Friday, January 26, 2007

John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization

QUOTABLE QUOTES from John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, Penguin, 1997.

I remember as a graduate student reading Fullbright's 'The Arrogance of Power' and saying 'Yes, yes' aloud right through the book.

Some key quotes from John Ralston Saul:

# If economists were doctors, they would today be mired in malpractice suits.

# Cicero: 'He who does not know history is destined to remain a child'.

# Socrates was executed not for saying what things were or should be, but for seeking practical indications of where some reasonable approximation of truth might be. He was executed not for his megalomania or grandiose propositions or certitudes, but for stubbornly doubting the absolute truths of others.

# People become so obsessed by hating government that they forget it is meant to be their government and is the only powerful public force that have purchase on.

# In general, democracy and individualism have advanced in spite of and often against specific economic interest. Both democracy and individualism have been based upon financial sacrifice, not gain. Even in Athens, a large part of the 7,000 citizens who participated regularly in assemblies were farmers who had to give up several days' work to go into town to talk and listen.

# Whenever governments adopt a moral tone -- as opposed to an ethical one -- you know something is wrong.

# Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves. William Pitt, House of Commons, 18 November 1783.

# Criticism is perhaps the citizen's primary weapon in the exercise of her legitimacy. That is why, in this corporatist society, conformism, loyalty and silence are so admired and rewarded; why criticism is so punished or marginalized.

# The Third World debt crisis is now $1.5 trillion…

# Every day currency traders move $1 trillion around the world. Money markets, unrelated to financing real activity are pure inflation. The unregulated money markets have now given us over twenty years of crisis, instability, gratuitous speculation and no real growth.

# 'We've had a hundred years of psychotherapy and things are getting worse' (James Hillman and Michael Ventura).

# The cost of the managerial superstructure is now far too heavy for the producing substructure.

# It seems to me that a sensible list of the human qualities would run as follows: common sense, creativity or imagination, ethics (not morality), intuition or instinct, memory, and, finally, reason. ...these qualities cannot be defined usefully, but only as abstractions, which they are not. ... These qualities are the basic tools of humanity. In more aggressive verbiage, they are our weapons for use in what can only be described as a constant war against ideology.

# The virtue of uncertainty is not a comfortable idea, but then a citizen-based democracy is built upon participation, which is the very expression of permanent discomfort. The corporatist system depends upon the citizen's desire for inner comfort. Equilibrium is dependent upon our recognition of reality, which is the acceptance of permanent psychic discomfort. And the acceptance of psychic discomfort is the acceptance of consciousness

# The acceptance of corporatism causes us to deny and undermine the legitimacy of the individual as citizen in a democracy. The result of such a denial is a growing imbalance which leads to our adoration of self-interest and our denial of the public good.

# Socrates: 'Let no day pass without discussing goodness.'

# No Western population has been asked to choose corporatism, let alone demanded it. It simply creeps up on us, a bit more every day… It would be impossible for the corporatist structure ever to reward or admire criticism.

# The money used to produce a 20 second spot for McDonald's would finance hours of television programming. Propaganda is therefore the purpose. Content is the frill or decoration.

# And Socrates again: 'If I say I cannot 'mind my own business' you will not believe that I am serious. If on the other hand I tell you that to let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and that examining both myself or others is really the very best thing a man can do and that life without this sort of examination is not worth living, you will be even less inclined to believe me. Nevertheless, gentlemen, that is how it is.'

Rowland Croucher

March 1999


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