Pithy Sayings


Pithy saying is loading (requires JavaScript) ...

What do the brattiest children do? They shout and name-call and exagerate, like ... Trump. They cover their ears and refuse to listen to unpleasant facts and tell ridiculous lies. They're selfish, and anytime they're thwarted or someone else gets something they want, no matter how justly or reasonably, they scream That's not fair!
[From Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen, 2017]

If Trump cared about something, he usually already had a fixed view based on limited information. If he didn't care, he had no view and no information.
[From Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff, 2018]

I want to say thank you to the president for all the bad decisions that he's making – for the bad cabinet appointments that he's made and for awakening a sleeping giant. People that have never stood up for themselves, people that have never had their voices heard, that have never put their bodies on the line are now outraged. I would like to say thank you to President Trump for his bigotry, for his sexism, for bringing all of us in the nation together to stand up and unite.
[Mekasi Camp Horinek, Ponca Nation member, quoted in No Is Not Enough by Naomi Klein, 2017]

In addition to being antielitist, populists are always antipluralist: populists claim that they, and only they, represent the people.
[From What Is Populism? by Jan-Werner Müller, 2016]

Still Hate Thatcher
[A t-shirt slogan from RedMolotov]

Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning.
[From "He Was a Crook" by Hunter S Thompson in Rolling Stone, June 16, 1994]

Only nut cases want to be president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed people ran for class president.
[From A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut, 2005]

[E]lectibility to high office requires talents unrelated to those for governing and leading. ... The democratic process starts not with a proper job description but with an ability to charm TV viewers and appear either as "one of the guys" or as a remote, admired prince (or, even better, both). ... A talent for speech delivery, including the ability to read from a teleprompter while appearing to improvise, is more crucial than experience, familiarity with global issues, and leadership.
[From "Technology May Endanger Democracy" by Haim Harari in What Should We Be Worried About?, by John Brockman, 2014]

I deny everything.
[Mr Gregsbury, politician, in Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, 1839]

The only question for the U.S. is what's our national interest, and if you don't like that, I'm sorry but that's the fact.
[John Bolton, US ambassador to the United Nations, in a 1994 speech]

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.
[From Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Lawrence, 1935]

Only people with a home and a secure job, and therefore an assured material future, are citizens who will adopt democracy and make it a living reality. The simple truth is that without material security there is no political freedom, no democracy, and therefore a threat to everyone from new and old totalitarian regimes and ideologies.
[From the article "Kapitalismus ohne Arbeit" by Ulrich Beck, sociologist, in Der Spiegel, number 20, 1996]

I do not know if we can build a better society. I do not even know if we will survive as a species. But I do know that these corporate forces have us by the throat. And they have my children by the throat. I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.
[From Wages of Rebellion by Chris Hedges, 2015]

Several of [Hilde] Domin's close friends, Jewish writers who survived the Holocaust, have recently taken their lives, or have lost their minds, in desperation at the renewal of racism and fascism in Europe.
[From Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1996]

Speak Truth to Power
[Milton Mayer, 1955, quoted in the Afterword, by Richard J Evans, to They Thought They Were Free, 2017]

People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.
[Hugo Weaving, in the film V for Vendetta, 2005]

Bronston, governments are never motivated by idealistic reasons. Individuals might be, and even small groups, but governments never. Governments ... exist for the benefit of the class or classes that control them. The only things that motivate them are the interests of that class.
[From Planetary Agent X by Mack Reynolds, 1965]

Our citizenship is another occasion for pride! For the poor it consists in supporting and maintaining the rich in their power and their idleness. At this task they must labour in the face of the majestic equality of the laws, which forbid rich and poor alike to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread. This equality is one of the benefits of the Revolution.
[From Le Lys Rouge [The Red Lily] by Anatole France, 1894]

The state, however big, cannot make people equal or better human beings. All it can do is to treat its citizens equally, and strive to ensure that their free activities are directed towards the general good. After a century dominated by the twin totalitarianisms of Communism and Fascism, one can only hope that this lesson has been learned. As we enter the twenty-first century we must try to strengthen our democracy, both as a source of freedom and of social justice, lest the disadvantaged and the disillusioned reject it again.
[From A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes, 1996]

