“No history of the American Revolution, or of the political literature to which it gave birth, would be complete without consideration of the loyalists. That independence was in fact the work of a minority, and that the methods by which the loyal majority was overawed and, in part, expelled were as high-handed and cruel as they were active and vigorous, must be freely conceded. Weighty as was the colonial argument, force and violence were freely employed to give effect to it.” — from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XV, Ch. 8
“If a people is to be judged solely by its crimes and its sins, all the people of this planet are utterly damned. Such judgments can produce only the deepest kind of anarchy. The civilized judgment, on which depends all the possibilities of a decent human life, requires that men, while condemning and resisting evil deeds, should be unfaltering in their faith in and their response to the healing impulses of their fellow men.” — Walter Lippmann, 1933
“In every State it should be a fundamental maxim that the education of youth should be particularly formed and adapted to the nature and end of its government.” — Thomas Sheridan, 1756 (from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XIV, Ch. 14)
“The history of diplomacy is the history of relations among rival powers, which did not enjoy political intimacy, and did not respond to appeals to common purposes. Nevertheless, there have been settlements. Some of them did not last very long. Some of them did. For a diplomat to think that rival and unfriendly powers cannot be brought to a settlement is to forget what diplomacy is all about. There would be little for diplomats to do if the world consisted of partners, enjoying political intimacy, and responding to common appeals.” — Lippmann, The Cold War
“Laissez-faire is dead and the modern state has become responsible for the modern economy as a whole. The task of insuring the continuity of the standard of life for its people is now as much the fundamental duty of the state as the preservation of national independence.” — Walter Lippmann, Godkin Lectures, 1934.
“In an earlier era men like John Milton and John Stuart Mill had argued that liberty depended on a press free from censorship and intimidation. They were concerned primarily with freedom of belief and expression. But in modern democracies the problem was different. The press could be ‘free’ and still fail to do its job. Without accurate and unbiased information the public could not form intelligent decisions. Democracy would be either a failure or a sham.” — Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century
“Most political theory assumed that the average man could, if presented with the facts, make reasonable decisions. But what if access to the facts was blocked by propaganda, ignorance and willful distortion? How would this affect the assumption that the average man could make intelligent decisions about public issues?” — Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century
“There is no sufficiency principle, no ability to say ‘enough.’ Every last scrap of material, every last inch of earth, every last iota of human attention and experience, must become a commodity in order to feed the market maw. There is no other option. A system that supposedly embodies ‘choice’ in the end doesn’t give us any. The mechanism grinds on, out of synch with both the natural systems that sustain it and the needs of the humans who comprise it. ‘Prosperity’ becomes another word for ecological and social dysfunction, and a staggering increase in illth. This dysfunction is a daily experience for most of us. Yet for most economists it does not exist. In their view an increase of expenditure is by definition an increase in well-being, so there is no need to inquire further. To the contrary, problems make the GDP go up. Cancer begets costly cancer treatments; stress leads to the consumption of prescription drugs, and on and on.” — Bollier and Rowe, “The ‘Illth’ of Nations” (http://www.bostonreview.net/BR36.2/jonathan_rowe_david_bollier_economy_commons.php)
Words don’t often fail me. More often, I fail them. This week, I’m posting to this site a work of poetry I wrote six years ago, called The Book of Lamentations. I had previously published it to my Yahoo website in 2006, where I took it down after a week or two, and to my Joomla site last year, where I took it down after one day. It is a work which causes me discomfort. It will not leave me alone.
My background is military. I am an American. It is not my intention to make this website into an overtly political or topical site, but there were aspects of the American government’s invasion and occupation of Iraq which I found appalling. When George W. Bush and Richard Cheney were re-elected in 2004, I was moved to write what I thought would be a three- or four-page poem about the American servicemen and servicewomen, volunteers all, who were giving their lives in the conflict. I thought it would take, at most, a few weeks to write. It ended up taking nine months and going on for scores of pages. I stopped when I didn’t know what else to do.
“If any ventured to rise in opposition, he was presently put to death in some convenient way, and there was neither search for the murderers nor justice to be had against them if suspected; but the people remained motionless, being so thoroughly cowed that men thought themselves lucky to escape violence, even when they held their tongues…. it was impossible for any one to open his grief to a neighbour and to concert measures to defend himself, as he would have had to speak either to one whom he did not know, or whom he knew but did not trust.” — Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War, Ch. XXVI (trans. Crawley), regarding the overthrow of Athenian democracy
“We should never underestimate our predisposition to believe whatever is presented under the guise of an authoritative report and is also consistent with the mythological structure of a society from which we derive comfort, and which it may be uncomfortable to dispute.” — Kermode, “What Precisely Are the Facts?”, The Genesis of Secrecy
“In the family, schools and churches, tyrannies have been set up which have vested interests in mental stupor and convention, and which permeate the atmosphere with cant and hypocrisy convenient to themselves.” — from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, regarding the targets of George Meredith’s writings (most notably, Erewhon) in the late 19th century
“Greek tragedy was rooted in the empirical observation that there is no relationship between justice and suffering. Tragedy confronts us with our frailties and limits and the disastrous consequences of trying to exceed them. It advances a counter-intuitive thesis: that efforts to limit suffering through the accumulation of knowledge or power might invite more suffering.” — Richard Ned Lebow, The Tragic Vision of Politics