Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Arthur Koestler (1905 - 1983)

Ghandi’s slope started with nonviolence and made him gradually slide down to his present position of non resistance to Japanese conquest: the Japanese might kill a few million Indians but they would get tired of it, and thereby the moral integrity of India would be saved. "The Yogi and the Commissar" 1942. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

In a true novel, the action takes place inside the characters skull and ribs. "The Novelist's Temptations" 1941. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar (28)

As for those who have no personal experience of fascism - the common people in the Anglo-Saxon countries - the term democracy has very little real meaning to them. They are as unaware of the basic constitutional liberties they enjoy as they are unaware of the composition of the air they breathe.
            "Knights in Rusty Armor" 1943. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

We call Nazisms New Order a total lie because it denies the specific ethos of our species, because by proclaiming that might is right it reduces Civil Law to Jungle Law, and by proclaiming that race is all it reduces Sociology to Zoology. With such a philosophy there can be no compromise; it must unconditionally surrender.
           "The Fraternity of Pessimists" 1943. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

When all isms become meaningless and the world an alley of crooked question marks, then indeed a mans longing for the Holy Grail may become so strong that he flies like a moth into the flame; and having burnt his wings, crawls back into it again. But this, of course, is the one instinct in mans condition which he cannot rationalize.
           "In Memory of Richard Hillary" 1943. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

Distance in space and time degrades intensity of awareness. So does magnitude. Seventeen is a figure which I know intimately like a friend, fifty billion is just a sound. A dog run over by a car upsets our emotional balance and digestion; three million Jews killed in Poland causes but a moderate uneasiness.
             "On Disbelieving Attrocities" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

Those who are snugly tucked into the social hierarchy have obviously no strong impulse to independent thought. Where would it come from? They have no reason to destroy their accepted values not any desire to build new ones. The thirst for knowledge is mainly confined to situations where the unknown
is disquieting; the happy are rarely curious.
          "The Intelligentsia" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

To think and behave independently puts one automatically into opposition against the majority whose thinking and behavior is dependent in traditional patterns: and to belong to a minority is in itself a neurosis-forming condition.
          "The Intelligentsia" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

Our awareness seems to shrink in direct ratio as communications expand; the world is open to us as never before, and we walk about as prisoners, each in his private portable cage.
          "On Disbelieving Attrocities" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

Fascism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone; it has to be defeated inside people's brains, hearts, and glands, for it is merely a new word for a very old state of mind. Wherever there is talk of niggers, sheenies and kikes; wherever there is snooping, official or private, into citizens' amourous habits and political creed; wherever a demand for better wages is called the Red Menace and a legal strike is smashed with lead pipes and shot-guns - wherever these things happen, fascism is there, straight under your nose, you don't need to go to the pictures and look at technicolor-Gestapo to find it.
          "Les Rois est Mort..." 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

History is a bad teacher: it inflicts the punishment first and leaves it to the pupil to find out why.
          "Les Rois est Mort..." 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

Science has at last reached a stage sufficiently rational to be able to see the irrationality of the minds normal functioning.
          "Anatomy of a Myth" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

The ultimate reason for the failure of the Second, Third and Fourth Internationals and of international socialism in general is their disregard of the irrational factor in the human mind. Socialist doctrine and leftist propaganda remain based on the assumption that man is an entirely rational being who only needs convincing by logical arguments, evening classes, pamphlets, Penguins [as in penguin classics], etc., to recognize  his own interests and to act accordingly. The subconscious, the older half of the brain, the archetypes, the world of the dream, the ductless glands, the autonomous nervous system, the Id - that is, 90 percent of what constitutes the real homo sapiens - was left out of the picture. Hence the total failure of the Left to analyze, explain and counter-act the phenomenon of fascism. Hence it's self-deceiving, shallow optimism even on the present verge of the abyss.
          "Anatomy of a Myth" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

The western power's half hearted attempts to quell Bolshevism by military intervention only increased the fervor of the disciples and invested Russia with an aura of martyrdom which was to persist even after she had become the greatest military power in Europe and swallowed half of Poland and the Baltic states. "Hands off Russia" started as a political slogan and soon became a religious taboo. In a similar way, the vituperation of the reactionary press led to an extension of the tabu to criticism and debate. The official explanation of this was that criticism of Russia, however friendly and objective, played into the hands of Reaction. But this was obviously a mere rationalization of the attitude involved; for even in private, with no Daily Mail reporter present, any critical utterance was regarded by the worshippers as blasphemy and crime. The urge to defend Russia became detached from reality and turned into the mental defense of a creed against the foreign intervention of doubt.
          "Anatomy of a Myth" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

In the wretched decades between the two wars, when the Left lived in an atmosphere of constant defeats and betrayals, when inflation, unemployment, fascism swept over country after country, Russia was the only thing to live and did for. She was the only hope in an she of hopelessness, the only promise for the tired and disillusioned.
          "Anatomy of a Myth" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar.

