1998/1999 Quotes of the Week

(12/20/98)...one needs to destroy illusions in order to create the conditions that make illusions unnecessary (Erich Fromm)

(12/27/98)The managers of these bureaucracies claim that this submission to their orders is a voluntary one and try to persuade all of us, especially by the amount of material satisfaction that they offer, that we like to do what we are supposed to do. The organization man is not one who disobeys; he does not even know that he is obeying. (Erich Fromm)

(1/4/99) The love of a person implies, not the possession of that person, but the affirmation of that person. It means granting him, gladly, the full right to his unique humanhood. One does not truly love a person and yet seek to enslave him--by law or by bonds of dependence and possessiveness. (Harry Overstreet)

(1/11/99) Traditional American Values: Genocide, aggression, conformity, emotional repression, hypocrisy, and the worship of comfort and consumer goods (George Carlin 1997)

(1/18/99) To most people, the muggers, murderers, and drug dealers they might encounter on a dark city street are the heart of the crime problem. But the damage such criminals do is dwarfed by the respectable criminals who wear white collars and work for out most powerful organizations. The losses from the savings and loan scandal alone will probably be greater than the combined total of the losses from all crimes reported to the police for the next eighteen years, and the toll of injuries and deaths from white-collar crimes will be just as high (James W. Coleman)

(1/25/99) We have come to know that every individual lives, from one generation to the next, in some society; that he lives out a biography, and that he lives it out within some historical sequence. By the fact of his living he contributes, however, minutely, to the shaping of this society and to the course of its history, even as he is made by society and by its historical push and shove. (C. Wright Mills)

(2/1/99) Man was therefore not freed from religion; he received religious freedom. He was not freed from property. He received freedom of property. He was not freed from the egoism of trade, but received freedom to trade. (Karl Marx 1844)

(2/8/99) The question "What shall we do about it?"is only asked by those who do not understand the problem. If a problem can be solved at all, to understand it and to know what to do about it are the same thng. On the other hand, doing somethng about a problem which you do not understand is like trying to clear away darkness by thrusting it aside with your hands. When light is brought, the darkness vanishes at one. (Alan W. Watts)

(2/15/99) It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. (William Bruce Cameron)

(2/22/99) He looked young, not over twenty, and I wondered how he had escaped the habit of guarded fencing that goes on constantly between whites and Negroes in the South wherever they meet. He was the first man I met of either color who did not confuse the popular image of the thing with the thing itself (John Howard Griffin)

(3/1/99) A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. The latter case, it is true, requires a much more cautious exercise of compulsion than the former. To make anyone answerable for doing evil to others is the rule; to make him answerable for not preventing evil is, comparatively speaking, the exception. Yet there are many cases clear enough and grave enough to justify that exception (John Stuart Mill)

(3/8/99) Only he who discovers the help of written words in order to face his fears and make them fade, and the power of words to seize his feelings and give them form, will want to dig deeper into other people's writings (Ivan D. Illich)

(3/15/99) There is no such thing as "subject matter" in the abstract. "Subject matter" exists in the minds of perceivers. And what each one thinks it is, is what it is. We have been acting in schools as if knowledge lies outside the learner, which is why we have the kinds of curricula, syllabi, and texts we have. But knowledge...is what we know AFTER we have learned. It is an outcome of perception and is as unique and subjective as any other perception (Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner)

(3/22/99) With regard to prisons, we can state that the mere act of assigning labels to people and putting them into a situation where those labels acquire validity and meaning is sufficient to elicit pathological behavior. This pathology is not predictable from any available diagnostic indicators we have in the social sciences, and is extreme enough to modify in very significant ways fundamental attitudes and behavior. The prison situation, as presently arranged, is guaranteed to generate severe enough pathological reactions in both guards and prisoners as to debase their humanity, lower their feelings of self-worth and make it difficult for them to be part of a society outside of their prison. (Phillip Zimbardo)

