a desiderative pastiche
The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a
George Santayana (1920, 1956)
As civilization advances, the wilderness withdraws ... for
history is just like the rule of beasts. It has ever been this
way, and shall forever be ... such that when we are strong, we
would not change it, and when we are weak, we cannot change it.
paraphrase of Elmer Kelton
Men never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when we do it out of
Blaise Pascal [#813/895 Pensées
When you learn of the solemn and determined preparations for war
being made by otherwise decent people, you think them ludicrous.
And when you learn of the grotesque and devastated aftermath of
this ever so essential war, you think them unreal. You do not
understand how seemingly normal people can plan and execute such
abnormalities, and then decry those same effects while pleading
their innocence. You do not understand such mad recklessness; and
because you are not utterly enthralled by their abandon, you
shall be their next target.
I swear I've seen a hundred million miserable faces with those
empty looking eyes [that] all those refugees [have] got ...
Christ, you get tired of it. They [leaders] send you into these
things [interventions], and you're supposed to just ... they call
these things humanitarian operations, but a real
humanitarian would go in and knock the crap out of the
bad guys, wouldn't he? A real humanitarian
wouldn't stand around putting Band-Aids on them
after they got hurt. A real humanitarian would keep them from
getting hurt in the first place, don't you think?
Strength is inherently dangerous.
Dorothy M. Johnson
All I'm saying is [that] violence can be helpful. Sometimes it's
the best way to make your point.
I don't mind a healthy debate, but don't ever use a line of crap
like that on me again. I'm not one of your naïve college
students, and I'm not some little sycophant[ic] political
activist. I've seen people killed, and I've killed people in the
service of our country. Your idealistic philosophical theories
might fly in the hallowed halls of Congress, but they don't work
in the real world. Violence is a fact of life. There are people
who are willing to use it to get what they want, and in order to
stop them, they need to be met with violence. If it wasn't for
war, or the threat of waging war, people like Adolf Hitler and
Joseph Stalin would be running the [entire] world. And you would
get shot for going around saying stupid things like:
violence only begets violence!
Vince Flynn (2002)
It [this weapon] kills people when that is a thing that has to be
done, even though you can never be certain after it has been done
that it had to be done, but when you get that far, survive it
that much, it doesn't make any difference, because you can never
get back into that time to find out for sure whether it was the
thing that [really] had to be done. All you can do is get ready
for the next time it may seem to be [necessary].
GUNPOWDER: An agency employed by civilized nations for the
settlement of disputes which might become troublesome if left
unadjusted. By most writers the invention of gunpowder is
ascribed to the Chinese, but not upon very convincing evidence.
Milton says it was invented by the devil to dispel angels with,
and this opinion seems to derive some support from the scarcity
of angels. Moreover, it has the hearty concurrence of the Hon.
James Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture. Secretary Wilson became
interested in gunpowder through an event that occurred on the
Government experimental farm in the District of Columbia. One
day, several years ago, a rogue imperfectly reverent of the
Secretary's profound attainments and personal character presented
him with a sack of gunpowder, representing it as the sed of the
_Flashawful flabbergastor_, a Patagonian cereal of great
commercial value, admirably adapted to this climate. The good
Secretary was instructed to spill it along in a furrow and
afterward inhume it with soil. This he at once proceeded to do,
and had made a continuous line of it all the way across a
ten-acre field, when he was made to look backward by a shout from
generous donor, who at once dropped a lighted match into the
furrow at the starting-point. Contact with the earth had somewhat
dampened the powder, but the startled functionary saw himself
pursued by a tall moving pillar of fire and smoke and fierce
evolution. He stood for a moment paralyzed and speechless, then
he recollected an engagement and, dropping all, absented himself
thence with such surprising celerity that to the eyes of
spectators along the route selected he appeared like a long, dim
streak prolonging itself with inconceivable rapidity through
seven villages, and audibly refusing to be comforted. "Great
Scott! what is that?" cried a surveyor's chainman, shading his
eyes and gazing at the fading line of agriculturist which
bisected his visible horizon. "That," said the surveyor,
carelessly glancing at the phenomenon and again centering his
attention upon his instrument, "is the Meridian of Washington."
