There is one expanding horror in American life. It is that our long odyssey toward liberty, democracy and freedom-for-all may be achieved in such a way that utopia remains forever closed, and we live in freedom and hell, debased of style, not individual from one another, void of courage, our fear rationalized away.
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For 40 years we were led to think of the Russians as godless, materialistic and an evil empire. When the Cold War ended, we suddenly discovered that Russia was a poor Third World country. They had not been equipped to take over the world. In fact, they were just trying to improve a miserable standard of oppressive living, and couldn't. They had to spend too much on arms build-up. We didn't win the Cold War; we bankrupted the Russians. In effect, it was a big bank exhausting the reserves of a smaller one.
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I really gave up being passionate about politics 10, 15, 20 years ago, because I think finally that there were forces in the country that are larger than politics itself. And so I find it a fascinating game, this wonderful stuff goes on in terms of watching the game. But If you get to down it, look, I'm going to root for someone, I'll root at a football game, not for politicians.
I really am a pessimist. I've always felt that fascism is a more natural governmental condition than democracy. Democracy is a grace. It's something essentially splendid because it's not at all routine or automatic. Fascism goes back to our infancy and childhood, where we were always told how to live. We were told, Yes, you may do this; no, you may not do that. So the secret of fascism is that it has this appeal to people whose later lives are not satisfactory.
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The sickness of our times for me has been just this damn thing that everything has been getting smaller and smaller and less and less important, that the romantic spirit has dried up, that there is no shame today. We're all getting so mean and small and petty and ridiculous, and we all live under the threat of extermination.
No, but why is Croft that way? Oh there are The Answers. He is that way because of the-corruption-of-the-society. He is that way because he is having problems of adjustment. It is because he is a Texan. It is because he has renounced God. He is that way because he was born that way, or because the Devil has claimed him for one of his own, or because the only woman he ever loved was untrue to him.
About a week after they had come back, a load of mail came to the island. They were the first letters the men had received in several weeks, and for a night it relieved the changeless pattern of their lives. One of the infrequent rations of beer was given out the same night, and the men finished their three cans quickly, and sat about without saying very much. The beer had been far too inadequate to make them drunk; it made them only moody and reflective, it opened the gate to all their memories, and left them sad, hungering for things they could not name.
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I'm not interested in absolute moral judgments. Just think of what it means to be a good man or a bad one. What, after all, is the measure of difference? The good guy may be 65 per cent good and 35 per cent bad-that's a very good guy. The average decent fellow might be 54 per cent good, 46 per cent bad-and the average mean spirit is the reverse. So say I'm 60 per cent bad and 40 per cent good-for that, must I suffer eternal punishment? "Heaven and Hell make no sense if the majority of humans are a complex mixture of good and evil. There's no reason to receive a reward if you're 57/43-why sit around forever in an elevated version of Club Med? That's almost impossible to contemplate.
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The writer can grow as a person or he can shrink... His curiosity, his reaction to life must not diminish. The fatal thing is to shrink, to be interested in less, sympathetic to less, desiccating to the point where life itself loses its flavor, and one's passion for human understanding changes to weariness and distaste.
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I tell you, say the rich, the poor are naught but dirty wind welling in air-shafts over the cinders and droppings of the past, their voices thick with grease and ordure, sewer-greed to corrode the ear with the horrors of the past and the voids of new stupidity. One could drown waiting for the poor to make one fine distinction. Yes, destroy us say the rich and you lose the roots of God.
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I don't trust compliments. I've been getting them for years. Sometimes I deserve them, sometimes I didn't. But generally when people give you compliments there's one of two things wrong with them. Either they're false, or what's worse is they're sincere. They really mean the compliment. And then they're offering you their loyalty. And I'm kind of a stingy... Well, I don't necessarily want to give all that loyalty back. So either way, let's skip the compliments.
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It is not uncommon for fighters' camps to be gloomy. In heavy training, fighters live in dimensions of boredom others do not begin to contemplate. Fighters are supposed to. The boredom creates an impatience with one's life, and a violence to improve it. Boredom creates a detestation for losing.
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I heard from clear across the city, over the Hudson in the Jersey yards, one fierce whistle of a locomotive which took me to a train late at night hurling through the middle of the West, its iron shriek blighting the darkness. One hundred years before, some first trains had torn through the prairie and their warning had congealed the nerve. "Beware, " said the sound. "Freeze in your route. Behind this machine comes a century of maniacs and a heat which looks to consume the earth." What a rustling those first animals must have known.
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Armstrong, sitting in the commander's seat, spacesuit on, helmet on, plugged into electrical and environmental umbilical's, is the man who is not only a machine himself in the links of these networks, but is also a man sitting in (what Collins is later to call) a 'mini-cathedral.' a man somewhat more than a pilot, somewhat more than a superpilot, is in fact a veritable high priest of the forces of society and scientific history concentrated in that mini cathedral, a general of the church of the forces of technology.
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America has an almost obscene infatuation with itself. Has there ever been a big, powerful country that is as patriotic as America? And patriotic in the tinniest way, with so much flag waving? You'd really think we were some poor little republic, and that if one person lost his religion for one hour, the whole thing would crumble. America is the real religion in this country.
The century would seek to dominate nature as it had never been dominated, would attack the idea of war, poverty and natural catastrophe as never before. The century would create death, devastation and pollution as never before. Yet the century was now attached to the idea that man must take his conception of life out to the stars.
I've always felt that my relationship to the United States is analogous to a marriage. I love this country. I hate it. I get angry at it. I feel close to it. I'm charmed by it. I'm repelled by it. And it's a marriage that's gone on for let's say at least 50 years of my writing life, and in the course of that, what's happened? It's gotten worse. It's not what it used to be.
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Over the years, I've found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.
Fascism is more of a natural state than democracy. To assume blithely that we can export democracy into any country we choose can serve paradoxically to encourage more fascism at home and abroad. Democracy is a state of grace that is attained only by those countries who have a host of individuals not only ready to enjoy freedom but to undergo the heavy labor of maintaining it.
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A political convention is after all not a meeting of a corporation's board of directors; it is a fiesta, a carnival, a pig-rooting, horse-snorting, band-playing, voice-screaming medieval get-together of greed, practical lust, compromised idealism, career-advancement, meeting, feud, vendetta, conciliation, of rabble-rousers, fist fights (as it used to be), embraces, drunks (again as it used to be) and collective rivers of animal sweat.
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We divorced ourselves from the materials of the earth, the rock, the wood, the iron ore; we looked to new materials which were cooked in vats, long complex derivatives of urine which we called plastic. They had no odor of the living, ... their touch was alien to nature. ... [They proliferated] like the matastases of cancer cells.
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