(3/29/99) That most of us consistently fail to consider the alternatives to competition is a testament to the effectiveness of our socialization. We have been trained not only to compete but to believe in competition. If we are asked about it, we unthinkingly repeat what we have been told. Unfortunately, the case for competition, as most of us have learned it, does not stand up under close scrutiny. It is a case that relies on rhetorical gambits, such as the insinuation that people who oppose competition are simply afraid of it, or on a lack of conceptual precision, such as the confusion of competition with conflict or with success. It is a case that sometimes misrepresents itself, such as by disguising the impulse to compete as a simple need to survive. (Alfie Kohn)

(4/5/99) ...and some observers think we exclude those of our perceptions that don't match the paradigm because that's what we're trained to do. To give an exaggerated example, the child says, oh look, Mommy, a purple cow, and the mother says, there is no such thing as a purple cow, sweetheart, and so the kid stops reporting purple cows, and gradually as he gets older the visual messages processed by his brain are modified and translated in terms of Mommy's world until he can't remember seeing a purple cow. (The purple cows then walk around with impunity, unseen by anyone.) (Adam Smith)

(4/12/99) War is Peace...Freedom is Slavery...Ignorance is Strength (George Orwell AND Clinton/NATO)

(4/19/99) The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. (George Orwell)

(4/26/99) God is an idea people had a long time ago. No one knows when. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." A word, a symbol, an Idea. African natives created gods, South American Indians created different ones. Asians yet different ones, and so on. They created the gods they needed, gods who accounted for the mysteries of the universe, of being. It's backward to say God created Adam in his image. Adam created the God he needed, in is image, a God like him, who would give him dominion over the woman, over the whole world. And God kept growing and changing because people kept adding to the idea, until a priesthood stepped in and codified the God idea and said this is the true God. They said it in Egypt, in Africa, and South America, in Japan and China. Everywhere. They said it in Israel and Rome. They say it now in the neighborhood church, but ideas don't stop because people tell them to. So God is evolving with us, changing with us, growing...You can chase the idea out the front dooor, but it will come whistling back through a window. Ideas are stronger than your science. The God idea will live as long as people think and feel afraid and alone. (Kate Wilhelm 1998)

(5/3/99) ...for this country and the American people are greater than the abuses perpetrated upon them by those who live for power and profit. To expose these abuses is not to denigrate the nation that is a victim of them. The greatness of a country is measured by something more than its rulers, its military budget, its instruments of dominance and destruction, and its profiteering giant corporations. A nation's greatness can be measured by its ability to create a society free of poverty, racism, and sexism and free of domestic and overseas exploitation and social and environmental devastation. Albert Camus once said, 'I would like to love my country and justice too.' In fact, there is no better way to love one's country, no better way to strive for the fulfillment of its greatness, than to entertain critical ideas and engage in the pursuit of social justice at home and abroad. (Michael Parenti)

(5/10/99) A people must have some standard by which to measure itself and its individuals; then it must shape its institutions in such manner as will permit its attaining this standard. If the measure of individual worth be "How much have I made?" the present competitive system is the best medium by which to gain that end; but under all its guises it will form a certain type--from the factory hand to the millionaire there will be the one stamp of material acquisitiveness. But if the measure be, "What have I made of myself?" it cannot be attained by the present system. The demand of the belly-need is too strong; the friction too great: individuality is repressed, forced to manifest itself in acquisitiveness and selfishness. And after all, the greatness of a community lies not in the strength of its stong-boxes, nor in the extravagant follies of a few of its members, but in its wisdom, its power for good, and its possibility of realizing in itself the highest and the best. (Jack London 1900)

(5/17/99) Only if racism is thought of as something that occurs principally in the mind, a falling-away from proper notions of universal equality, can the desire of a victimized and terrorized people to band together be declared morally indentical to the actions of their would-be executioners. Only when the actions of the two groups are detached from the historical conditions of their emergence and given a purely abstract description can they be made interchangeable. (Stanley Fish 1993)