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce
Therefore, if we find civilised nations do not put their
prisoners to death, do not devastate towns and countries, this is
because their intelligence exercises greater influence on their
mode of carrying on War, and has taught them more effectual means
of applying force than these rude acts of mere instinct. The
invention of gunpowder, the constant progress of improvements in
the construction of firearms, are sufficient proofs that the
tendency to destroy the adversary which lies at the bottom of the
conception of War is in no way changed or modified through the
progress of civilisation.
Karl von Clausewitz
Customs always have a reason behind them, sometimes good,
sometimes bad. This is a good one. ... in the first place, an
armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may
have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a
sine qua non of civilization. That's a personal
evaluation only, but gunfighting has a strong biological use. We
do not have enough things to kill off the weak and the stupid
these days; but to stay alive as an armed citizen, a man has to
be either quick with his wits or with his hands, preferably both.
It's a good thing. Of course, our combativeness has to do with
our ancestry and our history; but we have preserved that
Robert A. Heinlein [Beyond This Horizon
Guns don't kill people — people kill
slogan adopted by the National Rifle Association
A gun is just a tool. No better and no worse than any other tool
... a shovel, or an ax, or a saddle, or a stove, or anything.
Think of it always that way. A gun is as good, and as bad, as the
man who carries it.
Jack Schaefer (1948)
Death, wounds, suffering, and privation remain the same, whatever
the weapons employed, and their reaction on the ultimate nature
of man is the same now as in the struggle a century ago.
Karl von Clausewitz
Love is just another way of giving someone everything they may
need to use in order to destroy you.
paraphrase of Marc Olden
When armageddon finally occurs, it will not be the ultimate
contest between the forces of good and
evil, but will be the final battle between
true-believers and former believers – between those
communists or christians or whatever and those formerly converted
– in which they wrathfully condemn and righteously savage
each other unto their utter extinction!
paraphrase of Arthur Koestler
The world is more apt to be destroyed by bad politics than bad
The human race lost something when people stopped bashing one
another with sticks, and started using [advanced] technology in
their disputes; and what they lost was their
humanness. We'll all wake up some morning and
find that we're the aliens.
Donald E. Westlake (1975)
This [catastrophic] war may be the first in history which
[selectively] kills the stupid, rather than the bright and able,
where it makes any distinction. [Past] Wars have always been
hardest on the best young men, [but] this time the boys in
service are safe, or safer, than civilians; and of civilians,
those who used their heads and made preparations, stand a far
better chance. Not in every case, but on the average, and that
will improve the breed. When it's over, things will be tough, and
that will improve the breed still more. For years, the surest way
of surviving has been to be utterly worthless and breed alot of
worthless kids. All that will change.
Robert A. Heinlein
Combat takes from each soldier according to his ability, and
gives to each according to his situation.
a Murphy Law of Combat [paraphrase of Comte de
As I know more of mankind I expect less of them, and am ready now
to call a man a good man upon easier terms than I was formerly.
One does not use good iron to make nails, nor good men to make
ancient Chinese proverb
Hui-Tzu said to Chuang-Tzu, "I have a big tree of the sort that
people call 'useless'. Its trunk is too gnarled and bumpy to
apply a measuring line to, its branches too bent and twisty to
match up to a compass or square. You could stand it by the road
and no carpenter would look at it twice. Your words, too, are big
and useless, and so everyone alike spurns them!" ... Chuang-Tzu
said, "Now you have this big tree and you're distressed because
it's useless. Why don't you plant it in Not-Even-Anything
Village, or the Field of Broad-and-Boundless, relax and do
nothing by its side, or lie down for a free and easy sleep under
it? Axes will never shorten its life, nothing can ever harm it.
If there's no use for it, how can it come to grief or pain?"
