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Aug
23rd
Thu
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“Sometimes when I’m in a big important international meeting and you see me writings stuff down, it might be that I’m just drawing some, drawing some folks.” “
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, in ABC’s interview, July 15, 2012, cited in Obama doodles, The Washington Post, Jul 16, 2012.
Illustration: Barack Obama’s doodlings, one of which sold on E-bay in 2007 for $2075. 
Dec
25th
Sun
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If the world is to change for the better it must start with a change in human consciousness, in the very humanness of modern man.
Václav Havel, Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. Former President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic, (1936-2011), Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvizdala (English translation by Paul Wilson), 1990, Ch. 1 : Growing Up “Outside”, p. 11.
Dec
18th
Sun
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“It’s not true that you should first think up an idea for a better world and only then “put it into practice,” but, rather, through the fact of your existence in the world, you create the idea or manifest it — create it, as it were, from the “material of the world,” articulate it in the “language of the world.
Václav Havel, Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. Former President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic, (1936-2011), Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvizdala (English translation by Paul Wilson), 1990, Ch. 1 : Growing Up “Outside”, p. 12. (Photo)
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The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.
Václav Havel, Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. Former President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic, (1936-2011), International Herald Tribune, 21 February 1990
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Václav Havel on politics and politicians

"Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance."

— Letter to the downthrown Czechoslovak Communist Party chairman Alexander Dubček (August 1969)
“Despite all the political misery I am confronted with every day, it still is my profound conviction that the very essence of politics is not dirty; dirt is brought in only by wicked people. I admit that this is an area of human activity where the temptation to advance through unfair actions may be stronger than elsewhere, and which thus makes higher demands on human integrity. But it is not true at all that a politician cannot do without lying or intriguing. That is sheer nonsense, often spread by those who want to discourage people from taking an interest in public affairs.

Of course, in politics, just as anywhere else in life, it is impossible and it would not be sensible always to say everything bluntly. Yet that does not mean one has to lie. What is needed here are tact, instinct and good taste. (…)

When a man has his heart in the right place and good taste, he can not only do well in politics but is even predetermined for it. (…)

What is needed in politics is not the ability to lie but rather the sensibility to know when, where, how and to whom to say things (…)

It is not true that people of high principles are ill-suited for politics. High principles have only to be accompanied by patience, consideration, a sense of measure and understanding for others. It is not true that only coldhearted, cynical, arrogant, haughty or brawling persons succeed in politics. Such people are naturally attracted by politics. In the end, however, politeness and good manners weigh more.” “
Václav Havel, Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. Former President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic, (1936-2011), International Herald Tribune, 29 October 1991. (Photo: CSSR, 17 February 1990 - on board an aeroplane Václav and Olga Havel on their way to Iceland, Canada, and the USA for state visits ©Tomki Nemec). See also: 
☞ Matt Welch, Velvet President. Why Vaclav Havel is our era’s George Orwell and more, Reason Magazine, May 2003
Václav Havel obituary, Guardian, 18 Dec 2011
Sep
17th
Sat
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Is there a need for a focus on nonviolent alternatives and the study of peace and justice in schools?

"Having begun my thirtieth year of teaching high school, college and law school courses on the philosophy of pacifism and the methods of nonviolent conflict resolution, I was challenged again to decide where to begin this year’s course. Should I use the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to discuss nonviolent alternatives to the Bush/Cheney bents for bombs and bullets? Or pose this: would members of Congress, left or right, have voted to increase military spending so dramatically during the Bush years if they had studied peace and nonviolence in college? Would Barbara Lee of California’s 9th District have been the only member of Congress — one out of 535 — to vote against the Bush war plans on September 14, 2001?

Should I discuss the influence of nonviolence on the protests of the Arab Spring, from Egypt to Bahrain? Or explore alternatives to more than a dozen forms of violence that put one or another group of victims at risk every day: military violence, economic violence, environmental violence, corporate violence, racial violence, homophobic violence, verbal violence, emotional violence, sexual violence, structural violence, street violence, religious violence, legal or illegal violence, video game violence, violence toward animals? Or how about a quiz? Identify: (a) Emily Greene Balch; (b) Jeannette Rankin; (c) Dorothy Day. (…)”

Colman McCarthy, American journalist, teacher, lecturer, and long-time peace activist, directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C. From 1969 to 1997, he wrote columns for The Washington Post, Teaching Peace, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, August 30, 2011
Sep
11th
Sun
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Willy Brandt on the Peace Policy

"War must not be a means to achieve political ends. Wars must be eliminated, not merely limited. No national interest can today be isolated from collective responsibility for peace. This fact must be recognized in all foreign relations. As a means of achieving European and worldwide security, therefore, foreign policy must aim to reduce tensions and promote communication beyond frontiers. (…)

How to prevent war is a question which is part of the European tradition - Europe has always had reason enough to ask it. (…)

Our ethical and social concepts have been shaped by two thousand years of Christianity. And this means that, in spite of many aberrations under the flag of bellum justum, “the just war”, attempts have been made over and over again to achieve peace in this world, too.

Our second source of strength is humanism and classical philosophy. Immanuel Kant postulated his idea of a constitutional confederation of states in words that pose a very distinct question to today’s generations: Man, he said, will one day be faced with the choice of either uniting under a true law of nations or destroying with a few blows the civilization he has built up over thousands of years: then, necessity will compel him to do what he ought better to have done long ago of his own free reason.1 (…)

Peace policy is a sober task. I, too, try with the means at my command to pave the way for the prevalence of reason in my own country and in the world: that reason which demands that we seek peace because the absence of peace has come to mean extreme lack of reason.

