Latest Commonplace Additions

Government has a final responsibility for the well-being of its citizenship


Government has a final responsibility for the well-being of its citizenship. If private cooperative endeavor fails to provide work for willing hands and relief for the unfortunate, those suffering hardship from no fault of their own have a right to call upon the Government for aid; and a government worthy of its name must make fitting response

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 3 Jan 1938

From the speech State of the Union 1938

Art presents us with a window into the minds of these people


Art presents us with a window into the minds of these people that other types of artifacts just can’t provide. It offers us glimpses into their world, their culture, and their belief systems.

Genevieve von Petzinger, 15 Sep 2016

From the interview First Signs: Unlocking the Mysteries of the World's Oldest Symbols

We must welcome the stranger


I have always believed in the idea that we must welcome the stranger, the person in need. And that if we search for common ground with all those we meet, we will discover our shared humanity, and we will all be better for it.

Bibi Bahrami, 25 Jan 2023

From the opinion A stranger planned to bomb my mosque. He became a member instead.

Relationships among groups


In large societies that consist of many groups, relationships among groups must embody the same principles as the relationships among individuals within groups. This means that the core design principles are scale-independent….

David Sloan Wilson, 2019

From the interview This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution

Bringing the worldview associated with sports-talk radio to politics


Getting a lot more Americans interested in politics is not the same as getting a lot more Americans knowledgeable about the workings of democracy or government. It has brought the worldview associated with sports-talk radio to politics; you’ve got a team and you want that team to win, and the other team is always the worst, and the refs are always unfairly treating your side. Heaven forbid you concede that the other team played a better game.

Jim Geraghty, 4 Jan 2023

From the opinion How did politics get so awful? I blame MTV circa 1992.

The press is so powerful in its image-making role


The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he’s a the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. This is the press, an irresponsible press. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.

Malcolm X, 13 Dec 1964

From the speech Malcolm X Speech at the Audobon Ballroom in Harlem

The limitations of specialization


In this age of specialization men who thoroughly know one field are often incompetent to discuss another. The great problems of the relations between one and another aspect of human activity have for this reason been discussed less and less in public. When we look at the past great debates on these subjects we feel jealous of those times, for we should have liked the excitement of such argument. The old problems, such as the relation of science and religion, are still with us, and I believe present as difficult dilemmas as ever, but they are not often publicly discussed because of the limitations of specialization.

Richard Feynman, 2 May 1956

From the remarks Feynman 1956 remarks at a Caltech YMCA Lunch Forum

An agenda of ambition and hope


This spirit of fraternity must enable us to build an agenda of ambition and hope, as our two countries share the same faith in freedom, in democratic values, in empowerment through education and work, and in progress through science and knowledge.

Emmanuel Macron, 1 Dec 2022

From the remarks Macron Remarks on 1-Dec-2022

Mass Movements and Boredom


There is perhaps no more reliable indicator of a society’s ripeness for a mass movement than the prevalence of unrelieved boredom. In almost all the descriptions of the periods preceding the rise of mass movements there is reference to vast ennui; and in their earliest stages mass movements are more likely to find sympathizers among the bored than among the exploited and suppressed. To a deliberate fomenter of mass upheavals, the report that people are bored stiff should be at least as encouraging as that they are suffering from intolerable economic or political abuses.

Eric Hoffer, 1951

From the book The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

Social media is hyperactive


The terms social network and social media are used interchangeably now, but they shouldn’t be. A social network is an idle, inactive system – a Rolodex of contacts, a notebook of sales targets, a yearbook of possible soul mates. But social media is active – hyperactive, really – spewing material across those networks instead of leaving them alone until needed.

Ian Bogost, 10 Nov 2022

From the essay The Age of Social Media Is Ending

The post-materialist turn in global politics


The cultural backlash theory comes from the political scientists Pippa Norris and Ron Inglehart. Inglehart, who died last year, is famous for tracking the post-materialist turn in global politics. Starting around the 1970s, generations raised in relative affluence began to care less about traditional economic issues and more about questions of personal autonomy and social values. The core fights of politics turned away from the distribution of money to the preservation of the environment and women’s bodily autonomy and marriage equality.

These changes were generational, and they’ve moved steadily from the margins of politics to the center. That’s led to a backlash among those opposed to, or simply disoriented by, the speed at which social mores are shifting, and the rise, in countries all over the world, of a post-materialist right. That’s led to a slew of right-wing parties that care more about culture and identity than tax cuts and deregulation.

Ezra Klein, 12 Nov 2022

From the opinion Three Theories That Explain This Strange Moment

But above all, try something


The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: if it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1932

From the speech FDR Address at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia

Muddled thinking and self-deception


Mr. Campion was shocked. There are some people to whom muddled thinking and self-deception are the two most unforgivable crimes in the world.

Margery Allingham, 1938

From the novel The Fashion in Shrouds

Change is the one constant when it comes to culture


Change, after all, is the one constant when it comes to culture. All peoples in all places at all times are always dancing with new possibilities for life.

Wade Davis, 6 Aug 2020

From the article The Unraveling of America

When racial or religious lines are drawn by the State


When racial or religious lines are drawn by the State, the multi-racial, multi-religious communities that our Constitution seeks to weld together as one become separatist; antagonisms that relate to race or to religion, rather than to political issues, are generated; communities seek not the best representative, but the best racial or religious partisan.

William O. Douglas, 1964

From the decision Wright v. Rockefeller

Very large social units are imaginary


Very large social units are always, in a sense, imaginary. Or, to put it in a slightly different way, there is always a fundamental distinction between the way one relates to friends, family, neighbourhood, people and places that we actually know directly, and the way one relates to empires, nations and metropolises, phenomena that exist largely, or at least most of the time, in our heads.

David Graeber and David Wengrow, 2021

From the book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

Many humans just don't like their families


There is an obvious objection to evolutionary models which assume that our strongest social ties are based on close biological kinship: many humans just don’t like their families very much. And this appears to be just as true of present-day hunter-gatherers as anybody else. Many seem to find the prospect of living their entire lives surrounded by close relatives so unpleasant that they will travel very long distances just to get away from them.

David Graeber and David Wengrow, 2021

From the book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

I love and admire my species


I grow little of the food I eat, and of the little I do grow I did not breed or perfect the seeds.

I do not make any of my own clothing.

I speak a language I did not invent or refine.

I did not discover the mathematics I use.

I am protected by freedoms and laws I did not conceive of or legislate, and do not enforce or adjudicate.

I am moved by music I did not create myself.

When I needed medical attention, I was helpless to help myself survive.

I did not invent the transistor, the microprocessor, object oriented programming, or most of the technology I work with.

I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am totally dependent on them for my life and well being.

Steve Jobs, 2 Sep 2010

From the letter Email from and to Steve Jobs, Dated September 2, 2010

To distract the watchdog of the mind


Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot. For the ‘content’ of a medium is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind.

Marshall McLuhan

From the book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

My brain felt hungry


That’s how my brain felt to me, too. Hungry. Needy. Itchy. Once it wanted information. But then it was distraction. And then, with social media, validation. A drumbeat of: You exist. You are seen.

Ezra Klein, 07 Aug 2022

From the essay I Didn’t Want It to Be True, but the Medium Really Is the Message

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