuggets instead of posh grub.
[John Hein]

One of the ways of avoiding being beaten by the system is to laugh at it.
[Peter Cook]

If a man is born ignorant, to parents that are ignorant, in a society that is ignorant, lives a life of ignorance and eventually dies in ignorance … ignorance is a norm. So indoctrination can be called education, hypnotism can be called entertainment, criminals can be called leaders, and lies can be called truth, because his mind was never truly his own.

To all appearances he is a fool. His steps leave no trace.
[Chuang-tzu, The Perfect Man]

Being an arsehole is an equal opportunities business.
[Someone I didn’t note on Facebook]

Monthly Quotes

Our round-up of quotes interesting, amusing and thought provoking encountered in the last few weeks. And oh so many at the moment are rooted in current affairs …

I think there never was a bureaucracy – royal, parliamentary, democratic, autocratic, whatever – that didn’t naturally seek to grow. They all do it. One may as well condemn human nature for being acquisitive. 
As for the Ponzi scheme aspect, that is also part of nearly every national government. That is, they spend more than they take in and pass the deficit on to future generations, who will be able in their turn to bear the debt for two reasons. First is that in a well-regulated economy the debt decreases in value due to inflation. Second is that what remains of the debt will in its turn be passed on to the future. 
So, if socialism is the tendency for a organization to grow, and a Ponzi scheme is so-called because it passes the cost of doing business into the future, then all organizations are socialistic, Ponzi schemes, businesses as well as governments. It is not a reason to condemn them – though it might be a reason to rein them in every so often.

[Prof. Michael Henle]

There is much more outside your area of influence than inside it. This is true no matter if you’re a two-bit writer of trashy Zen blogs or Leader of the Free World. None of us has very much individual power to control the external world. That’s another one of our silly illusions. You can, however, learn how to change your habit of obsessing about stuff you can’t change.
[Brad Warner at http://hardcorezen.info/zen-and-obsessions/5209]

A free Press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of tyranny. Where men have the habit of liberty, the Press will continued to be the vigilant guardian of the rights of the ordinary citizen.
[Winston Churchill, 1949]

The truth is hard.
The truth is hidden.
The truth must be pursued.
The truth is hard to hear.
The truth is rarely simple.
The truth isn’t so obvious.
The truth is necessary.
The truth can’t be glossed over.
The truth has no agenda.
The truth can’t be manufactured.
The truth doesn’t take sides.
The truth isn’t red or blue.
The truth is hard to accept.
The truth pulls no punches.
The truth is powerful.
The truth is under attack.
The truth is worth defending.
The truth requires taking a stand.
The truth is more important now than ever.

[New York Times]

Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.
[Alexandra K Trenfor]

If you understand, things are just as they are. If you do not understand, things are just as they are.
[Zen Proverb]

All babies look like Winston Churchill.
[WH Auden]

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.
[Douglas Adams]

Human beings are animals. Animals don’t like change. Lots of animals will die if their environment undergoes rapid change, even if that change could be defined as an improvement. Humans are more adaptable than most other animals, but we are not infinitely adaptable. And we respond just as badly to sudden change as any other species.
[Brad Warner at http://hardcorezen.info/i-vow-not-to-destabilize-society/5250

A democracy relies on an electorate of critical thinkers. Yet for­ mal education, which is driven by test taking, is increasingly failing to require students to ask the kind of questions that lead to informed decisions.
[Dennis M Bartels; Scientific American, March 2013]

White men are prized by poachers for their thin skins and their enlarged sense of entitlement, which is used in some traditional medicines.
[From https://twitter.com/_L_M_C_/status/840583019828256770]

We must wholeheartedly believe in free will. If free will is a reality, we shall have made the correct choice. If it is not, we shall still not have made an incorrect choice, because we shall not have made any choice at all, not having a free will to do so.
[Edward N Lorenz (1917-2008); The Essence of Chaos]

Not all cultures are created equal. Any culture that sweepingly and maniacally oppresses half their population is what I would call evil. Moral relativism be damned: that kind of crap is wrong, plain and simple.
[Phil Plait; http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/; 26 April 2010]

Our attitude towards what has happened to us in life is the important thing to recognize. Once hopeless, my life is now hope-full, but it did not happen overnight. The last of human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, is to choose one’s own way.
[Victor Frankl; Man’s Search for Meaning]

And finally, boys and girls, remember the (alleged) words of Abraham Lincoln:
Whatever you are, be a good one.