(5/24/99) ...that wisdom is not gained by answering questions once and for all but in establishing a thoughtful and continuing relationship to questions. They suggest that wisdom is a thinking state. But to think is to be uncertain; likewise, to entertain antinomies or paradoxes is to be uncertain. We are led in this way to the idea that wisdom lies in uncertainty. To acknowledge this and to maintain a stance not of absolute assurance but of inquiring openness is what I mean by "humane uncertainty" (Glenn Tinder 1986)

(5/31/99) That's why I don't believe we're an experiment. There might be lots of experimental planets in the universe, places where apprentice gods get to test out their skills...But on this planet... there isn't any microintervention. The gods don't drop in on us to fix things up when we've botched it. You look at human history and it's clear we're on our own...No, I don't think we're the experiment. I think we're the control, the planet that nobody was interested in, the place where nobody intervened at all. A calibration world gone to seed. This is what happens if they don't intervene. The earth is an object lesson for the apprentice gods. (Carl Sagan from...Contact)

(6/7/99) Doublespeak is language that pretends to communicate but really doesn't. It is language that makes the bad seem good, the negative appear positive, the unpleasant appear attractive or at least tolerable. Doublespeak is language that avoids or shifts responsibility, language that is at variance with its real or purported meaning. It is language that conceals or prevents thought; rather than extending thought, doublespeak limits it. (William Lutz from DoubleSpeak 1989)

(6/14/99) CULTURE is the most basic and general concept used by sociologists and anthropologists. It refers to a total way of life shared by a people in a society. It is their customs, traditions, beliefs, norms, roles, skills, knowledge of the natural and social world, and, above all, their values. Our culture is the totality of our experience as human beings. Although cultures may have similar qualities, it is the totality of each culture that gives it its uniqueness, that makes me Greek, you American, and other Navaho, Chinese, French, Ibo, Mexican, Algerian, and so forth. (Alexander Liazos from Sociology: A Liberating Perspective 1989)

(6/21/99) People who like to avoid shocking discoveries, who prefer to believe that society is just what they were taught in Sunday School, who like the safety of the rules and the maxims of what Alfred Schuetz has called the "world-taken-for-granted," should stay away from sociology.

People who feel no temptation before closed doors, who have no curiousity about human beings, who are content to admire scenery without wondering about the people who live in those houses on the other side of that river, should probably stay away from sociology.  They will find it unpleasant or, at any rate, unrewarding.

People who are interested in human beings only if they can change, convert or reform them should also be warned, for they will find sociology much less useful than they hoped.  And people whose interest is mainly in their own conceptual constructions will do just as well to turn to the study of little white mice.

Sociology will be satisfying, in the long run, only to those who can think of nothing more entrancing than to watch people and understand things human (Peter L. Berger from Invitation to Sociology 1963)

(6/28/99) For as soon as labour is distributed, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a shepherd, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing to-day and another to-morrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd, or critic. (Karl Marx from The German Ideology 1845-46)

(7/5/99) What is so deceptive about the state of mind of the members of a society is the "consensual validation" of their concepts. It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth. Consensual validation as such has no bearing whatsoever on reason or mental health. Just as there is a "FOLIE A DEUX" there is a "FOLIE A MILLIONS." The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make them virtuous, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make them sane. (Erich Fromm 1954)

(7/12/99) We can only live these changes: We cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, and every group with which we live and work, must become the model of the era which we desire to create. The many models which will develop should give each one of us an environment in which we can celebrate our potential--and discover the way into a more humane world (Italics added for emphasis) (Ivan Illich 1970)

(7/19/99) Do not try to arrive at ideas no one has ever thought of before. Even the greatest thinkers have rarely done that. The aim of thinking is to discover ideas that pull together one's world, and thus one's being, not to give birth to unprecedented conceptions. An idea is your own if it has grown by your own efforts and is rooted in your own emotions and experience, even though you may have received the seeds from someone else and even though the idea may be very much like ideas held by many others (Glenn Tinder, 1986)

