copy what we want

If all people want to do is go and look at other people so that they can compare themselves to them and copy what they want – if that is the final, deepest truth about humanity and its motivations – then Facebook doesn’t really have to take too much trouble over humanity’s welfare, since all the bad things that happen to us are things we are doing to ourselves.

– John Lanchester, https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n16/john-lanchester/you-are-the-product

 

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limitations

The more one limits oneself, the closer one is to the infinite; these people, as unworldly as they seem, burrow like termites into their own particular material to construct, in miniature, a strange and utterly individual image of the world.

– Stefan Zweig, Chess Story

baldwin on america

I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary by Raoul Peck about James Baldwin film about power, race, love, and a vision of America that is prescient and painful.

I had to look at you [white people]. I know more about you than you know about me. Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

The world is not white, it never was white. It cannot be white. White is a metaphor for power.

I can’t be a pessimist because I am alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter. So I am forced to be an optimist, I am forced to believe that we can survive, whatever we must survive. But the future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country. It is entirely up to the American people and our representatives – it is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face, and deal with, and embrace this stranger whom they maligned so long. What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it. The question you have got to ask yourself — the white population of this country has got to ask itself — North and South, because it’s one country, and for a Negro, there’s no difference between the North and South. There’s just a difference in the way they castrate you. But the fact of the castration is the American fact. If I’m not a nigger here and you invented him, you, the white people, invented him, then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that. Whether or not it’s able to ask that question.

– James Baldwin (transcribed from I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary by Raoul Peck).

Buber and the interhuman

By the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, from a piece entitled Elements of the Interhuman

Let us now imagine two men, whose life is dominated by appearance, sitting and talking together. Call them Peter and Paul. Let us list the different configurations which are involved. First, there is Peter as he wishes to appear to Paul, and Paul as he wishes to appear to Peter. Then there is Peter as he really appears to Paul, that is, Paul’s image of Peter, which in general does not in the least coincide with what Peter wished Paul to see; and similarly there is the reverse situation. Further, there is Peter as he appears to himself, and Paul as he appears to himself. Lastly, there are the bodily Peter and the bodily Paul. Two living beings and six ghostly appearances, which mingle in many ways in the conversation between the two. Where is there room for any genuine interhuman life?