I post links to articles that I find intriguing on my public Facebook page.

When I give lectures, I am sometimes asked for further information about material I have quoted. Here are some of the passages that I like to draw upon:

Susan Sontag (from “The Truth of Fiction Evokes Our Common Humanity,” Newsday, 041229, excerpted from a speech at the Los Angeles Public Library):

Why does evil exist? Why do people betray and kill one another? Why do the innocent suffer?
But perhaps the problem ought to be rephrased: Why is evil not everywhere? More precisely, why is it somewhere but not everywhere? And what are we to do when it doesn’t befall us? When the pain that is endured is the pain of others?
Hearing the news of the earthquake that leveled Lisbon on Nov. 1, 1755 . . . the great Voltaire was struck by our inveterate inability to take in what happened elsewhere. ‘Lisbon lies in ruins,’ Voltaire wrote, ‘and here in Paris we dance.’
We are just as capable of being surprised by, and frustrated by the inadequacy of our response to, the simultaneity of wildly contrasting human fates as was Voltaire two and a half centuries ago. Perhaps it is our perennial fate to be surprised by the simultaneity of events, by the sheer extension of the world in time and space. That we are here, prosperous, safe, unlikely to go to bed hungry or be blown to pieces this evening, while elsewhere in the world, right now in Grozny, in Najaf, in the Sudan, in the Congo, in Gaza, in the favelas of Rio….

Elaine Scarry (from her essay, “The Difficulty of Imagining Other Persons,” published in The Handbook of Interethnic Coexistence, ed. Eugene Weiner, New York: Continuum, 1998, pp. 43-45):

…the act of injury occurs precisely because we have trouble believing in the reality of other persons…. Our injuring of others, therefore, results from our failure to know them…. the human capacity to injure other people is very great precisely because our capacity to imagine other people is very small.

Noam Chomsky (from the essay, “Writers and Intellectual Responsibility,” in his book, Powers and Prospects, London: Pluto Press, 1996, pp. 55-56):

…it is a moral imperative to find out and tell the truth as best one can, about things that matter, to the right audience…. The responsibility of the writer as a moral agent is to try to bring the truth about matters of human significance to an audience that can do something about them.

Judith Herman (from her book, Trauma and Recovery, New York: Basic Books, 1997, p. 7):

It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.

Peter Singer (from his book, How Are We to Live? Ethics in an Age of Self-Interest, Melbourne: Text Publishing Company, 1993, p. 233):

In comparison with the needs of people starving in Somalia, the desire to sample the wines of the leading French vineyards pales into insignificance. Judged against the sufferings of immobilized rabbits having shampoos dripped into their eyes, a better shampoo becomes an unworthy goal. . . . An ethical approach to life does not forbid having fun or enjoying food and wine, but it changes our sense of priorities.

Gregg Levoy (from his essay, “Sacrifice: The Shadow in the Calling,” in Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life, New York: Harmony Books/Crown Publishers, 1997, p. 142):

Faith will eventually ask of the faithful, ‘What are you willing to give up in order to follow your call?’ Sacrifice, says Thomas Moore, is ‘the shadow in the calling.’ It reminds us that we pay a price for every choice and that life doesn’t hold still.

Barbara Ehrenreich (from her article, “All Together Now,” The New York Times, 040715):

As Fred Alford, a political scientist who studies the fate of whistle-blowers, puts it: ‘We need to understand in this `land of the free and home of the brave’ that most people are scared to death. About 50 percent of all whistle-blowers lose their jobs, about half of those lose their homes, and half of those people lose their families.’

C. Fred Alford (from his book, Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2001, p. 125 and p. 138):

It is far from wrong to state that the whistleblower is sacrificed as a lesson to others in the group, so that they will see the price of acting as an ethical individual who remembers that he or she belongs to the world.

To be a whistleblower is to set one way of thinking about the sacred, the conscience collective, against another, sacred power.

John R. MacArthur (from “Timid Kerry Stopped Counting Too Soon,” The Providence Journal, 041207):

In politics, the only thing worse than a bully is someone who won’t stand up to one.

Lisa Langseth (quoted by Betty Skawonius in “Från Marabou till kultureliten Lisa Langseth skildrar samhällets sociala skiktning i sina pjäser,” Dagens Nyheter, 031024):

De första sex åren gick hon i skolan i Hjorthagen. I sjuan fick eleverna gå över till Ahlströmska skolan på Östermalm. ’Jag förstod absolut ingenting. Folk var rika och snygga med ett självförtroende som jag inte hade susningen av och en självklar tillgång till resor, pengar, kläder. Och de gjorde förmågan att ta sig fram i samhället till en koppling mellan intelligens och pengar. Jag var tolv tretton och måste fråga mig varför jag inte hade det som de hade. Jag var livrädd.’