Monthly Quotes

Here’s our usual round up of interesting and amusing quotes encountered in the last few weeks.

It will take some time before the number of people watching on TV is revealed, but some viewers must have had that eerie feeling that a perverse revival of Dynasty was under way. The incoming president gave a speech livid with populist fury, an indictment of “the establishment” and yet, in his person, demeanour and in reality, he confirms that the establishment, the force of true power remains anchored in old white men with a comb-over and decades-younger wife.
[John Doyle, television critic, on the Trump inauguration; at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/john-doyle-inauguration-tv-a-divided-nation-severed-by-a-very-divided-media/article33690171/]

… remember the ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
[Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams (2nd US President) as well as the mother of John Quincy Adams (6th US President)]

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
[Carl Sagan]

Beliefs are what divide people, doubt unites them.
[Peter Ustinov]

Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.
[Lord Byron, 1788-1824]

An old woman at Rome reading Boccaccio exclaimed, “I wish to God that this was saying one’s prayers”.
[Lord Byron, letter]

Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make because they lead little by little to the truth.
[Jules Verne]

It is unfortunate, though very natural, that the history of this period has so generally been written in hysterics. Exaggeration abounds, execration, wailing; and on the whole, darkness.
[Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881]

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism.
[President Franklin Roosevelt, to Congress, April 1938]

So I passed him some very good advice, that if you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work, I explained, the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk-lamp. The light from a lamp, I explained, gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquillity of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.
[Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington]

I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.
[Lao Tzu]

If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal”.
[John F Kennedy, 14 September 1960]

When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you. The misinformation will feel unfair, but stay above it, trusting that other people will eventually see the TRUTH, just like you did!

Religion: So pathetically absurd and infantile that it is humiliating and embarrassing to think that the majority of people will never rise above it.
[Sigmund Freud]

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

The beliefs of to-day may count as true to-day if they carry us along the stream; but tomorrow they will be false, and must be replaced by new beliefs to meet the new situation.
[Bertrand Russell]

More next month …

Ten Things

As we’re rapidly approaching Valentine’s Day, thought that for this month’s Ten Things we should have something slightly different …

Ten Quotes about Prostitution

  1. The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money usually costs a lot less.
    [Brendan Behan (1923-1964)]
  2. You can make prostitution illegal, but you can’t make it unpopular.
    [Martin Behrman (1864-1926)]
  3. I don’t understand why prostitution is illegal.  Selling is legal.  Fucking is legal.  Why isn’t selling fucking legal?  You know, why should it be illegal to sell something that’s perfectly legal to give away?
    [George Carlin (1937-2008)]
  4. Blessed be they as virtuous, who when they feel their virile members swollen with lust, visit a brothel rather than grind at some husband’s private mill.
    [Cato the Younger (95-46 BC)]
  5. Why waste your life working for a few shillings a week in a scullery, eighteen hours a day, when a woman could earn a decent wage by selling her body instead?
    [Emma Goldman (1869-1940)]
  6. The issue is privacy.  Why is the decision by a woman to sleep with a man she has just met in a bar a private one, and the decision to sleep with the same man for $100 subject to criminal penalties?
    [Anna Quindlen (1952-)]
  7. [Prostitution] isn’t inherently immoral, any more than running a company like Enron is inherently immoral. It’s how you do it that counts. And the reality is that it’s going to happen anyway. It’s not called the world’s oldest profession for nothing. Why not make it, at the very least, safe and productive?
    [Jeannette Angell, “A Wellness Perspective on Prostitution, Freedom, Religion, and More”, Seek Wellness, 30 April 2005]
  8. Every hooker I ever speak to tells me that it beats the hell out of waitressing.
    [Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry]
  9. Prostitution is criminal, and bad things happen because it’s run illegally by dirt-bags who are criminals. If it’s legal, then the girls could have health checks, unions, benefits, anything any other worker gets, and it would be far better.
    [Jesse Ventura, Playboy, November 1999]
  10. All civilized wo/men are prostitutes: Some sell what’s between their legs; the rest sell what’s between their ears.
    [Mokokoma Mokhonoana]