Old England is an imaginary place, a landscape built from words, woodcuts, films, paintings, picturesque engravings. It is a place imagined by people, and people do not live very long or look very hard. We are very bad at scale. The things that live in the soil are too small to care about; climate change too large to imagine. We are bad at time, too. We cannot remember what lived here before we did; we cannot love what is not. Nor can we imagine what will be different when we are dead. We live out our three score and ten, and tie our knots and lines only to ourselves. We take solace in pictures, and we wipe the hills of history.
-Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk
We, with our propensity for murder, torture, slavery, rape, cannibalism, pillage, advertising jingles, shag carpets, and golf, how could we be seriously considered as the perfection of a four-billion-year-old grandiose experiment? Perhaps as a race, we have evolved as far as we are capable, yet that by no means suggests that evolution has called it quits. In all likelihood, it has something beyond human on the drawing board. We tend to refer to our most barbaric and crapulous behaviour as “inhuman,” whereas, in point of fact, it is exactly human, definitively and quintessentially human, since no other creature habitually indulges in comparable atrocities.
-Tom Robbins, Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported Fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity. What a crew! … But the clue is really very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings. Behind all the ballyhoo … lies the simple intention of those with money or privileges to cling to them. … All that the workingman demands is what these others would consider the indispensible minimum without which human life cannot be lived at all. … The question is very simple. Shall people … be allowed to live the decent, fully human life which is now technically achievable, or shan’t they? Shall common man be pushed back into the mud, or shall he not? I myself believe … that the common man will win his fight sooner or later, but I want it to be sooner and not later – some time within the next hundred years, say, and not some time within the next ten thousand years.
-George Orwell, Looking Back on the Spanish War
[S]ocialism is an effort to try to solve man’s animal problems, and after having solved the animal problems, then we can face the human problems–but it’s not a part of socialism to solve the human problems; socialism is an effort to get you to the point where you can face the human problems.
-Karl Marx paraphrased by Noam Chomsky, On Anarchism
Do you ever feel like giving up hope on the human race?
-Matt Ruff, Sewer, Gas & Electric
Hell is the incapacity to be other than the creature one finds oneself ordinarily behaving as.
-Aldous Huxley, Eyeless in Gaza
“It was pity that made you cry,” she said. “Pity, not for this person or that person who is suffering, but for all things–for the very nature of things. Unless a man has pity he is inhuman and not yet truly a man, for out of pity comes the balm which heals. Only good men weep. If a man has not wept at the world’s pain he is less than the dirt he walks upon because dirt will nourish seed, root, stalk, leaf and flower, but the spirit of a man without pity is barren and will bring forth nothing–or only pride which must finally do murder of one sort or another–murder of good things, or murder even of human lives.”
-William Saroyan, The Human Comedy
[I agree, but not in the way Saroyan intended…]