War is no longer the ultima ratio but rather the ultima irratio. Even if this is still not a generally held view, I personally understand a policy for peace as a genuine Realpolitik of this epoch. (…)

Under the threat of mankind’s self-destruction, co-existence has become a question of the very existence of man. Co-existence became not one of several acceptable possibilities but the only chance of survival. (…)”

Willy Brandt, German politician, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, (1913-1992), Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1971
Sep
10th
Sat
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A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome’s decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.
Will Durant, American writer, historian, and philosopher (1885-1981), Caesar and Christ, Epilogue, p. 665 (1944)
Sep
5th
Mon
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"War does not determine who is right - only who is left."

Bertrand Russell, British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic, (1872-1970) (Gif source)
Apr
6th
Wed
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Plato on justice

“Democracy makes democratic laws, tyranny makes tyrannical laws, and so with the others. And they declare what they have made – what is to their advantage – to be just for their subjects, and they punish anyone who goes against this as lawless and unjust. This, then, is what I say justice is, the same in all cities, the advantage of the established rule.” “
— The Sophist Thrasymachus in a dialog with Socrates in Plato's The Republic ☞ See also: Ralph Wedgwood, The Coherence of Thrasymachus
Mar
13th
Sun
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The true men of action in our time those who transform the world are not the politicians and statesmen but the scientists. Unfortunately poetry cannot celebrate them because their deeds are concerned with things, not persons, and are therefore speechless. When I find myself in the company of scientists, I feel like a shabby curate who has strayed by mistake into a drawing room full of dukes.
W.H. Auden (1907-1973), 'The Poet and the City' (1962), in the collection The Dyer’s Hand, and Other Essays, Random House, 1965, p. 81.
Feb
14th
Mon
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If the crowd disperses, goes home, does not reassemble, we say the revolution is over.
Ryszard Kapuściński, Polish journalist, writer, reporter (1932-2007)
Feb
4th
Fri
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Lately I feel like somebody made a big mess and I’ve got my mop and I’m mopping the floor and the folks who made the mess are there (saying) ‘you’re not mopping fast enough. You’re not mopping the right way. It’s a socialist mop.’
Barack Obama in Miami, Obama: I may be skinny but I’m tough, Reuters, Oct 26, 2009
Feb
2nd
Wed
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Ryszard Kapuscinski on dictatorship

“The Shah’s reflex was typical of all despots: Strike first and suppress, then think it over: What next? First, display muscle, make a show of strength, and later perhaps demonstrate you also have a brain. Despotic authority attaches great importance to being considered strong, and much less to being admired for its wisdom. Besides, what does wisdom mean to a despot? It means skill in the use of power. The wise despot knows when and how to strike. This continual display of power is necessary because, at root, any dictatorship appeals to the lowest instincts of the governed: fear, aggressiveness towards one’s neighbors, bootlicking. Terror most effectively excites such instincts, and fear of strength is the wellspring of terror.

A despot believes that man is an abject creature. Abject people fill his court and populate his environment. A terrorized society will behave like an unthinking, submissive mob for a long time. Feeding it is enough to make it obey. Provided with amusements, it’s happy. The rather small arsenal of political tricks has not changed in millennia. Thus, we have all the amateurs in politics, all the ones convinced they would know how to govern if only they had the authority. Yet surprising things can also happen. Here is a well-fed and well-entertained crowd that stops obeying. It begins to demand something more than entertainment. It wants freedom, it demands justice. The despot is stunned. He doesn’t know how to see a man in all his fullness and glory. In the end such a man threatens dictatorship, he is its enemy. So it gathers its strength and destroys him.

Although dictatorship despises the people, it takes pains to win its recognition. In spite of being lawless -or rather, because it is lawless- it strives for the appearance of legality. On this point it is exceedingly touchy, morbidly oversensitive. Moreover, it suffers from a feeling (however deeply hidden) of inferiority. So it spares no pains to demonstrate to itself and others the popular approval it enjoys. Even if this support is a mere charade, it feels satisfying. So what if it’s only an appearance? The world of dictatorship is full of appearances. (…)

The most difficult thing to do while living in a palace is to imagine a different life - for instance, your own life, but outside of and minus the palace. Toward the end, the ruler finds people willing to help him out. Many lives, regrettably, can be lost at such moments. The problem of honor in politics. Take de Gaulle - a man of honor. He lost a referendum, tidied up his desk, and left the palace, never to return. He wanted to govern only under the condition that the majority accept him. The moment the majority refused him their trust, he left.

But how many are like him? The others will cry, but they won’t move; they’ll torment the nation, but they won’t budge. Thrown out one door, they sneak in through another; kicked down the stairs, they begin to crawl back up. They will excuse themselves, bow and scrape, lie and simper, provided they can stay - or provided they can return. They will hold out their hands - Look, no blood on them. But the very fact of having to show those hands covers them with the deepest shame. They will turn their pockets inside out -Look, there’s not much there. But the very fact of exposing their pockets - how humiliating! The Shah, when he left the palace, was crying. At the airport he was crying again. Later he explained in interviews how much money he had, and that it was less than people thought.” “
Ryszard Kapuściński, Polish journalist, writer, reporter (1932-2007), Shah of Shahs, Vintage, 1982.