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"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one."

           Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, p. vii



Did I Miss Anything?


     "Besides, we knew those men in black shirts. To give themselves courage they had come at night. Most of them stank of wine, and yet, if we looked at them straight in the eye, they looked away. They, too, were poor men, but poor men of a special kind: landless, jobless, or with many jobs, which is the same thing, and averse to hard work. Too weak and cowardly to rebel against the rich and the authorities, they preferred serving them in order to be able to rob and oppress other poor men, cafoni, small landowners. When you met them in the street in daylight, they were humble and obsequious, but at night and in groups they were evil, malicious, treacherous. They have always been in the service of authority and always will be. But recruiting them into a special army, giving them a special uniform and special arms, was a novelty. Such are the so-called Fascists."

                      Ignazio Silone, Fontamara (part of the Abruzzo Trilogy

"War determines its own end, - victory, and government crushes out automatically all forces that deflect, or threaten to deflect, energy from the path of organization to that end. All governments will act in this way, the most democratic as well as the most autocratic. It is only “liberal” naiveté that is shocked at arbitrary coercion and suppression. Willing war means willing all the evils that are organically bound up with it. A good many people still seem to believe in a peculiar kind of democratic and antiseptic war. The pacifists opposed the war because they knew this was an illusion, and because of the myriad hurts they knew war would do the promise of democracy at home. For once the babes and sucklings seem to have been wiser than the children of light."

                     Randolph Bourne, A War Diary

"That war [WW I], too, was waged from Rome; then, too, they were called to follow the flag whose bright colors, the heraldic symbol of another Italy, seemed so crude and out of place - the red shameless and the green absurd - against this background of gray trees and grassless clay. These and all other colors are appendages of aristocracy; they belong on the coat of arms of a nobleman or the banners of a city. But what have the peasants to do with them? They have only one color, the color of their sad, sorrowful eyes and their clothes, and it is not a color at all, but rather the darkness of earth and death. Their pennants are black, like the face of the Madonna. All other flags have the motley hues of another civilization, which does not belong to them as it moves along the main road of History, toward progress and conquest. This other world is stronger and better organized and they must submit to it; they must march out to die for it, today in Abyssinia, as yesterday on the Isonzo and the Piave and for centuries past in every corner of the globe, behind one bright flag or another."

Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, p. 136

"...power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is peculiarly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations, to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image."

J. William Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power

"For the United States the pursuit of freedom, as defined in an age of consumerism, has induced a condition of dependence - on imported goods, on imported oil, and on credit. The chief desire of the American people, whether they admit it or not, is that nothing should disrupt their access to goods, oil, and credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part through the distribution of largesse at home (with Congress taking a leading role) and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad (largely the business of the executive branch)."

Andrew J. Bacevich, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, p. 173

"The function of education has never been to free the mind and spirit of man, but to bind them; and to the end that the mind and spirit of his children should never escape Homo sapiens has employed praise, ridicule, admonition, accusation, mutilation, and even torture to chain them to the culture pattern . . . for where every man is unique there is no society, and where there is no society there can be no man. Contemporary American educators think they want creative children, yet it is an open question as to what they expect these children to create. And certainly the classrooms - from kindergarten to graduate school - in which they expect it to happen are not crucibles of creative activity and thought. It stands to reason that were young people truly creative the culture would fall apart, for originality, by definition, is different from what is given, and what is given is the culture itself. From the endless, pathetic, "creative hours" of kindergarten to the most abstruse problems in sociology and anthropology, the function of education is to prevent the truly creative intellect from getting out of hand."

                    Jules Henry, Culture Against Man

"...Tocqueville spoke of a necessary 'apprenticeship of liberty' which he called the most arduous of all apprenticeships. It points to the core meaning - now lost to most educational institutions in America - of public schooling in the 'liberal arts.' The liberal arts are the arts of liberty necessary to the exercise of citizenship in a free republic."
Ben Barber, Consumed

"She speaks, she argues, she discusses, she accuses, with great rapidity and precision, alternating dialect with Italian, an extended narrative and a logical interpretation, and she is wholly and exclusively caught up in that continual, endless discourse, all of a piece: her life as a peasant woman, her past as a woman abandoned and then as a widow, her years of work, and the death of her son, and the solitude, her house, and Sciara, and Sicily, and all of life, contained in that violent and orderly stream of words. Nothing else exists of her and for her, other than this trial, which she has assembled and carried out on her own, sitting in her chair by the side of the bed: a trial of the large landholdings, of the indentured condition of the peasants, a trial of the Mafia and the State. She identifies wholly with her trial, and she shares its qualities: acute, careful, mistrustful, perceptive, skilful, authoritative, relentless. And so this woman created herself, in the course of a day: tears are no longer tears, they are words now, and words are stones."

                Carlo Levi, Words are Stones: Impression of Sicily, pp. 126-127

"A subaltern of the 12th, red in the face, passed near me, clutching his rifle. He was a republican, and disliked the monarchical war-cry [Savoy! ] that we used in the attack. Seeing me, he shouted 'Long Live Italy!'"

Emilio Lussu, Sardinian Brigade

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"To the general everything was so simple. The road to military glory ran according to the recipe: at 6 p.m. the soldiers get goulash and potatoes,
 at half past eight the troops defecate it in the latrines and at nine they go to bed. In the face of such an army the enemy flees in panic."

Jarolsav Hašek, The Good Soldier Švejk
translated from the Czech by Cecil Parrott (Penguin Books, 1973), p.538

LAST UPDATED ON Saturday, January 25, 2014 


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