(7/26/99) Thus, the academic profession has slowly but inexorably become bifurcated into two faculties: the tenured "haves" and the temporary, part-time "have-nots." The reason for the two faculties is that one sustains the other: the low costs and heavy undergraduate teaching loads of the have-nots help make possible the continuation of a tenure system that protects the jobs and perrequisites of the haves. Because tenured faculty benefit directly and personally from this bifurcation of the academic profession, they have a vested interest in maintaining it (Judith Gappa and David W. Leslie, 1993)

(8/2/99) Care and responsibility are constituent elements of love, but without respect for and knowledge of the beloved person, love deteriorates into domination and possessiveness. Respect is not fear and awe; it denotes, in accordance with the root of the word (respicere = to look at), the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his individuality and uniqueness. To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not guided by the knowledge of the person's individuality (Erich Fromm, 1947)

(8/9/99) The "productive orientation" of personality refers to a fundamental attitude, a mode of relatedness in all realms of human experience. It covers mental, emotional, and sensory responses to others, to oneself, and to things. Productiveness is man's ability to use his powers and to realize the potentialities inherent in him. If we say he must use his powers we imply that he must be free and not dependent on someone who controls his powers. We imply, furthermore, that he is guided by reason, since he can make use of his powers only if he knows what they are, how to use them, and what to use them for. Productiveness means that he experiences himself as the embodiment of his powers and as the "actor"; that he feels himself one with his powers and at the same time that they are not masked and alienated from him (Erich Fromm, 1947)

(8/16/99) With this range of approaches, it's not surprising that a survey of home schooling families would discover a wide range of motivations for having chosen the path. In a study of Oregon home schooling families published by the National Home Education Research Institute, Maralee Mayberry found that such families fit into four basic groups: (1) those who chose home schooling for reasons of religious belief; (2) those believing academic achievement could be higher outside the system; (3) others wishing to pursue a different form of social development for their children; and (4) those on a path of alternative or "New Age" philosophies. By far the largest of these groups was the religious one, amounting to 65% of the families surveyed. Academic achievement was given as the primary reason by 22% of surveyed families, social development by 11%, and alternative/New Age philosophies by 2%. While the good part of a decade has passed since this study was completed, the general percentages likely still hold. (Eric Alan 1999)

(8/23/99) Classical criminologists use "legal" definitions of crime, and criminologists who seek the causes of criminal behavior use "natural" definitions. The criminologists who propose theories of the behavior of criminal law use what might be called a "labeling" definition. The terms crime and criminal are defined as labels applied to certain people and events by the official law enactment and law enforcement agencies. The problem these criminologists attempt to solve, therefore, is analyzing the processes by which these labels are applied in order to explain the distribution of official crime rates among the various groups in society. (George B. Vold and Thomas J. Bernard 1986)

(8/30/99) In the 1970s comedian George Carlin cited the seven words you can never say on network TV: shit---fuck---piss---cunt---asshole---mother- fucker---cock-sucker. All these terms are now heard regularly on cable television. And for those who can read lips, they can be seen on all sports broadcasts. By the year 2001 they'll be heard on the more than 500 channels available to us---just one more example of how the Information Superhighway will enrich our lives (Sterling Johnson 1995)

(9/6/99) The Negro. The South. These are details. The real story is the universal one of men who destroy the souls and bodies of other men (and in the process destroy themselves) for reasons neither really understands. It is the story of the persecuted, the defrauded, the feared and detested. I could have been a Jew in Germany, a Mexican in a number of states, or a member of any "inferior" group. Only the details would have differed. The story would be the same (John Howard Griffin 1976)