Few soviet admirers are aware that the European sections of the second international - the British labor party, the French SFIO, Italian, polish, Austrian, Spanish socialists and their leaders - are in Russian terminology still called "counter-revolutionary Mensheviks." how strong and virulent this hatred is had been proved by Moscow's persistent refusal to make common cause surf socialists on the continent against the growing fascist menace - until it was too late. In Hitler's concentration camps Communists and Socialist workers were killed side by side , and yet the former still abused the latter as "social fascists."
          "The End of an Illusion" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar. (195)

Since the purges, the soviet rulers have come to regard ad the greatest danger to their international aspirations not the cynics and reactionaries but the politically conscious Left abroad. With cynics one can always find a modus vivendi; idealists are intransigent, a nuissance and a danger. This goes for individuals as for movements. Consequently the first preoccupation of the expanding soviet state was the liquidation of the left in occupied Poland and the Baltic states.
          "The End of an Illusion" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar. (198)

The tragedy is that only those realize what oxygen means who known the torture of suffocation; only those who have shared the life of the ordinary native in nazi Germany or Stalinite Russia for at least a year know that disintegration of the human substance which befalls people deprived of their basic liberties. But how many of us are capable of drawing comparisons? The English dock yard worker has not experienced the difference between risking, for the same negligence, a cut in pay or death as a saboteur. The English journalist does not know the difference between a limited freedom of expression and the status of a human teleprinter. The English highbrow, fed up with a statesman's cigar or a general's photo-mania, has no idea the abject idiocy of regimented Byzantine leader worship. The English public, disgruntled but secure within the law, does not know the shivering insecurity, the naked horror of an autocratic police-state. They only know their own frustrations. The atmosphere of democracy has become a stale fog, and those who breathe it cannot be expected to be grateful for the air which it contains. The predicament of western civilization is that it use ceased to be aware of the values which it is in peril of losing.
          "The End of an Illusion" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar. (210)

It is well to remember how the Nazi regime succeeded in keeping the majority of the British and French UN ignorance about the German terror for six whole years from 1933 to 1939, although Germany was wide open to tourist traffic and much nearer to Russia. Those who knew the truth about Germany and kept on shouting it into the ears of the deaf were accused of war- and atrocity-mongering; to tell the truth about Russia is today an equally ungrateful and equally necessary task. Had the Cassandra's of 1933-39 been listened to ... the war might have been avoided; the Cassandra's of today are faced with a similar situation but this time the men of Munich are of the left.
          "The End of an Illusion" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar. (213)

The age of enlightenment has destroyed faith in personal survival; the scars of this operation have never healed. There is a vacancy u. Every living soul, a deep thirst in all of us. If the socialist idea cannot fill this vacancy and quench our thirst, then it has failed in our time. In this car the whole development of the socialist idea since the French revolution has been merely the end of a chapter in history, Bs not the beginning of a new one.
          "The End of an Illusion" 1944. Collected in The Yogi and the Commissar. (217)

The thirst for the absolute is a stigma which marks those unable to find satisfaction in the relative world of the now and here.
          Arrow in the Blue 1952. (51)

The pursuit of science in itself is never materialistic. It is a search for the principles of law and order in the universe, and as such an essentially religious endeavor. If the inferences drawn from it are at times materialistic, this merely proves that those who draw them happen to be partisans of a materialist philosophy.
          Arrow in the Blue 1952. (52)

It was the same quest and the same all-or-nothing mentality which drove me to the Promised Land and into the Communist Party. In other ages aspirations of this kind found their natural fulfillment in God. Since the end of the eighteenth century the place of God had been vacant in our civilization; but during the ensuing century and a half so many exciting things were happening that people were not aware of it. Now, however, after the shattering catastrophes which brought the age if Reason and Progress to a close, the void has made itself felt. The age which I grew up in was an age of disillusions and of longing.
          Arrow in the Blue 1952. (51-2)

That the parents' financial status should determine the ammount of mental development accorded to a child still appears to me as one of the most nauseating injustices of our civilization. Arrow 69
Hatred, like love, can only flourish where there is some common ground, where a common denominator exists.
          Arrow in the Blue 1952. (256)

Adjustment to a deformed society creates deformed individuals.
          Arrow in the Blue 1952. (275)

Living in a disintegrating society, I was thirsting for faith, thirsting for an opportunity to build, create and construct.
          Arrow in the Blue 1952. (379-80)

The reason why our culture is in danger of being drowned in a flood of acoustic and visual slush is that the rotary press, radio and television make the masses passive receivers of "art," and condition their taste to the lowest level. Folk-music in any country could never sink so low, because it is based on the active participation of the people, and is performed in instruments within the people's reach.
         Arrow in the Blue 1952. (306)

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