Protest never works

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Protest never works. Because we are all plankton. And the world is run by whales. You can be a big and important plankton but that doesn’t make a jot of difference if a whale has decided to eat you up. You can get a million other plankton to dress up and wave banners but Mr Whale won’t even notice.

Jeremy Clarkson, according to BBC News

The Law of Jante

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1. You’re not to think you are anything special.

2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are.

3. You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.

4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.

5. You’re not to think you know more than we do.

6. You’re not to think you are more important than we are.

7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.

8. You’re not to laugh at us.

9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.

10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

Axel Sandemose in A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks, 1933

There’s always another horizon

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There’s always another horizon behind the one in sight

There’s always a reason for hoping that things will come out right…

There’s always another tomorrow for those with faith to see

The promise beyond the horizon of happy days to be.

Patience Strong

Ice-nine

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Cat's cradle“There are several ways,” Dr. Breed said to me, “in which certain liquids can crystallize – can freeze – several ways in which their atoms can stack and lock in an orderly, rigid way.”

That old man with spotted hands invited me to think of the several ways in which cannonballs might be stacked on a courthouse lawn, of the several ways in which oranges might be packed into a crate.

“So it is with atoms in crystals, too; and two different crystals of the same substance can have quite different physical properties.”

He told me about a factory that had been growing big crystals of ethylene diamine tartrate. The crystals were useful in certain manufacturing operations, he said. But one day the factory discovered that the crystals it was growing no longer had the properties desired. The atoms had begun to stack and lock – to freeze – in different fashions. The liquid that was crystallizing hadn’t changed, but the crystals it was forming were, as far as industrial applications went, pure junk.

How this had come about was a mystery. The theoretical villain, however, was what Dr. Breed called “a seed.” He meant by that a tiny grain of the undesired crystal pattern. The seed, which had come from God-only-knows-where, taught the atoms the novel way in which to stack and lock, to crystallize, to freeze.

“Now think about cannonballs on a courthouse lawn or about oranges in a crate again,” he suggested. And he helped me to see that the pattern of the bottom layers of cannonballs or of oranges determined how each subsequent layer would stack and lock. “The bottom layer is the seed of how every cannonball or every orange that comes after is going to behave, even to an infinite number of cannonballs or oranges.”

“Now suppose,” chortled Dr. Breed, enjoying himself, “that there were many possible ways in which water could crystallize, could freeze. Suppose that the sort of ice we skate upon and put into highballs – what we might call ice-one – is only one of several types of ice. Suppose water always froze as ice-one on Earth because it had never had a seed to teach it how to form ice-two, ice-three, ice-four…? And suppose,” he rapped on his desk with his old hand again, “that there were one form, which we will call ice-nine – a crystal as hard as this desk – with a melting point of, let us say, one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit, or, better still, a melting point of one-hundred-and-thirty degrees.”

Kurt Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle, 1963

Cruelty for ‘good’ reasons

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As amazing entertainment as The Lord of the Rings is, it will lead us astray if we take it literally. First, people will rarely do ‘evil’ knowingly. The Nazis and Pol Pot never saw themselves as evil, quite the contrary. The Romans never saw their gladiatorial games as evil. The real source of destruction is usually from people who believe they are fighting for good causes. Hitler believed that he was creating a more perfect and noble society with more perfect people – and he was a vegetarian because he hated cruelty to animals! It’s the individuals who justify their actions in this way who are the most worrying. This is certainly true on the international stage. To my mind, George Bush’s refusal to veto the use of such torture techniques as ‘water boarding’ (immobilizing an individual and pouring water over his or her face to simulate drowning) is an endorsement of cruelty. Such behaviour is concerning, too, because Bush has had all the privileges that come from having had a Western education and human rights. And he professes to be a Christian when it is obvious that, if Jesus were here today, he would never endorse torture. Yet in his own heart, Bush believes he’s doing good and defending his country. Remember the well-known saying: ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ So we have to be careful because we often can’t see the archetypes working through us.

Paul Gilbert in The Compassionate Mind, 2009

Enslaved by wealth and ignorance

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Трудно быть богом

In the eyes of a terrestrial observer, they all had something in common. Probably it was the fact that all of them, with almost no exceptions, were not yet human beings in the current sense of the word, but rather preliminary stages, blocks of raw iron ore out of which the bloody centuries of history would eventually forge proud and free men. They were passive, greedy, and incredibly egoistic. Seen from a psychological point of view, almost all of them were slaves – slaves of faith, slaves of their own selfs, slaves of their passing passions and slaves of their avarice. And if by chance one of them was born a nobleman, or worked his way up through diligence over the years, he did not even know what to do with his freedom. He rushed to become a slave once more – enslaved by wealth, enslaved by unnatural luxury, enslaved by debauched companions and enslaved by his own slaves. The majority could not really be blamed for this at all. Their enslavement was rooted in passivity and ignorance. Passivity and ignorance, however, would lead in turn again and again to their enslavement.

Boris & Arkadij Strugatskij in Hard to Be a God (Трудно быть богом), 1964

One after another, hard-pressed waves

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One after another, hard-pressed waves
Curl in their green motion
And hiss white foam into
The brownness of sea shores.

Leisurely clouds one after another
Break open their round motion
And sun burns the air space
Between the scanty clouds.

Indifferent to me, as I to her,
The fair day’s disposition
Takes little from my sense
Of time evaporating.

Only a vague inconsequential ache
Halts a moment at the portal of my soul
And, after staring briefly at me,
Passes on, smiling at nothing.

Fernando Pessoa (1918, translated by Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown)