It’s already been said

| October 16, 2008 4:56 pm

This was originally intended as a blog post on all that is wrong with politics, religion, the interaction between the two, as well as the media’s abdication of responsibility, lack of journalistic integrity and similar rants and frustrations.

However, I’ll instead just list a bunch of quotes attributed to Mark Twain. They don’t quite capture everything I want to say and the world is different now than a century ago (but not all that different, it seems), but they’re a hell of a lot better than anything I can come up with and I find their conciseness and wit much more powerful and inspirational than any of the thousands of and on-line political diaries (the so-called “citizen journalism” naiveté) that merely add to the misinformation overload and by and large fail to fill the void left open by the totally discredited dailies and network radio and TV news (I refuse to use the term “mainstream media”).

So here goes:

Media/Corporations

If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

The lack of money is the root of all evil.

Politics/Patriotism

In religion and politics, people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination.

If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.
Actions speak louder than words, but not nearly as often.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes time and annoys the pig.

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.

The modern patriotism, the true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation ALL the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.

We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. And out of it we get an aggregation which we consider a boon. Its name is public opinion. It is held in reverence. Some think it the voice of God.

The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.

Citizenship? We have none! In place of it we teach patriotism which Samuel Johnson said a hundred and forty or a hundred and fifty years ago was the last refuge of the scoundrel — and I believe that he was right. I remember when I was a boy and I heard repeated time and time again the phrase, ‘My country, right or wrong, my country!’ How absolutely absurd is such an idea. How absolutely absurd to teach this idea to the youth of the country.

The citizen who thinks he sees that the commonwealth’s political clothes are worn out, and yet holds his peace and does not agitate for a new suit, is disloyal, he is a traitor. That he may be the only one who thinks he sees this decay, does not excuse him: it is his duty to agitate anyway, and it is the duty of others to vote him down if they do not see the matter as he does.

When the doctrine of allegiance to party can utterly up-end a man’s moral constitution and make a temporary fool of him besides, what excuse are you going to offer for preaching it, teaching it, extending it, perpetuating it? Shall you say, the best good of the country demands allegiance to party? Shall you also say it demands that a man kick his truth and his conscience into the gutter, and become a mouthing lunatic, besides?

Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory, more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion. She has been so eager to get every stake that appeared on the green cloth, that the People who Sit in Darkness have noticed it — they have noticed it, and have begun to show alarm. They have become suspicious of the Blessings of Civilization.

People

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.

I have no race prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse.

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.

Familiarity breeds contempt — and children.

The only reason why God created man is because he was disappointed with the monkey.

To create man was a fine and original idea; but to add the sheep was a tautology.

A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape.

Religion

Heaven for climate, Hell for society

The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.

I have no special regard for Satan; but, I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show. All religions issue bibles against him, and say the most injurious things about him, but we never hear his side. We have none but the evidence for the prosecution, and yet we have rendered the verdict. To my mind, this is irregular. It is un-English, it is un-American; it is French.

It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

When I, a thoughtful and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane, not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic — for that is a part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his… When I look around me, I am often troubled to see how many people are mad.

A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell — mouths mercy, and invented hell — mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!

I admire the serene assurance of those who have religious faith. It is wonderful to observe the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces.

There is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a Dream, a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And You are but a Thought – a vagrant Thought, a useless Thought, a homeless Thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities.

If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvellous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

If you want more Mark Twain quotes, there’s plenty more at his Wikiquote page, which is where I got the above. 

One Response to “It’s already been said”

Theresa wrote a comment on October 17, 2008

Yay, Mark Twain. I’ll be glad when this election thing is over. It’s been dragging on a little too long…

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