“Khoud rai li y’bekik mashi li y’de7kek.” [Take the advice that makes you cry, not the advice that makes you laugh.]
The Meaning of History:
Life is suffering, birth involves death. Transitoriness is the fate of existence. No civilization has yet been permanent, no longing completely fulfilled. This is necessity, the fatedness of history, the dilemma of mortality.
Evenings in that part of the country must have been a kind of sad relief. But today, with the sun bearing down, making the whole landscape shimmer with heat, it was inhuman and oppressive.
From Dar al-Tiraz:
When someone who saw his unfairness blamed me for my love, I sang this melody: “Perhaps he has an excuse, while you are blaming.”
Thus Spoke Zarathustra:
O my brothers, your nobility should not look backward but ahead! Exiles shall you be from all father- and forefather-lands! Your children’s land shall you love: this love shall be your new nobility—the undiscovered land in the most distant sea. For that I bid your sails search and search. In your children you shall make up for being the children of your fathers: thus shall you redeem all that is past. This new tablet I place over you.
“The world today is not what it was when the institutions on which we still depend were formed. These were regulated with reference to a state of things that social evolution has long since outrun, and if we feel that the institutions are less efficient, letus not make the mistake of believing that this is due to temporary defects.
From 28 March, 2006:
We live in a period in which most of what we know from history is inapplicable or applicable in limited ways.
This attitude leads Tacitus to distort history systematically by representing it as essentially a clash of characters, exaggeratedly good with exaggeratedly bad. History cannot be scientifically written unless the historian can re-enact in his own mind the experience of the people whose actions he is narrating. Tacitus never tried to do this: his characters are seen not from inside, with understanding and sympathy, but from outside, as as mere spectacles of virtue or vice. One can hardly read his descriptions of an Agricola or a Domitian without being reminded of Socrates’ laugh at Glaucon’s imaginary portraits of the perfectly good and the perfectly bad man: ‘My own word, Glaucon, how energetically you are polishing them up like statues for a prize competition!’
Tacitus has been praised for his character-drawing; but the principles on which he draws character are fundamentally vicious and make his character-drawing an outrage on historical truth. He found warrant for it, no doubt, in the Stoic and Epicurean philosophies of his age, to which I have already referred: the defeatist philosophies which, starting from the assumption that the good man cannot conquer or control a wicked world, taught him how to preserve himself unspotted from its wickedness. This false antithesis between the individual man’s character and his social environment justifies, in a sense, Tacitus’ method of exhibiting the actions of an historical figure as flowing simply from his own personal character, and making no allowance either for the way in which a man’s actions may be determined partly by his environment and only in part by his character, or for the way in which character itself may be moulded by the forces to which a man is subjected by his environment. Actually, as Socrates urged against Glaucon, the individual character considered in isolation from its environment is an abstraction, not a really existing thing. What a man does depends only to a limited extent on what kind of man he is. No one can resist the forces of his environment. Either he conquers the world or the world will conquer him.
It will be seen that at each point Burnham is predicting a continuation of the thing that is happening. Now the tendency to do this is not simply a bad habit, like inaccuracy or exaggeration, which one can correct by taking thought. It is a major mental disease, and its roots lie partly in cowardice and partly in the worship or power, which is not fully separable from cowardice.
Suppose in 1940 you had taken a Gallup poll, in England, on the question ‘Will Germany win the war?’ You would have found, curiously enough, that the group answering ‘Yes’ contained a far higher percentage of intelligent people – people with IQ of over 120, shall we say – than the group answering ‘No’. The same would have held good in the middle of 1942. In this case the figures would not have been so striking, but if you had made the question ‘Will the Germans capture Alexandria?’ or ‘Will the Japanese be able to hold on to the territories they have captured? ’, then once again there would have been a very marked tendency for intelligence to concentrate in the ‘Yes’ group. In every case the less-gifted person would have been likelier to give a right answer.
Years of Upheaval:
Blessed are the people whose leaders can look destiny in the eye without flinching but also without attempting to play God.
The Art of War:
Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.
Everybody wants something without having any idea how to obtain it and the really intriguing aspect of the situation is that nobody quite knows how to achieve what he desires. But because I know what I want and what others are capable of, I am completely prepared.
History of the Peloponnesian War:
As the world goes, right is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.
Politics Among Nations:
Good motives give assurance against deliberately bad policies; they do not guarantee the moral goodness and political success of the policies they inspire. What is important to know, if one wants to understand foreign policy, is not primarily the motives of a statesman, but his intellectual ability to comprehend the essentials of foreign policy, as well as his political ability to translate what he has comprehended into successful political action. It follows that while ethics in the abstract judges the moral qualities of motives, political theory must judge the political qualities of intellect, will, and action.
The power of chance, the accident of personality, the ritual of tradition, and the passions of men are always at work to mock benevolence and denature its contrivances. It is enough for practical men to fend off present evils and secure existing interests. They must not cumber themselves with historical dogmas, or chase illusions in that maze of double talk which western political vocablulary has extended over the whole world.
The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion . . . but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.
If only our diplomacy could be conducted in secret, without any need to appeal to the West’s electorates. We need diplomats who are the intellectual heirs of Castlereagh, Kissinger, Metternich, Salisbury and Talleyrand; with the temperaments of Peter Carrington or Douglas Hurd, steeped in experience, wisdom, realism and cynicism.