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.
Samuel P. Huntington
Defeat was one thing — anyone could have a bad day and get
beaten in a fight. Humiliation was another thing altogether. You
could live down a bad day — you lived with humiliation
forever, if only inside your own head.
Mercedes R. Lackey (2001)
They say a good soldier fights a battle, never a war —
that's for civilians.
John Ernst Steinbeck [Winter of Our
Sometimes you win / Sometimes you won't / Sometimes you beat that
devil / Sometimes you don't / We're all just killin' time / 'til
the Good Lord calls us home / And the best that you can hope for
/ Is to die / With your boots on
To see him shine so brisk and smell so sweet And talk so like a
waiting-gentlewoman Of guns, and drums, and wounds, — God
save the mark!
I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was
none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample
them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my
garments, and I will stain all my raiment.
Isaiah 63:3 Bible
The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary. Men
alone are quite capable of every wickedness.
Joseph Conrad [Teodor Jozef Konrad
There's a dark side to intelligent beings — an irrational
craving for war, personal defilement, and reckless destruction,
even if we know better.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what Iíve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Robert Frost (1923)
Anger is like the sharp blade of a sword — it's too
dangerous to hold for too long.
Violence is always waiting for you around the next corner.
We're nearing a critical point. One day soon, two strangers will
bump into each other at high noon in the middle of New York; but
this time they won't snarl and go on. They will stop and stare,
and then leap at each other's throats in a dreadful silence. The
infection will spread outward from that point. Old ladies will
crack skulls with their deadly handbags. Cars will plunge down
the crowded sidewalks. Drivers will be torn out of their cars and
stomped. It will spread to all the huge cities of the world, and
by dawn of the next day, there will be a horrid silence of
sprawled bodies and tumbled vehicles, gutted buildings and a few
wisps of smoke. And through that silence will prowl a few, a very
few, of the most powerful ones ... ragged and bloody ... slowly
tracking each other down.
John D. MacDonald
I am existentialist. War enables people to be what they really
are. The sadists become torturers. The psychopaths make brave
frontline troops. The bullies and the victims alike have scope to
play their roles to the hilt. And the whores are always busy.
Ken Follett (2001)
The moral effect of a victory increases, not merely in proportion
to the extent of the forces engaged, but in a progressive ratio
— that is to say, not only in extent, but also in its
Karl von Clausewitz
Integrity is not a conditional word ... it is your inner image of
your [interactive] self. Integrity is not a search for the
rewards of [reliable] integrity ... it is not supposed to be a
John D. MacDonald (1972)
We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but
from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those
images we have put in place of reality.
Daniel J. Boorstin [Intro The Image
Difficulties is the name given to things which
it is our business to overcome.
Ernest J. King [Adm, USN CNO (1942)]
The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little
U.S. Army Service Forces motto (1945)
Be All That You Can Be.
U.S. Army recruiting motto (1980)
Military service does not build character
— it reveals it!
a military leadership maxim
War doesn't mature men ... it merely pickles them in the brine of
disgust and dread.
Rex Stout (1939)
His expression spoke volumes for the adrenalin euphoria of war.
Once the perils of a situation have been escaped, the good times
roll. It's alot like hitting yourself over the head with a
hammer. It really feels good when you stop. And beyond that,
there's no point or moral lesson to be learned whatever.
There are more pleasant things to do than beat-up people.
Muhammad Ali [Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr]
It is by no means self-evident that human beings are most real
when most violently excited; violent physical passions do not in
themselves differentiate men from each other, but rather tend to
reduce them to the same state.
A hot war cannot be fought with cold blood.
D. Dean Rusk
There is the old brute, too, the savage, the hairy man who
dabbles his fingers in ropes of entrails; and gobbles and
belches; whose speech is guttural, visceral -- well, he is here.
He squats in me.
Adeline Virginia Stephen Woolf [205p The
Waves (1931; 1943)]
... excited and off his balance was evident on the afternoon of
the 1st [of July 1863], and he [R.E. Lee] labored
under that oppression until enough blood was shed to appease him.