David Brooks (in his article, “Clash of Titans,” The New York Times, 040306):

It’s a tremendous advantage to have been instilled with the habit of self-assertion since infancy. If you can project a physiological comfort with power, others around you will begin to accept your sense of self-worth. There aren’t too many people waking up in normal suburban split-levels assuming they should rule the world. But God bless the upper class. They’ve lost their legitimacy, but they haven’t lost their self-confidence.

Erik Erikson (from his book, Young Man Luther, New York: Norton, 1958, p. 198 and p. 220):

To Luther, the inspired voice, the voice that means it, became a new kind of sacrament…. He obviously felt himself to be the evangelical giver of a substance which years of suffering had made his to give; an all-embracing verbal generosity developed in him, so that he did not wish to compete with professional talkers, but to speak to the people so that the least could understand him….

As far as Luther’s attitude toward his own work is concerned, only when he was able to make speaking his main occupation could he learn to know his thoughts and to trust them — and also trust God. He took on the lectures, not with pious eagerness, but with a sense of tragic conflict; but as he prepared and delivered them, he became affectively and intellectually alive. This is not works; it is work, in the best sense.

Dag Hammarskjöld (from his book, Vägmärken, Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1963, p. 73):

Gud har användning för Dig också om det icke tycks passa Dig för ögonblicket.

Søren Kierkegaard (from the book, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Søren Kierkegaard, edited by Charles E. Moore, Rifton, New York: Bruderhof Foundation, 2002):

True individuality is measured by this: how long or how far one can endure being alone without the understanding of others. The person who can endure being alone is poles apart from the social mixer. He is miles apart from the man-pleaser, the one who manages successfully with everyone – he who possesses no sharp edges. God never uses such people. The true individual, anyone who is going to be directly involved with God, will not and cannot avoid the human bite. He will be thoroughly misunderstood. God is no friend of cozy human gathering.

Doris Lessing (from her book, The Golden Notebook, New York: Ballantine Books, 1962):

Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. … What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture…. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others, will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself…. Those that stay must remember, always and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.’

James Stockinger (quoted in Robert Bellah et al., The Good Society, New York: Knopf, 1991, p. 104):

. . . each of us lives in and through an immense movement of the hands of other people. The hands of other people lift us from the womb. The hands of other people grow the food we eat, weave the clothes we wear and build the shelters we inhabit. The hands of other people give pleasure to our bodies in moments of passion and aid and comfort in times of affliction and distress. . . . and, at the end, it is the hands of other people that lower us into the earth.

Garrison Keillor (from “A Democrat Knows That the Leaf Turns,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 040720):

The gains in life come slowly and the losses come on suddenly. You work for years to get your life the way you want it and buy the big house and the time share on Antigua and one afternoon you’re run down by a garbage truck and lie in the intersection, dazed, bloodied, your leg unnaturally bent, and suddenly life becomes terribly challenging …. The fear of catastrophe could chill the soul but the social compact assures you that if the wasps come after you, if gruesome disease strikes down your child, if you find yourself hopelessly lost, incapable, drowning in despair, running through the rye toward the cliff, then the rest of us will catch you and tend to you and not only your friends but We the People in the form of public servants. … Without that assurance, we may as well go live in the woods and take our chances.

Jonathan Kozol, after his final goodbye to his friend and mentor Paulo Freire (from The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home, New York: Bantam Books, 1975, pp. 221-222):

I do not feel awkward, though I did for years, to speak of my affection for some of those older people whom I trust and love. The faces and words along the walls of my apartment became more real and more like mandates for me in those hours [after Freire’s departure]. I think the reverence that we feel for men and women who have been our true teachers, and the way that love can change our lives, our vision, our perception of all things we know, and open up new areas of freedom and imagination we have never felt, after certain periods of loneliness that we have never undergone — that this is, in the long run, what education is, and nothing else but this.

Many young people do not like to think that they will need the borrowed strength of older men and women. In part, this is because they may not know the kinds of people I now have in mind. If they do, they have often been afraid to open up their hearts for fear of being disappointed. Yet there have been many who, in struggle with themselves, were not reluctant to take strength and courage from those who have gone before. When Cesar Chavez started to fast, in very great pain he looked up to the photograph of Gandhi. When Gandhi went to prison in South Africa in 1908, he read the words of Thoreau and Saint Francis. When Dr. King began his lonely hours in Montgomery Jail, he turned for strength to writings left by Gandhi. . . . It may be that discipleship like this is, in the last event, the only thing that can empower a person to live by his beliefs. If there is not the reassurance of this love, I do not know if we will ever find the will to overcome the dangers and the admonitions that are placed before us.