Fellowship of Punditry

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The Sages

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  • George Orwell

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    Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

    In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

    If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

    But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

    Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.

    Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie... a dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion.

    In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.

    All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

    At fifty everyone has the face he deserves.

    Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.

    John Stuart Mill

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.

    The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.

    The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.

    Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.

    A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    Mark Twain

    Don't let schooling interfere with your education.

    All generalizations are false, including this one.

    A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

    Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

    Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

    The Public is merely a multiplied "me."

    Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial "we."

    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

    Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.

    Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

    Winston Churchill

    The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

    I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

    Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.

    Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.

    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

    However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

    In war as in life, it is often necessary when some cherished scheme has failed, to take up the best alternative open, and if so, it is folly not to work for it with all your might.

    Otto Von Bismarck

    When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.

    I have seen three emperors in their nakedness, and the sight was not inspiring.

    Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.

    Be polite; write diplomatically ;even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness.


    A witty saying proves nothing.

    If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.

    When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, that is metaphysics.

    I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.

    To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

    It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

    The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.

    Karl Marx

    Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love.

    All I know is I'm not a Marxist.

    The writer may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but he cannot of course create it.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2004

    The true cost of imperialism

    By Nick

    Excerpts from: The True Cost of Imperialism
    By Anatol Lieven
    Originally published in the Tablet on June 5, 2004.

    Niall Ferguson’s book on the American empire is a fascinating mixture of brilliance and stupidity. The way in which he situates contemporary America in the context of the world history of empires shows tremendous historical sweep, grasp and intelligence. As befits one of the great economic historians of our time, his analysis of the underlying economic strengths and weaknesses of the American imperial system is acute and penetrating. His recommendations for American policy are, however, a different matter.

    Ferguson’s book is indeed founded on the thesis that if the American empire is defeated and falls, this will happen from within, through the action or inaction of Americans themselves; and this is true enough as far as it goes. This, however, leads me to the greatest flaw in his book. Amazingly, for a contemporary historian of empire, there is almost nothing on local anti-imperial resistance movements, either in the past or today.

    By ignoring the enemies of Western empire in this way, Ferguson has gravely downplayed two absolutely crucial differences between imperial conflicts today and those of the nineteenth century. The first is modern mass nationalism, which threw the French and Americans out of Vietnam. This obviously does not apply in the case of interventions in failed states which have collapsed largely because of the weakness of nationalism in the face of ethnic, tribal or religious differences, like Sierra Leone, Liberia or even Afghanistan.

    If, however, the United States were to invade Iran, it would discover that there is a tremendous difference between the Iran of today and the country which Britain and Russia occupied on a number of occasions before 1945. Then, they were faced only with a decayed state system, an effete and decadent elite, a useless army, and an apathetic, ignorant population. Today, they would face the full fury of Iranian mass nationalism.

    This in turn requires restraint in the use of imperial force, irrespective of what the “will” of the American people might be. Take the case of Pakistan. The American uniformed military is well aware that the invasion and occupation of Pakistan is simply not an option. If Iraq is any parallel, it would require an American occupying force of more than a million men. This would require the restoration of conscription in the United States, which would tear American society apart and bring the American empire to an early end. In consequence America cannot afford even to take any minor steps that might eventually make such an invasion necessary. Finally, Ferguson does not pay nearly enough attention to the role of democracy, either in the countries he would advocate conquering or in the imperial metropolis. The nineteenth-century empires were not founded on a claim to be spreading democracy, and equally importantly were, in most cases, at best qualified democracies themselves, with highly restrictive suffrages and basically authoritarian state systems.

    If America engages in any more imperial military adventures like the one in Iraq, the long-term consequence may be the collapse of Western democracy, or of the globalised economic system on which American imperial power rests, or both. For such action will so inflame Muslim opinion that the resulting terrorism will only be containable – if at all – by a mixture of ruthless police measures at home and severe restrictions on the international movement of goods and people. Patriots and democrats should be doing everything in their power to devise new strategies which will avoid such terrible outcomes, and not indulging in nostalgic imperial fantasies – even ones as brilliantly, wittily and sceptically formulated as those of Niall Ferguson.

    posted by Nick at 6/23/2004 10:17:00 PM |

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