Aphorisms For A Civilization In Decline


Some interesting statements to chew on...

1. In our time, a great man is like God: probably he doesn’t exist, and if he does, no one can see him.

2. We all prostitute ourselves in the marketplace, and so we all must use protection: not tell the truth, unless it’s what people want to hear, which, like a fair marketplace, we don’t really want.

3. The only way to have a holiday in our time is not to indulge the pleasure principle: to take a day off from the incessant work of pleasure.

4. Democracy was the worst thing that ever happened to great men. Still, democracy would never have been if there had been more great men and the great men had been greater.

5. Those smiling snivelers at the bank, the supermarket, the restaurant—really, everywhere—may be helpful, but they are also odiously insincere, and their behavior is a distinctly American vulgarity, like the common lack of disdain for it.

6. If only I were better at multitasking, but alas, most tasks are worth so little.

7. You would think that as a society becomes more prosperous, manners and the sense of courtesy would improve. Actually, the opposite is true, and this is yet another example of the truth that without an elite minority to lead and rule, the majority will mar virtually everything with which it comes into contact.

8. To the naive young, America is a vast carnival. To the cynical old, a horrific satire.

9. Today most of us have neither community nor solitude.

10. Those who once feared God now fear the other person’s knowledge of their deep insincerity.

11. The virtues we lack most today are sincerity and courage.

12. By American dream the majority understand mere pleasure and comfort, not equality and liberty. The latter is too great a burden, and the former mostly a means to pleasure and comfort.

13. After unthinking adherence to custom, the driving force of the majority is unthinking adherence to authority; and their general response to anti-authoritarians is one of bafflement, contempt, or a combination of both. Thus, the natural brutality, smugness, and obstinacy of authority is both exacerbated and reinforced.

14. It took centuries for democracy to emerge from brutal aristocracy, but it may not take long for the tyranny of the stupid many to give way to the tyranny of the stupid few—which does, after all, seem to be the natural and proper order of things.

15. Civilization is the knowledge of a collective illness in which the doctors themselves are sick, though it’s because they offer a cure that they are the most hated.

16. Institutions—though made up of dwarfs—are able to crush giants, unique and superior individuals.

17. In our fundamentally perverse time, there is more loyalty and dignity in adherence to the terrible phrase “stop snitchin” than in being a “good team member,” in which there is a degradation that would be plain if not for the incorrigibly stupid mass that cannot even recognize their own wretchedness.

18. While vanity is a great and well-known evil, not being honest with ourselves about our virtues, merits, talents, and abilities is also to be guarded against: otherwise our self-estimation may suffer—especially in our leveling era which is so resentful of merit—and those who benefit from what we have to offer may not give us sufficient compensation. We must know what we are worth in order to judge whether we are getting our due.

19. Once I have put on the necessary gas mask, ear plugs and goggles, there seems to be nothing left to most people around me.

20. Narcissism always awaits an outlet. Is it social media? Your new job? What a woman last weekend said to you?

21. For the most part it is the adults and the doctors who are sick, not the children. Still, the child who is given Ritalin after naturally resisting an “educational curriculum” which doesn’t engage his mind to think independently, and which therefore doesn’t stir his vitality and creative powers, will as an adult transition as a matter of course to Prozac, that yuppie dope. But certainly the spiritual hell of American capitalism requires some anesthetic.

22. In America almost nothing is as reliable as the most predictable stereotypes.

23. Where there are many, there shall be much deceit, albeit under the veil of virtue.

24. Get your children an edition of the Harvard Classics or some other great books curriculum. Read these together, and what is much more, brood on experience, on your sense of human motivation and the meaning of things. Such an education will take you much farther than any institution.

25. Fully to profess entails making enemies; a man of knowledge and conviction could not be more unwelcome in our spineless era.

26. Liberalism arose as a response to the oppression which resulted from the pursuit of desire. Yet once the individual is free, his chaotic pursuit of desire must eventually lead to another tyranny. And the current chaos of liberal democracy is no more stable or permanent than any other system.

27. The recognition that not just by ignorance but by conscious choice we made life unnecessarily hard on ourselves: this is one of the hard-won virtues of experience. Nor does it entail that we won’t continue to err in the same fashion. Thus, we must be ever mindful.

28. The loss of tradition means the loss of honor: hence why so few of us today can be bothered to keep our word.

29. The more our culture emphasizes equality, the more we can observe deceit.

30. The hours and days when no one calls, texts or emails are more representative of the truth of our condition than those times when we are flooded by contact.

31. The harried poor long for free time; the idle rich struggle to use it.

32. Very few of those who exercise power are worthy of respect in any deep sense. But then, who is? And humankind requires hierarchy all the same.

33. Never before have people made so much of equality; never before have people been so uncompromisingly self-interested.

34. Our ignorance of one another, and our ignorance of ourselves: this is the deep tragedy, the source of our greatest problems.