Selected favorite quotations

Existential thoughts

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise." F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack-Up"


"Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone." -- Sir John Maynard Keynes

"The agrarian crisis [in India] is an unnecessary tragedy, resulting directly from an economics of greed and a politics driven by the economies of greed." Vandana Shiva, ZNET.

"Les démocraties occidentales ne sont que les façades politiques du pouvoir économique.  Une façade avec des couleurs, des drapeaux, des discours interminables sur la sacro-sainte démocratie. Nous vivons un époque ou nous pouvons discuter de tout. A une exception pres: la démocratie. Elle est là, c'est un dogme acquis. Ne pas toucher, comme dans les musées. Les élections sont devenues la représentation d'une comèdie absurde, honteuse, où la participation du citoyen est très faible, et dans laquelle les gouvernements représentent les commissaires politiques du pouvoir économique." José Saramago, "La lucidité". Cité dans le Monde Diplomatique d'avril 2007. (Cf. John Dewey...)

"Politics ... is the shadow cast by big business." -- John Dewey

"Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people's countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood of his hands and works for 'the universal brotherhood of man' - with his mouth."  Mark Twain, "The Lowest Animal",

"What I'm saying to you this morning is that communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social, and the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both. Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated." -- Martin Luther King, "Where do we go from here?", SCLS Presidential Address, 16 August 1967.

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (cited by Bob Herbert)

"All propaganda must be confined to a few bare necessities and then must be expressed in a few stereotyped formulas . . . Only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea upon the memory of a crowd." -- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (

"The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity -- much less dissent." -- Gore Vidal

"America is a simplified ideological abstraction, an emotive symbol represented by other abstract symbols like the flag. It is the object of a faithlike devotion, unencumbered by honest history." --  Michael Parenti.

"All politicians are bores and liars and fakes. I talk to people."  Martha Gellhorn (reporter and author).

"War cannot be humanized, it can only be abolished." -- Albert Einstein (quoted by Howard Zinn).

"Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust. Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override. For this reason, justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others." -- John Rawls, A Theory of Justice

"Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent." -- Gore Vidal

"I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world." -- Eugene Debs, "The Social Revolution", 11 Sep 1915 (

"It is time not simply to redefine a kinder-and-gentler patriotism, but to sweep away the notion and acknowledge it as morally, politically, and intellectually bankrupt.  It is time to scrap patriotism." -- Robert Jensen, "Citizens of the Empire".

"When the truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie." -- Yuri Yevtushenko (quoted by John Pilger in his book, "Heroes")

"Take away the right to say fuck and you take away the right to say 'fuck the government'." -- Lenny Bruce

General philosophy

"I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subserive. The doctine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. I must, of course, admit that if such an opinion became common it would completely transform our social life and our political system; since both are at present faultess, this must weigh againt it." Bertrand Russell, "Skeptical Essays"

"Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance... Something fundamamental is going on in people's minds when they confront things they don't understnd." - Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium. (Quoted in IHT, 23 nov 2006)

"... the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless..." - Steven Weinberg, "The first three minutes". (Quoted in IHT, 23 nov 2006)

"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear."  Bertrand Russell, cited at

"Being rational -- along with being clear and honest -- are important if we are to create the needed shift in fundamental thinking necessary to make it possible to pull this world back from the brink of multiple disasters on ecological, cultural, political, and economic fronts. " Robert Jensen, Getting Cognitive: The Limits Of George Lakoff's Politics,

"I must have a prodigious quantity of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes to make it up."  Mark Twain, "Innocents Abroad",

"Science is not a vast encyclopedia, it is a thin flame of reason burning across ample reservoirs of ignorance." -- Robert P. Kirshner, "The extravagant universe"

"More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads.  One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction.  Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -- Woody Allen (quoted by Sol Landau)

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does" -- Margaret Mead

"Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other." -- Ann Landers

"If a woman does not want a child, then the Earth does not want it either. Far better to let a tiny embryo, the merest spark of life, be extinguished, than to risk the lives of so many who are already here." -- Kelpie Wilson (Truthout)

"Man has suffered in his separation from the soil and the other living creatures of the world; and as yet he must still, for security, look long at some portion of the earth as it was before he tampered with it."  -- Gavin Maxwell

"To me the bridge [from the Scottish mainland to the Isle of Skye] and the traffic which justified it stand as yet another example of the heavy footprint of man, the apparently unavoidable price of unremmitting progress towards an uncertain future for the planet."  -- John Lister-Kaye


"Please God, protect me from your followers." -- bumper sticker seen in southern Sweden.

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding..."  -- Thomas Jefferson (From a letter to John Adams.

"I don't know if God exists and I don't care. God's will and design for this temporal and spatial vastness, if any, is so patently, deliberately impenetrable that I doubt any mortal has a grasp on it. The very inexplicability of sad events like the tsunami, like the AIDS crisis or even like the cancer death of the father of one of my daughter's 2nd-grade classmates last week are, to me, reminders to focus on our obligations to one another, not to the infinite; to honor the creator, if any, by honoring creation itself and hoping that's good enough." -- Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn

"I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." -- Susan B. Anthony

"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies." -- Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Dr. Woods).


"A house without a cat, and a well-fed,well-petted, and properly revered cat, may be a perfect house, perhaps, but how can it prove its title?" -- Mark Twain

"Since each of us is blessed with only one life, why not live it with a cat?" -- Robert Stearns

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats." -- Albert Schweitser

"You can't look at a sleeping cat and be tense."  -- Jane Pauley