James "Pete" Longstreet [From Manassas to
Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America]
Destiny doesn't care about people. You can slaughter all the
people you want and nobody will care. After the piles of flowers
are taken away and the TV funerals are over, people forget.
Killing people just rearranges carbon and water ... blood can be
John Hockenberry (2001)
First you destroy those who create values. Then you destroy
those who know what the values are, and who also know that those
destroyed before were in fact the creators of values. But real
barbarism begins when no one can any longer judge or know that
what he does is barbaric.
Ryszard Kapuscinski [A Warsaw Diary
The savage in man is never quite eradicated.
Henry David Thoreau [Journal (1859)]
Man was born into barbarism, when killing his fellow man was a
normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a
conscience, and he has now reached the day when violence toward
another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another's
Martin Luther King Jr
It is fortunate that each generation does not comprehend its
own ignorance. We are thus enabled to call our ancestors
Charles Dudley Warner [Second Study
Backlog Studies (1873)]
We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in
front of us to stop us seeing it.
Blaise Pascal [#166 Pensées
When a romantic fails at something, they give him a medal; but
when a pragmatist succeeds at it, they just curse him for it.
Stephen Edwin King
Hell, what do you expect? ... as long as there are [natural and
man-made] jungles, there will be rapacious animals.
Chester Himes (1965)
We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, and our
ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is
to fight them in ourselves and in others.
Albert Camus [Moderation and Excess
pt 5 The Rebel (1951; tr 1953)]
But there was no one, nor any other sound but the monotonous
drone of the crickets. Then he thought "No, I have seen
this before" and remembered how it was: how a man might
be sitting by the fire, or cleaning his musket, or bending to tie
his shoe, and all at once he would crack open, lift his face in
terror as some dormant image burst unexpected out of his fragile
heart. Gawain had seen men cry like this, had heard the sounds
they made as they tried to push closed the door of memory. Most
times they succeeded and would slink away abashed while their
comrades pretended to be busy with the fire. But sometimes a man
could not close the door again. Then he might cry out and wave
his arms and run madly away, the demons pursuing like a cloud of
hornets — or he might sit upon the ground, moaning, rocking
slowly back and forth, gone to a place where no one could reach
him. This was the worst, for when his comrades knelt before him,
they could see their own fate in the dull mirror of his eyes.
Howard Bahr [The Year of Jubilo
The bourgeoisie of the whole world, which looks complacently
upon the wholesale massacre after the battle, is convulsed by
horror at the desecration of brick and mortar.
Karl Heinrich Marx
I understand what it is. I'll tell you what it is. I was there,
and it was horrible. You can't imagine it, but I don't have to
imagine it ... I was there. So what I have is a memory, and
memories fade. All memories fade ... that's what they do ... but
you don't have the memory. All you have is imagination, and
imagination never fades.
Donald E. Westlake
As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its
fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to
Oscar Wilde [Fingal O'Flahertie Wills] [pt 2 The
Critic as Artist (1891)]
It is becoming more and more obvious that it is not starvation,
not microbes, not cancer, but man himself who is
mankind's greatest danger, because he has not adequate protection
against psychic epidemics, [which are] infinitely more
devastating in their effect than the greatest natural
Carl Gustav Jung
... closed his eyes and realized its great streaming force, and
knew he was under the sway of the enemy .... You could not really
feel the full implications of [a natural disaster] without
knowing that any conflict between men could never be more than
internecine. And once you felt this, your patience grew shorter
with the voices of hate. You came to know more clearly that
whatever hand reached for the sword must be chopped off by the
sword. Once you knew ... that [natural disasters] were the great
eternal enemies of man, there could be no tolerance for those who
sought to replace the processes of patient reason by violent
joint effort, by war. More clearly could you see that whatever
force sought to divide the people, on whatever pretext, was the
enemy of the people; the toxin that would, if permitted, destroy
their strength and blight their decent aspirations. Further, [a
natural disaster] told you that until humans could rise to the
necessity to trust each other, their vigor would be lost in
disunion. It told you that if salvation, in the form of progress
and fulfillment, were ever to come to men, it must come through
intelligent trust, by rising above fear, and by means of the
natural affection of man for man that automatically occurs when
fear is removed, like the emergence of green leaves when winter
George Sessions Perry [Hold Autumn in Your
War is a formless and furious evil that brutalizes everyone ...
leaving some stunned, some haunted, some terrified, some
fascinated, some ashamed, and too many dead.
