Direct action

“Proceeding with the belief that in every situation, every individual and group has the possibility of some direct action on some level of generality, we may discover much that has been unrecognised, and the importance of much that has been underrated. So politicalised is our thinking, so focused to the motions of governmental institutions, that the effects of direct efforts to modify one’s environment are unexplored. The habit of direct action is, perhaps, identical with the habit of being a free [person], prepared to live responsibly in a free society.”

David Wieck (1962), The Habit of Direct Action (quoted by Colin Ward, 1973)

Making Austria better

These folk organised the amazing anti-FPÖ demo in Salzburg on Thursday.  (Hat-tip for the list: this post.)

Dear FPÖ, ohne Freibier, habt ihr keine Chance—now empirically proved in Salzburg.

Kropotkin on philosophy

“… in what respect does the philosopher, who pursues science in order that he may pass life pleasantly to himself, differ from that drunkard there, who only seeks the immediate gratification that gin affords him? The philosopher has, past all question, chosen his enjoyment more wisely, since it affords him a pleasure far deeper and more lasting than that of the toper. But that is all! Both one and the other have the same selfish end in view, personal gratification.”

(From An Appeal to the Young by Peter Kropotkin)

Henri Frédéric Amiel’s journal—a couple of quotes

(Wikipedia entry over here; translation of journal here.)

Stimulus oriented versus stimulus independent thought?

“[…] respect in yourself the oscillations of feeling. They are your life and your nature […]. Do not abandon yourself altogether either to instinct or to will. Instinct is a siren, will a despot. Be neither the slave of your impulses and sensations of the moment, nor of an abstract and general plan; be open to what life brings from within and without, and welcome the unforeseen; but give to your life unity, and bring the unforeseen within the lines of your plan. Let what is natural in you raise itself to the level of the spiritual, and let the spiritual become once more natural. Thus will your development be harmonious […]”


“[…] what we call “society” proceeds for the moment on the flattering illusory assumption that it is moving in an ethereal atmosphere and breathing the air of the gods. All vehemence, all natural expression, all real suffering, all careless familiarity, or any frank sign of passion, are startling and distasteful in this delicate milieu; they at once destroy the common work, the cloud palace, the magical architectural whole, which has been raised by the general consent and effort.”


“Orwell famously suggested that language preceded thought, such that if the word ‘freedom’, for example, is removed from the dictionary, then the very idea of freedom will disappear with it be and be lost to humanity. A smart tyranny, he said, would remove words like justice, fairness, liberty and right from usage. But my thought occurred to me when I saw a graffito which took up a whole gable end wall in London the other day. It proclaimed, in great big strokes of white paint: “One nation under CCTV”. A good angry point – the American dictum ‘one nation under god’ sardonically replaced with a comment about Britain’s unenviable position as the Closed Circuit Television capital of the world. But … the satirical shout all but fails for one simple reason: CCTV is such a bland, clumsy, rhythmically null and phonically forgettable word, if you can call it a word, that the swipe lacks real punch. If one believed in conspiracy theories, you could almost call it genius that there is no more powerful word for the complex and frightening system of electronic surveillance that we lump into that weedy bundle of initials. For if CCTV was called … I don’t know …. something like SCUNT (Surveillance Camera Universal NeTwork, or whatever) then the acronyms might have passed into our language and its simple denotation would have taken on all the dark connotations which would allow “One nation under scunt” to have much more impact as a resistance slogan than “One nation under CCTV”. “Damn, I was scunted as I walked home,” “they’ve just erected a series of scunts in the street outside,” “Britain is the most scunted country in the world” … etc etc. Or maybe, just maybe, we should stick to the idea of initials and borrow a set that have already taken on the darkest possible connotations of evil and tyranny. Surveillance System. SS. ‘Britain’s SS is bigger than that of any other country.’ ‘The SS has taken over the UK’.”

(Stephen Fry, Don’t Mind Your Language, November 2008)

On the importance of procrastination

“I had been preparing myself (though I did not always realize it) from the day that I was born, preparing myself, wrote Harsnet (typed Goldberg), but always aware of the dangers of beginning too soon. For there is nothing worse, he wrote, than beginning too soon. It is much worse to begin too soon, he wrote, than not to begin at all. Much worse to begin too soon than to begin too late. Much worse to begin too soon and realize one has begun too soon than to begin too late and realize one has begun too late. Much worse to begin too soon and realize one is inadequately prepared then to begin too late and realize one is over-prepared. Much worse to begin too soon and reach the end too quickly, typed Goldberg, squinting at the manuscript before him, than to begin at the right time and discover one has nothing to begin. That is why, wrote Harsnet, I have been preparing myself for that moment for a long time, that is why I have cleared the decks and prepared the ground, because unless the decks are cleared and the ground prepared there is little hope is succeeding in what one has planned to do, little hope of achieving anything of lasting value, though lasting is a relative term and so is value and whatever it is one has planned to do is certain to be altered in the process, which does not of course mean, he wrote, that one can start anywhere at any time. It is just because whatever one has planned to do is bound to be altered in the process that it is important to start at the right moment, he wrote. It is just because whatever one has planned is bound to change as one proceeds that it is fatal to start too soon or too late, though it may be no less fatal, he wrote (and Goldberg typed), to start at the right time, for then there is no excuse, no excuse whatsoever. I have done with excuses, wrote Harsnet (typed Goldberg), I have done with excuses towards myself and towards others, that is the meaning of the right time, he wrote, that I have done with excuses, that I have used up all the excuses and reached the bottom of excuses, that I have wrung the neck of excuses, that I have settled the hash of excuses. To begin at the right time, he wrote, means to be done with the excuses once and for all. Excuses, wrote Goldberg in the margin of his typescript with a felt-tip pen, an end to excuses…”

From The Big Glass by Josipovici

An old note: Tisdagen den 9:e september 2003

Moving into accommodation with a flatmate who’s ”a little crazy”

Pink trousers perhaps? Strange taste in music? Sounded better than sleeping on a mattress on the floor, so why not, I thought. It wasn’t quite explained that ”a little crazy” meant every morning at 6 he would scream and shout, threatening to kill a girl in his room who (I hope) wasn’t really there. One morning he took a frying pan to the walls of the kitchen in an attempt to kill a wasp. (I initially thought he was murdering one of the other flatmates.) This was all made surreal by the fact that every time I saw him (i.e., when not in my room hiding from him and waiting for things to settle down) he seemed perfectly okay and spoke Aristocratic English with exaggerated politeness. ”Excuse me [he left out the “dear chap” sadly]. Terribly sorry for disturbing you. I appear to have mislaid my key. I wonder would you be kind enough to open the door for me?” This said moments after kicking everything in his room.  Mental health problem?  Conceptual artist?  I never found out.

Some time after this—same apartment

Four people moved into the same room (not a big room and with only one bed). When our landlady discovered this (she had rented the room to one person), she asked them to leave. They didn’t, so one morning at 9, six police officers came. They searched them and their room, and found they had three passports each under different names.

Nearly forgot

The basement—not a particularly hospitable basement—housed an alcoholic.  I think he was allowed to be there, but it was never quite clear. His drunken behaviour seemed comparatively normal.