(9/13/99) The fourth feature of ideological illusions is that a process of inversion takes place in them, by which real social relations are represented as the realisation of abstract ideas. In the process of ideological illusion, products of abstract thought are treated as though they were independent of the material social relations which they in fact reflect. And so it follows that reality is turned upside down in this process. The source of abstract ideas is taken to be the mind, rather than the material reality of social relations. And so the ultimate ground for the existence of those relations themselves is conceived as being the abstractions of the mind. According to this inverted way of looking at things, men create their social relationships in obedience to their abstract ideas, and not the other way round. (Maurice Cornforth 1955)

(9/20/99) Once the essence of man and of nature, man as a natural being and nature as a human reality, has become evident in practical life, in sense experience, the quest for an alien being, a being above man and nature (a quest which is an avowal of the unreality of man and nature) becomes impossible in practice. Atheism, as a denial of this unreality, is no longer meaningful, for atheism is a negation of God and seeks to assert by this negation the existence of man. Socialism no longer requires such a roundabout method; it begins from the theoretical and practical sense perception of man and nature as essential beings. It is positive human self-consciousness, no longer a self-consciousness attained through the negation of religion...(Karl Marx 1844)

(9/27/99) The sociologist tries to see what is there. He may have hopes or fears concerning what he may find. But he will try to see regardless of his hopes or fears. It is thus an act of pure perception, as pure as humanly limited means allow, toward which sociology strives. (Peter L. Berger 1963)

(10/4/99) Religion is "so absurd that it comes close to imbecility," H.L. Mencken declared in Treatise on the Gods. "The priest, realistically considered, is the most immoral of men, for he is always willing to sacrifice every other sort of good to the one good of his arcanum -- the vague body of mysteries that he calls the truth." Mencken was equally scornful of the organized church: "Since the early days, [it] has thrown itself violently against every effort to liberate the body and mind of man. It has been, at all times and everywhere, the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions. It was, for centuries, an apologist for slavery, as it was an apologist for the divine right of kings." Mencken was not entirely unsympathetic to the wishful thinking behind virtually all religion -- the belief that we needn't die, that the universe isn't arbitrary and indifferent to our plight, that we are governed by a supernatural being whom we might induce to favor us. Still, while a staunch defender of the right to say or think virtually anything, he singled out as "the most curious social convention of the great age in which we live" the notion that religious opinions themselves (not just the right to harbor them) "should be respected." Name one widely published intellectual today who would dare to write that. (Wendy Kaminer 1996)

(10/11/99) Monotheistic religions themselves have, to a large extent, regressed into idolatry. Man projects his power of love and of reason unto God; he does not feel them any more as his own powers, and then he prays to God to give him back some of what he, man, has projected unto God. In early Protestantism and Calvinism, the required religious attitude is that man should feel himself empty and impoverished, and put his trust in the grace of God, that is, into the hope that God may return to him part of his own qualities, which he has put into God. (Erich Fromm 1955)

(10/18/99) Behavioral scholarship has generated a whole vocabulary of terms---"personal, "emotional," "subjective," "cosmic," "metaphysical," "philosophical," "normative"---for shunting aside the things that do not fit its methodology. The tragedy of this particular chapter in the search for human wisdom is that it has convinced a generation of students and scholars that the things people feel and care about most deeply, the problems that most urgently cry out to be solved, are not the proper subjects of their study. (Walt Anderson)

(10/25/99) Under the appropriate conditions, work becomes criminal. Work is essentially a central activity of life, giving meaning to our daily existence. We are only relatively free, however, at specific times and places to choose the work that fulfills us personally and achieves social good. Much work, consequently, exploits others and is detrimental to the self. That careers are made of criminal work reflects the social, political, and economic order. The political economy, in other words, provides the framework for pursuing meaningful and socially constructive work, or for developing a career in crime. Work that is dictated solely by economic survival makes crime a rational and likely possibility in contemporary society (Richard Quinney 1979)

