Quotations! Bertrand Russell
Letter to the London Nation (August 15, 1914)


Against the vast majority of my countrymen, even at this moment, in the name of humanity and civilization, I protest against our share in the destruction of Germany.

A month ago Europe was a peaceful comity of nations; if an Englishman killed a German he was hanged. Now, if an Englishman kills a German, or if a German kills an Englishman, he is a patriot, who has deserved well of his country. We scan the newspapers with greedy eyes for news of slaughter, and rejoice when we read of innocent young men, blindly obedient to the word of command, mown down in thousands by the machine-guns of Liege. Those who saw the London crowds during the nights leading up to the Declaration of War saw a whole population, hitherto peacable and humane, precipitated in a few days down the steep slope of primitive barbarism, letting loose, in a moment, the instincts of hatred and blood lust against which the whole fabric of society has been raised. "Patriots" in all countries acclaim this brutal orgy as a noble determination to vindicate the right; reason and mercy are swept away in one great flood of hatred; dim abstractions of unimaginable wickedness - Germany to us and the Rench, Russia to the Germans - conceal the simple fact that the enemy are men, like ourselves, neither better nor worse - men who love their homes and the sunshine, and all the simple pleasures of common lives; men now mad with terror in the thought of their wives, their sisters, their children, exposed, with our help, to the tender mercies of the conquering Cossack.

And all this madness, all this rage, all this flaming death of our civilization and our hopes, has been brought about because a set of official gentlemen, living luxurious lives, mostly stupid, and all without imagination or heart, have chosen that it should occur rather than that any one of them should suffer some infinitesimal rebuff to his country's pride...

And behind the diplomatists, dimly heard in the official documents, stand vast forces of national greed and national hatred - atavistic instincts, harmful to mankind at its present level, but transmitted from savage and half-animal ancestors, concentrated and directed by Governments and the Press, fostered by the upper class as a distraction from social discontent, artificially nourished by the sinister influence of the makers of armaments, encouraged by a whole foul literature of "glory," and by every text-book of history with which the minds of children are polluted.

Bertrand Russell, 1914

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Quotations! Sigmund Freud
Thoughts for the Times of War and Death (1915)

[This war] disregards all the restrictions known as International Law, which in peace-time the states had bound themselves to observe; it ignores the prerogatives of the wounded and the medical service, the distinction between civil and military sections of the population, the claims of private property. It tramples in blind fury on all that comes in its way, as though there were to be no future and no peace among men after it is over.

Peoples are more or less represented by the states which they form, and these states by the governments which rule them. The individual citizen can with horror convince himself in this war of what would occasionally cross his mind in peace-time - that the state has forbidden to the individual the practice of wrong-doing, not because it desires to abolish it, but because it desires to monopolize it, like salt and tobacco. A belligerent state permits itself every such misdeed, every such act of violence, as would disgrace the individual. It makes use against the enemy not only of the accepted ruses de guerre, but of deliberate lying and deception as well - and to a degree which seems to exceed the usage of former wars. The state exacts the utmost degree of obedience and sacrifice from its citizens, but at the same time it treats them like children by an excess of secrecy and a censorship upon news and expressions of opinion which leaves the spirits of those whose intellects it thus suppresses defenseless against every unfavorable turn of events and sinister rumour. It absolves itself from the guarantees and treaties by which it was bound to other states, and confesses shamelessly to its own rapacity and lust for power, which the private individual has then to sanction in the name of patriotism.

It should not be objected that the state cannot refrain from wrong-doing, since that would place it at a disadvantage. It is no less disadvantageous, as a general rule, for the individual man to conform to the standards of morality and refrain from brutal and arbitrary conduct; and the state seldom proves able to indemnify him for the sacrifices it exacts. Nor should it be a matter for surprise that this relaxation of all the moral ties between the collective individuals of mankind should have had repercussions on the morality of individuals; for our conscience is not the inflexible judge that ethical teachers declare it, but in its origin is 'social anxiety' and nothing else. When the community no longer raises objections, there is an end, too, to the suppression of evil passions, and men perpetrate deeds of cruelty, fraud, treachery and barbarity so incompatible with their level of civilization that one would have thought them impossible.

Well may the citizen of the civilized world…stand helpless in a world that has grown strange to him.

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Quotations! Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
The Slave's Dream (1842)

Beside the ungathered rice he lay,
His sickle in his hand;
His breast was bare, his matted hair
Was bried in the sand.
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep,
He saw his Native Land.

Wide through the landscape of his dreams
The lordly Nigher flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
Once more a king he strode;
And heard the tinkling caravancs
Descend the mountain-road.

He saw once more his dark-eyed queen
Among her children stand;
They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks,
They held him by the hand! -
A tear burst from the sleeper's lids
And fell into the sand.

And then at furious speed he rode
Along the Nigher's bank;
His bridle-reins were golden chains,
And, with a martial clank,
At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel
Smiting his stallion's flank.

Before him,like a blood-red flag,
The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he followed their flight,
O'er plains where the tamarind grew,
Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts,
And the ocean rose to view.

At night he heard the lion roar,
And the hyena scream,
And the river-horse, as he crushed the reeds
Beside some hidden stream;
And it passed, like a glorious roll of drums,
Through the triumph of his dream.

The forests, with teir myriad tongues,
Shouted of liberty;
And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud,
With a voice so wild and free,
That he started in his sleep and smiled
At their tempestuous glee.

He did not feel the driver's whip,
Nor the burning heat of day;
For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep,
And his lifeless body lay
A worn-out fetter, that the soul
Had broken and thrown away!

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Quotations! John Gowdy

excerpt from Limited Wants, Unlimited Means (1998)

All cultures have a set of beliefs or organizing principles that serve not only to guide behavior but also to explain and justify the existing state of the world. Western cultural beliefs, in particular, serve to justify the peculiar material relationship that has evolved among the members of our society and between humans and the rest of the world. Our culture sees class divisions as inevitable, even desirable, and views nature as a collection of "natural resources" to be used to fuel the engine of economic growth and technological progress.

My own particular tribe, that of academic economists, has its own belief system to explain and justify the world of commerce we have created, typified by the notion of "economic man." This "man" is naturally acquisitive, competitive, rational, and calculating and is forever looking for ways to improve his material well-being. He rations his time from an early age on to get the training needed to earn an income, and he carefully allocates this income among the dizzying array of goods and services available in the marketplace.

Today, we in the West hardly recognize the idea of economic man as a cultural belief, as opposed to a universal fact, because it accurately describes most of us...

from "Introduction: Back to the Future and Forward to the Past," Limited Wants, Unlimited Means - A Reader on Hunter-Gatherer Economics and the Environment (Washington, D.C./Covelo, California: Island Press, 1998), edited by John Gowdy

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