A culture that does not grasp the vital interplay between morality and power, which mistakes management techniques for wisdom, which fails to understand that the measure of a civilization is its compassion, not its speed or ability to consume, condemns itself to death. Morality is the product of a civilization, but the elites know little of these traditions. They are products of moral void. They lack clarity about themselves and their culture. They can fathom only their own personal troubles. They do not see their own biases or the causes of their own frustrations. They are blind the gaping inadequacies of our economic, social, and political structures and do not grasp that these structures, which they have been taught to serve, must be radically modified or even abolished to stave of disaster. They have been rendered mute and ineffectual. ‘What we cannot speak about,’ Ludwig Wittgenstein warned, ‘we pass over in silence.’
— Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle
No one has the right to say, “Revolt for me; the final liberation of all men depends on it.” But I am not in agreement with anyone who would say, “It is useless for you to revolt; it is always going to be the same thing.” One does not dictate to those who risk their lives facing a power. Is one right to revolt, or not? Let us leave the question open. People do revolt; that is a fact. And that is how subjectivity (not that of great men, but that of anyone) is brought into history, breathing life into it. A convict risks his life to protest unjust punishments; a madman can no longer bear being confined and humiliated; a people refuses the regime that oppresses it. That doesn’t make the first innocent, doesn’t cure the second, and doesn’t ensure for the third the tomorrow it was promised. Moreover, no one is obliged to support them. No one is obliged to find that these confused voices sing better than the others and speak the truth itself. It is enough that they exist… A question of ethics? Perhaps, A question of reality, without a doubt. All the disenchantments of history won’t alter the fact of the matter: it is because there are such voices that the time of human beings does not have the form of evolution but that of “history,” precisely.
To learn to see—to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols
I have a congenital desire to contradict; my whole life is merely a chain of sad and unsuccessful contradictions to heart and mind. When faced with enthusiasm, I am seized by a midwinter freeze, and I suppose that frequent dealings with sluggish phlegmatics would have made a passionate dreamer.
A “postmodern” boss insists that he is not a master but just a coordinator of our joint creative efforts, the first among equals; there should be no formalities among us, we should address him by his nickname, he shares a dirty joke with us … but during all this, he remains our master. In such a social link, relations of domination function through their denial: in order to be operative, they have to be ignored. We are not only obliged to obey our masters, we are also obliged to act as if we are free and equal, as if there was no domination - which, of course, makes the situation even more humiliating. Paradoxically, in such a situation, the first act of liberation is to demand from the master that he act like one: one should reject false collegiality from the master and insist that he treat us with cold distance, as a master.
It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute.
— Buenaventurra Durruti
You will never pray again, never adore again, never again rest in endless trust; you do not permit yourself to stop before any ultimate wisdom, ultimate goodness, ultimate power, while unharnessing your thoughts; you have no perpetual guardian and friend for your seven solitudes; you live without a view of mountains with snow on their peaks and fire in their hearts; there is no avenger for you any more nor any final improver; there is no longer any reason in what happens, no love in what will happen to you; no resting place is open any longer to your heart, where it only needs to find and no longer to seek; you resist any ultimate peace; you will the eternal recurrence of war and peace: man of renunciation, all this you wish to renounce? Who will give you the strength for that? Nobody yet has had this strength! There is a lake that one day ceased to permit itself to flow off; it formed a dam where it had hitherto flown off; and ever since this lake is rising higher and higher. Perhaps this very renunciation will also lend us the strength needed to bear this renunciation; perhaps man will rise ever higher as soon as he ceases to flow out into a god.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science
But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people. Here is the shadow of my sword. But shadows also come from trees and living beings. Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and living things just because of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You’re stupid.
The general repetition of names for measures to be taken by the authorities makes them, so to speak, familiar, just as the brand name on everybody’s lips increased sales in the era of the free market. The blind and rapidly spreading repetition of words with special designations links advertising with the totalitarian watchword. The layer of experience which created the words for their speakers has been removed; in this swift appropriation language acquires the coldness which until now it had only on billboards and in the advertisement columns of newspapers. Innumerable people use words and expressions which they have either ceased to understand or employ only because they trigger off conditioned reflexes; in this sense, words are trade-marks which are finally all the more firmly linked to the things they denote, the less their linguistic sense is grasped.
— Theodor Adorno, The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception
The Photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer, but only and for certain what has been. The distinction is decisive. In front of a photograph, our consciousness does not necessarily take the nostalgic path of memory (how many photographs are outside of the individual time), but for every photograph existing in the world, the path of certainty: the Photograph’s essence is to ratify what it represents. One day I received from a photographer a picture of myself which I could not remember being taken, for all my efforts; I inspected the tie, the sweater, to discover in what circumstances I had worn them; to no avail. And yet, because it was a photograph I could not deny that I had been there (even if I did not know where). This distortion between certainty and oblivion gave me a kind of vertigo, something of a “detective” anguish (the theme of Blow-Up was not far off); I went to the photographer’s show as to a police investigation, to learn at last what I no longer knew about myself.
— Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.
It’s when I finished studying it, at the point where I stopped believing in philosophy, that I began to read Nietzsche. Well, I realised that he wasn’t a philosopher, but was more: a temperament. So, I read him, but never systematically, now and then. But I really don’t read him anymore. I consider his letters his most authentic work, because in them he’s truthful, while in his other work he’s prisoner to his vision. In his letters one sees that he’s just a poor fellow, that he’s ill, exactly the opposite of everything he claimed. […] His work is an unspeakable megalomania. When one reads the letters he wrote at the same time, one sees that he’s lamentable, it’s very touching, like a character out of Chekhov.
I feel you there, in every pore. Your silence clamors in my ears. You can nail up your mouth, cut your tongue out — but you can’t prevent your being there. Can you stop your thoughts? I hear them ticking away like a clock, tick-tock, tick-tock, and I’m certain you hear mine.
To the realists. — You sober people who feel well armed against passion and fantasies and would like to turn your emptiness into a matter of pride and an ornament: you call yourselves realists and hint that the world really is the way it appears to you. As if reality stood unveiled before you only, and you yourselves were perhaps the best part of it—O you beloved images of Sais! But in your unveiled state are not even you still very passionate and dark creatures compared to fish, and still far too similar to an artist in love? And what is “reality” for an artist in love? You are still burdened with those estimates of things that have their origin in the passions and loves of former centuries. Your sobriety still contains a secret and inextinguishable drunkenness. Your love of “reality,” for example—oh, that is a primeval “love.” Every feeling and sensation contains a piece of this old love; and some fantasy, some prejudice, some unreason, some ignorance, some fear, and ever so much else has contributed to it and worked on it. That mountain there! That cloud there! What is “real” in that? Subtract the phantasm and every human contribution from it, my sober friends! If you can! If you can forget your descent, your past, your training—all of your humanity and animality. There is no “reality” for us—not for you either, my sober friends. We are not nearly as different as you think, and perhaps our good will to transcend intoxication is as respectable as your faith that you are altogether incapable of intoxication.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science
If you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing.
— Michel Foucault, Interview (1975)