(11/1/99) The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties. (James Madison...1787)

(11/8/99) How are we to define what we see, feel, and hear? The important sociological insight is that meaning is not inherent in an object. Rather, people learn how to define reality from other people in interaction and by learning he culture. This process is called the social construction of reality...The point is that what we see does not have meaning until we learn from others and our own experiences how to interpret and thus make sense out of our perceptions. (D. Stanley Eitzen and Maxine Baca Zinn)

(11/15/99) Used effectively, SF encourages and enables students to think about real and imagined social life, their own values and experiences, the ways in which we collectively shape social arrangements, the influences of society on individuals, and the possibilities for and constraints on altering social arrangements. SF does not merely entertain or provide variety; it develops analytic skills. Because novels entail extensive development of character, setting, and plot (read: individuals and groups, society and culture, and interaction), they help; students develop their sociological imaginations. SF novels are especially useful because they implicitly or explicitly question existing social arrangements in the process of creating alternatives. (Cheryl Laz 1996)

(11/22/99) By "using" I mean simply conditions under which the ends of work are not determined by the worker but by others to whom he is subordinate. This is the typical condition of employees. Modern industrialism uses employees as means to the ends of those in control of industrial or governmental hierarchies. The employer-employee relationship is essentially one of servitude for the employee. A certain amount of "using the other" is inherent in almost all social relationships, including work situations, but the question is not whether employees also "use" employers as a source of money, status, and so on. It is rather a question of which party has the decided advantage in the exchange. (Frank Lindenfeld 1973)

(11/29/99) Reform in the juvenile justice system obviously requires that social changes in the wider society take place first. It is in the interrelationships of improvements in the family, school and community support systems that more juveniles (high risk juveniles especially) may begin to see hope rather than hopelessness in their lives. If they can follow up this hope with jobs in the present and viable career plans in the future, then drug use and participation in drug-trafficking gangs may become less attractive to them. Feeling empowered and more in control of their lives, they also will be more likely to avoid career tracks that may include early death by drug overdose or by gang shootings or imprisonment. (Clemens Bartollas & Michael Braswell 1997)

(12/6/99) The way in which men produce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of the actual means they find in existence and have to reproduce. This mode of production must not be considered simply as being the reproduction of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production. (Karl Marx The German Ideology 1845)

(12/13/99) Smith's satire against the excess of organized religion is telling at points.  For example, Cardinal Glick's Catholicism WOW with its "Buddy Christ," is devastating in pointing out the superficiality of a church which mimics secular marketing strategies in a misguided attempt to "succeed." How a church that centers its devotion upon a Savior who chose to die rather than conform to this world's standards of success can dare to take "success" as a serious goal is one of the bewildering questions of our time... 

...While it now appears that the audience for Dogma will be somewhat limited in its initial run in the theatres, I suspect that this movie will attract a significant following in video and DVD formats over time. This movie works very, very well in stirring up discussion about the meaning of faith, the nature of God, and the role of organized religion in our lives. I see it as a first rate resource for use in the class room, in churches and schools and recommend it highly in such settings. (Rev. Charles Henderson 11/29/99 from about.com)

(12/20/99) The essence of obedience is that a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying out another person's wishes, and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions. Once this critical shift of viewpoint has occurred, all of the essential features of obedience follow. The most far-reaching consequence is that the person feels responsible to the authority directing him but feels no responsibility for the content of the actions that the authority prescribes. Morality does not disappear -- it acquires a radically different focus: the subordinate person feels shame or pride depending on how adequately he has performed the actions called for by authority. (Stanley Milgram from "The Perils of Obedience")

(12/27/99) ...all art is the artist's way of keeping himself mentally healthy. But then again, the same is true of crime and sadistic violence. Blake says: 'When thought is closed in caves, then love shall show its root in deepest hell'. In other words, when creativeness and vitality are frustrated, they rage and become violent. Colin Wilson 1966)