The people who run the world today are psychopaths. ... All they care about is the economy because that means money. A virus is sweeping through the human race. At the top, all over the world, we are rotting away as a species from the top down. The leaders have gone beyond greed to the sheer amassing of power. There is no effective morality, just power.
[Farley Mowat, quoted in Party of One by Michael Harris, 2014]

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.
[Lord Acton in a 1887 letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, quoted in Dial M for Murdoch by Tom Watson and Martin Hickman, 2012]

"I couldn't believe it when they told me what you were putting on the air for political commercials—it's unheard of!"
"People telling the truth, yes," I nodded. "Never been done, as far as I know. ... You see, it isn't enough to be less bad. Less bad is still bad."
[From The Merchants' War by Frederik Pohl, 1984]

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
Who will guard the guardians themselves?
[From Satire VI by Juvenal, circa 115 AD]

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
[From "The Revolutionist's Handbook" in the play Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw, 1903]

Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.
[Cæsar in the play Cæsar and Cleopatra by George Bernard Shaw, 1898]

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
[Albert Einstein, 1879 to 1955]

A society that speaks with only one voice is not a stable society.
[From Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, 2016]

It [The Prisoner] is solidly grounded in the perpetual struggle between the right of the individual to be individual and the right of the state to govern. The struggle between the individual and society is seen as a perpetual struggle, but one that must be taken seriously and fought. If the individual fights, he or she is guaranteed only that the war will continue. If the individual doesn't fight, however, the war is over; the individual loses, and the future looks very bleak indeed.
[From The Official Prisoner Companion by Matthew White and Jaffer Ali, 1988]

I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered!
[Number Six in the TV series The Prisoner, 1967]

If you have an ID card, it is solely for the purpose of allowing the government to compel you to produce it. This would essentially give the government the power to demand that we show our papers. It is a very dangerous thing.
[Tom Campbell, 1952 to ?, Professor of Law]

The price of freedom is death.
[Malcolm X, quoted in Blood Brothers by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith, 2016]

Entrenched paradigms never move ... until outside forces move them. And those forces always come from the bottom up. The people who sit on the throne tend to like things the way they are. They have no reason to change until they are forced to do so.
[From "Declare Your Independence" by Joel Salatin in Food, Inc. edited by Karl Weber, 2009]

Rule is not directed towards the welfare of the ruled. Rule is for power.
[From 1985 by Anthony Burgess, 1978]

Afterwards, he [the Archbishop of Canterbury] asked her about the children's eyes – why was it that the youngest ones had a sparkle when they sang, while the ten- and eleven-year-olds looked so dull and lifeless? And so she told him the truth.
'These children have no hope,' she said. 'They live in a state of despair.'
[From Dark Heart by Nick Davies, 1997]

A tax cut inevitably results in a spending cut. That's the part they never tell you.
[From "Tax Cuts: Part of the Problem, Not the Solution" by Trish Hennessy in Canada After Harper, edited by Ed Finn, 2015]

Is it just me, or is blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?
[A tweet by Al Gore in 2013, quoted in Breaking News by Alan Rushbridger, 2018]

If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others like?
[From Candide by Voltaire, 1759]

McWorld advocates will argue that the "market" does "serve" individuals by empowering them to "choose" but the choice is always about which items to buy and consume, never about whether to buy and consume anything at all; or about the right to earn an income that makes consumption possible; or about how to regulate and contain consumption so that it does not swallow up other larger public goods that cannot be advanced in the absence of democratic public institutions.
[From Jihad vs. McWorld by Benjamon R Barber, 1995]

The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.
[From Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, 2005]

Therefore, what?
[An acid query said to have been thrown by Lyndon Johnson at a group of professors who had just briefed him on the Middle Eastern situation, quoted in "How should we treat the environment" by F K Hare in Science, 1970, pages 352 to 357]

Age and Treachery will always overcome Youth and Skill.
[Original author unknown]

Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools.
[Original author unknown]

The individual cannot bargain with the State. The State recognizes no coinage but power: and it issues the coins itself.
[From The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin, 1974]

And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual.
[Henry Lewis Mencken, 1880 to 1956, quoted in The Reality Bubble by Ziya Tong, 2019]

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
[Science Officer Spock]

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
[From A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace by John Perry Barlow, 1996]

Webmaster: / martin.leeseAT_SINGstanfordalumni.org