Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Great Men

V. S. Pritchett on Edward Gibbon's reading habits during his military service:
He took Horace with him on the march and read up the questions of Pagan and Christian theology in his tent. Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing. 
 - “Gibbon and the Home Guard”

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Every Citizen a King a democracy, every ordinary citizen effectively is a king - but a king in a constitutional democracy, a king who only formally decides, whose function is to sign measures proposed by an executive administration.  This is why the problem of democratic rituals is homologous to the big problem of constitutional democracy: how to protect the dignity of the king?  How to maintain the appearance that the king effectively decides, when we all know this is not true?  What we call a “crisis of democracy” does not occur when people stop believing in their own power but, on the contrary, when they stop trusting the elites, those who are supposed to know for them and provide the guidelines, when they experience anxiety signaling that “the (true) throne is empty”, that the decision is now really theirs.  
Slavoj Zizek, Trouble in Paradise

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hannah Arendt on People with Revolvers

…I can’t judge the situation in Germany, and all I really know is that people who like to respond to arguments with revolvers have by no means died out.
 - Hannah Arendt to Karl Jaspers, Correspondence, January 25, 1948

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What is History?

      In our final history lesson of the year, Old Joe Hunt, who had guided his lethargic pupils through Tudors and Stuarts, Victorians and Edwardians, the Rise of Empire and its Subsequent Decline, invited us to look back over all those centuries and attempt to draw conclusions.
      "We could start, perhaps, with the seemingly simple question, What is History? Any thoughts, Webster?"
      "History is the lies of the victors," I replied, a little too quickly.
      "Yes, I was rather afraid you'd say that.  Well, as long as you remember that it is also the self-delusions of the defeated."
- Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

Thursday, August 03, 2017

GBS and Seattle

From a George Bernard Shaw lecture to the Fabian Society on November 26, 1931:
In America there was something that was called the Seattle community.  The Seattle community suggests to you a lot of really 100% Americans.  There is something in the name Seattle that is 100% American.  I think you will acknowledge that.