One of the great attractions of patriotism – it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous.
The vast majority of human beings dislike and even actually dread all notions with which they are not familiar… Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have generally been persecuted, and always derided as fools and madmen.
The worst enemy of life, freedom and the common decencies is total anarchy; their second worst enemy is total efficiency.
Happiness is a hard master, particularly other people’s happiness.
Proverbs are always platitudes until you have personally experienced the truth of them.
People intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.
Writers write to influence their readers, their preachers, their auditors, but always, at bottom, to be more themselves.
The essay is a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything
Lying in bed, he would think of Heaven and London.
Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting.
God isn’t the son of Memory; He’s the son of Immediate Experience. You can’t worship a spirit in spirit, unless you do it now. Wallowing in the past may be good literature. As wisdom, it’s hopeless. Time Regained is Paradise Lost, and Time Lost is Paradise Regained. Let the dead bury their dead. If you want to live at every moment as it presents itself, you’ve got to die to every other moment.
Your true traveller finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty – his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.
Defined in psychological terms, a fanatic is a man who consciously over-compensates a secret doubt.
Words, words, words! They shut one off from the universe. Three quarters of the time one’s never in contact with things, only with the beastly words that stand for them.
The quality of moral behaviour varies in inverse ratio to the number of human beings involved.
Thought must be divided against itself before it can come to any knowledge of itself.
Assemble a mob of men and women previously conditioned by a daily reading of the newspapers; treat them to amplified band music, bright lights…and in next to no time you can reduce them to a state of almost mindless sub humanity. Never before have so few been in a position to make fools, maniacs, or criminals of so many.
Democracy can hardly be expected to flourish in societies where political and economic power is being progressively concentrated and centralized. But the progress of technology has led and is still leading to just such a concentration and centralization of power.
In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or the propaganda might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies – the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.
A democracy which makes or even effectively prepares for modern, scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic. No country can be really well prepared for modern war unless it is governed by a tyrant, at the head of a highly trained and perfectly obedient bureaucracy.
Human beings act in a great variety of irrational ways, but all of them seem to be capable, if given a fair chance, of making a reasonable choice in the light of available evidence. Democratic institutions can be made to work only if all concerned do their best to impart knowledge and to encourage rationality. But today, in the world’s most powerful democracy, the politicians and the propagandists prefer to make nonsense of democratic procedures by appealing almost exclusively to the ignorance and irrationality of the electors.