To say that war is madness is like saying that sex is madness:
true enough, from the standpoint of a stateless eunuch, but
merely a provocative epigram for those who must make their
arrangements in the world as given.
John Updike [ch 4 Self-Consciousness: Memoirs
When written in Chinese, the word crisis is
composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (12 Apr 1959)
We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by
analysing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by
discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will. I cannot
believe that such a programme would be rejected by the people of
this country, even if it does mean the establishment of personal
contact with the dictators.
Neville Chamberlain [6 Oct 1938 speech to House of
Commons after Munich Conference]
Ultimatum: In diplomacy, a last demand before resorting to
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce
I know how to stop war, to put an end to fighting, to halt the
bleeding and suffering — finish it!
paraphrase of Elmore Leonard
If you're going to count the casualties, then you should never
have gone to war in the first place.
I shall fight to the death, and I shall not count my life more
valuable than freedom.
ancient Hellenic oath
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O
grave where is thy victory?
I Corinthians 15:54-55 Bible
For something as large as it is, death doesn't look like much ...
Robert B. Parker
Creation destroys as it goes, throws down one tree for the rise
of another. But ideal mankind would abolish death, multiply
itself million upon million, rear up city upon city, save every
parasite alive, until the accumulation of mere existence is
swollen to a horror.
D.H. Lawrence [St. Mawr (1925; repr
The dying ask questions that the living cannot answer, and the
dead will never tell.
Everyone who dies joins everyone else who ever died through water
.... Somehow, wherever they fall or are buried, water connects
them. Rain falls on their quiet resting places, and runs off to
join other water. It's the melding agent of wars. For the blood
of soldiers from all the battles of history have been washed away
by the rain, and eventually found its way down rivers and streams
to some ocean, becoming one with its salt and the blood of
It is better for us to die in battle, than to behold the
calamities of our people and our sanctuary.
I Maccabees 3:59 Apocrypha
Death before dishonor.
proverbial military slogan
When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that
virtue is not hereditary.
Thomas Paine [Common Sense (1776)]
Honor is not heritable, but the common man does not aspire to the
condition of his commonness. Remember that tragedy is an
expression of the people ... not a
representation of them ... for as each man comes forth to be
tried, the whole community is tried. No one escapes. Soldiers are
always around, in one capacity or another, whenever things are
happening, because they need to protect the present from the
future ... or for the future ... in ways that
imperil their precious honor.
The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets: my
virgins and my young men are fallen by the sword.
Lamentations 2:21 Bible
Out of life's school of war: What does not destroy me, makes me
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1888)
Victory without God is mockery and delusion, but defeat with God
is not defeat.
What does not destroy us, we destroy, and it makes us stronger.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche [earlier version of 1888
Seest thou these great buildings? There may not be left a stone
upon a stone, that may not be thrown down. And when ye may see
the abomination of the desolation ... let him not come down to
the house, nor come in to take anything out of his house; and he
who is in the field, let him not turn to the things behind, to
take up his garment. And wo to those with child, and to those
giving suck, in those days; and pray ye that your flight may not
be in winter, for those days shall be tribulation, such as hath
not been from the beginning of the creation that God created,
till now ....
Mark 13:2,14-18 (YLT) Bible
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sand stretch far away.
Percy Bysshe Shelley [Ozymandias
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all
acquit the wicked.
Nahum 1:3 Bible
compiled by Ed Staff