“One crucial issue today is what role might intellectuals and matters of civic courage, engaged citizenship, and the educative nature of politics play as part of a sustained effort to resurrect the memory of Hiroshima as both a warning and a signpost for rethinking the nature of collective struggle, reclaiming the radical imagination, and producing a sustained politics aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons forever. One issue would be to revisit the conditions that made Hiroshima and Nagasaki possible, to explore how militarism and a kind of technological fanaticism merged under the star of scientific rationality. Another step forward would be to make clear what the effects of such weapons are, to disclose the manufactured lie that such weapons make us safe. Indeed, this suggests the need for intellectuals, artists and other cultural workers to use their skills, resources and connections to develop massive educational campaigns.”

“Our current style of anti-immigrant policing—of which climate change will surely bring more—is eroding civil liberties and thus fundamentally transforming America, returning the nation to its more primitive condition: a herrenvolk democracy based on segregation and routine violence, in which race and nationality mask raw class power.”

—   Christian Parenti, Tropic of Chaos

“What is the most valuable thing that critics do? We point the audiences toward exciting new work, new directors, new performers, new themes; we make connections among a wide variety of films, coax out an impulse, a tendency from the ground plan or the unconscious of a movie and make it part of history, politics, or a director’s biography. Evocation, interpretation, evaluation, resistance to the industry, defense of the artists, an accounting with history and an opening to the future - the tasks remain the same as ever.”

—   David Denby, Do the Movies Have a Future

“What someone’s lies reveal about them (aspirations to being an accomplished writer, fantasies of an exotic history and a cosmopolitan family) are always sadder than the fact of the lies themselves. These inventions illuminate the negative spaces of someone’s self-image, their vanity and insecurities and most childish wishes, as we can infer from warped starlight the presence of a far vaster mass of dark matter.”

—   Tim Kreider, ”The Czar’s Daughter” in We Learn Nothing
Paul Auster, The Locked Room

Paul Auster, The Locked Room

“Once I started to understand the nature of illegitimate structures of authority, I realized that people (including me) were not inherently evil or stupid, and that human nature (including mine) was complex and sometimes maddening, but not inherently aimed at the destruction of the world.”

—   Robert Jensen, Citizens of the Empire, (Jensen contra Gray)

“Folklore is the boiled-down juice of human living.”

—   Zora Neale Hurston

“Boredom arises from the loss of meaning, which in turn comes in part from a failure of religio or connectedness with one another and with our past.”

—   Margaret Visser, Much Depends on Dinner

“There is nothing more to say about the furnishings. They were anything but describable, having been conceived, manufactured, shipped, and sold in various states of thoughtlessness, greed, and indifference.”

—   Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

At that time, there was a series of assumptions everybody had to accept in order even to be allowed to enter serious public debate. They were presented like a series of self-evident equations. “The market” was equivalent to capitalism. Capitalism meant exorbitant wealth at the top, but it also meant rapid technological progress and economic growth. Growth meant increased prosperity and the rise of a middle class. The rise of a prosperous middle class, in turn, would always ultimately equal stable democratic governance. A generation later, we have learned that not one of these assumptions can any longer be assumed to be correct.

The real importance of Thomas Piketty’s blockbuster, Capital in the 21st Century, is that it demonstrates, in excruciating detail (and this remains true despite some predictable petty squabbling) that, in the case of at least one core equation, the numbers simply don’t add up. Capitalism does not contain an inherent tendency to civilise itself. Left to its own devices, it can be expected to create rates of return on investment so much higher than overall rates of economic growth that the only possible result will be to transfer more and more wealth into the hands of a hereditary elite of investors, to the comparative impoverishment of everybody else.