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David Foster Wallace

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A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e., passionate conviction plus sedulous respect for the convicitons of others. As any American knows, this is a very difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain, particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a D.S.'s criteron of 100 percent intellectual integrity--you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and your motives for believing what you believe, and do it more or less continually.
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"Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage." Harper's Magazine, April 2001.

 
David Foster Wallace

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I made a metamorphose, I'm a new person today, because I used to strongly and honestly, honestly! I feel like I can represent my generation so much because I honestly did not care whether I lived or died. But now I can not die, with people thinking I'm a rapist or a criminal, I can not leave until this shit is straight, you know I'm not suicidal. I can't go until ya'll really know what time it is. And then after that, BOOM!, It's all over and we can see how this shit fall, but that's how it is, and the reason being is because if I can't live free, if I can't live with the same respect as the next man, I don't wanna be here, because god has cursed me to see what life should be like, If God wanted me to be this person and be happy here, he wouldn't let me feel so oppressed, he wouldn't let me feel so trampled on, you know what I'm saying, he wouldn't let me think the things I think. So I feel I'm doing Gods work, you know what I'm saying just because I don't have nothing to pass around for people to put money in a bucket don't mean I ain't doing Gods work.

 
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It is the political task of the social scientist — as of any liberal educator — continually to translate personal troubles into public issues, and public issues into the terms of their human meaning for a variety of individuals. It is his task to display in his work — and, as an educator, in his life as well — this kind of sociological imagination. And it is his purpose to cultivate such habits of mind among the men and women who are publicly exposed to him. To secure these ends is to secure reason and individuality, and to make these the predominant values of a democratic society.

 
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If your object is to secure liberty, you must learn to do without authority and compulsion. If you intend to live in peace and harmony with your fellow-men, you and they should cultivate brotherhood and respect for each other. If you want to work together with them for your mutual benefit, you must practice cooperation. The social revolution means much more than the reorganization of conditions only: it means the establishment of new human values and social relationships, a changed attitude of man to man, as of one free and independent to his equal; it means a different spirit in individual and collective life, and that spirit cannot be born overnight. It is a spirit to be cultivated, to be nurtured and reared, as the most delicate flower it is, for indeed it is the flower of a new and beautiful existence.

 
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The most ominous spirit of our times, as it seems to me, is the indication of the growth of an intolerent spirit. It is the more dangerous when armed, as it usually is, with sincere conviction. It is a spirit whose wrath must be turned away by the soft answers of a sweet reasonableness. It can be exorcised only by invoking the Genius which watched over our infancy and has guided our development— a good Genius— still potent let us believe — the American spirit of civil and religious liberty. Our institutions were not devised to bring about uniformity of opinion; if they had we might well abandon hope. It is important to remember, as has well been said, "the essential characteristic of true liberty is that under its shelter many different types of life and character and opinion and belief can develop unmolested and unobstructed."

 
Charles Evans Hughes
 

We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.

 
Vincent de Paul
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