Tuesday, December 12, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

John Ralston Saul


Canadian author and philosopher.
John Ralston Saul
Just as the unleashing of ideas and myths in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries cleared the way for endless changes in state and social structures, so the subsequent pinning down and splitting up of language into feudal states has now made it impossible for the citizen to participate seriously in society. The inviting humanist irony of the early days has given way to the off-putting rational cynicism and sloganeering of our time.
Saul quotes
There is something silly about grown men and women striving to reduce their vision of themselves and of civilization to bean counting.
Saul
There are two fairly standard approaches to political power used by those who seek it. Some seek power with the assumption that the citizenry are the source of legitimacy and are to be treated with respect. Others concentrate on identifying whatever insecurities there are within the citizenry and on exploiting them.'




Saul John Ralston quotes
The idea underlying such endless discussion and dreaming about the physical act is that sexual expertise confers worldliness and is therefore part of becoming an affirmed individual. This is a curious suggestion... Sex is many things — a need, a desire, an emotion, a release — but it has nothing to do with worldly sophistication, character building or even existential action. Sex, in general, is more of an obstacle than anything else for those who wish to free themselves and act as individuals... [W]e aren't dealing with a successful affirmation of responsible individualism in the real world. We are creating private dreams which compensate for the fracturing of the individual and the castration of his or her power in public life.
Saul John Ralston
We are the raison d'?tre of the entire system. We are also the employers of those in public office and in the public service. Why should we accept from them a discourse which suggests contempt for us and for the democratic system?
John Ralston Saul quotes
[W]e have more than two options... a critique of reason does not have to be a call for the return of superstition and arbitrary power.... [O]ur problems do not lie with reason itself but with our obsessive treatment of reason as an absolute value. Certainly it is one of our qualities, but it functions positively only when balanced and limited by the others.
John Ralston Saul
But now, in this century of ideologies, the Gods and Destiny have been given new life. "Miracles in the world are many," Sophocles wrote in the fifth century BC. "There is no greater miracle than man." Suddenly, at the end of the twentieth century, we discover that no, after all, it isn't true. Historical inevitability is a greater miracle than man. As is the dialectic. As is the superiority of various groups according to blood type. As is the genius of an abstract mechanism called the market. As is the leadership of inanimate objects — called technology — which worker bees create and then, inevitably, are led by. These inevitabilities are great leaps backward into the arms of the Gods and Destiny.
Saul John Ralston quotes
This is a citizenry which is annoyed, confused, insulted, and uncertain of how to protect the structures of the public good they struggled so long to put in place. Abruptly the national élites seem to prefer playing another game in which the public good is subjected to what they say are larger truths. All of these turn out to be either pedantically utilitarian or highly romantic. The utilitarian involves the reduction of society to self-interest. The romantic involves the selling of economic mythology as a new universal religion.
Saul
The conclusion drawn by ... most of our élites ... is that the population constitutes a deep and dangerous well of ignorance and irrationality; if our civilization is in crisis the fault must lie with the populace which is not rising to the inescapable challenges. And yet civilizations do not collapse because the citizenry are corrupt or lazy or anti-intellectual. These people do not have the power and influence to either lead or destroy. Civilizations collapse when those who have power fail to do their jobs.
Saul John Ralston
Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.
John Ralston Saul
Thus the Age of Reason has turned out to be the Age of Structure; a time when, in the absence of purpose, the drive for power as a value in itself has become the principal indicator of social approval. And the winning of power has become the measure of social merit.




John Ralston Saul quotes
United States: .... A nation given either to unjustified over-enthusiasms or infantile furies.
John Ralston Saul
Canada was built from its very beginnings on the belief that public leadership in the economy and on social issues would be as effective and cheap as anything done by the private sector.
Saul quotes
Superficial nonconformism... leaves our rational structures indifferent. Questions of moral action and of physical appearance are increasingly irrelevant; they are categorized either as justified self-expression or conversely as suitable subjects for agitated public debate. In either case they are harmless vents.
Saul John Ralston
[C]ontent [is] an obstacle to the exercise of power.
Saul John Ralston quotes
Neither Capitalism nor Socialism can pretend to be an ideology. They are merely methods for dividing ownership and income. What is most peculiar for such theoretically practical methodologies, which are also theoretically opposed to each other, is that neither of them has ever existed, except in a highly tentative form. And even then they are invariably mixed together. Their mutually exclusive vocabularies have more to do with basic similarities than with differences.
John Ralston Saul
Elites quite naturally define as the most important and admired qualities for a citizen those on which they themselves have concentrated.
John Ralston Saul quotes
There is little to envy in the woman's position either. For perhaps the first time in history, she has a general sense of herself as an individual apart from men. This self-confidence gives her drive and makes her want to succeed. As a result she is eager to join the system. She does not have a clear idea of what it will do to her. Her focus is on her own past and on what men did to women — not on the male structure and what it does to men.
John Ralston Saul
We seem to be unable to allow ourselves the dignity of engaging in this sort of straightforward reconsideration of our acts. After all, questioning is the great strength of democracy; the ability to doubt without losing face. Instead we charge on, chanting 'Free Trade — Prosperity', the way in 1212 on the Children's Crusade they must have chanted 'Jesus and Jerusalem!' Most were snatched up before they could reach the coast and sold into slavery or sent across the Mediterranean, again to be slaves.
Saul John Ralston
[T]hree of [Newt Gingrich's] "Five Principles of American Civilization" deal with business, technology, and organization — all characteristics of work. There is no mention of liberty or equality or, for that matter, of democracy.


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