“Quotes” for life


A moth I thought, munching a word
How marvellously weird!  A worm
Digesting a man's sayings —
A sneak thief nibbling in the shadows
At the shape of a poet's thunderous phrases
How unutterably strange
And the pilfering parasite none the wiser
For the words he had swallowed”.
— 'An Old English Riddle' from The Exeter Book, News Statesman, March 1993, in an issue devoted to Roger Woddis.

Michael Foot

We're here to provide for all those who are weaker, hungrier and more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain, good and great purpose in earth — Michael Foot MP, then Leader of the Labour Party, speaking in Lewisham, London, 26 May 1983 quoted in the Daily Mirror, 8 June 1983.

George Flynn

I am charged by my mill-master with having little more knowledge than most of my fellow workmen; and in the eyes of a mill-master that is a crime of no small degree. Well, how am I situated in order to get this knowledge? I live in a cellar nine feet by seven feet. This dwelling is my workshop, my bedroom, my kitchen, my study and, not infrequently, my hospital. Could any man live thus and not acquire knowledge?

Am I to close my eyes to the fact that, while I am obliged to toil in such a position, the fruit of my labour is filched from me, and splendid mansions arise in every direction, inhabited by those who mock me expressions of sympathy. — George Flynn in 1845, a Bradford Chartist, quoted in 'The Chartists Risings in Bradford', Local History Magazine, No.17, p26.

John Whitelegg

The urge to save time is fuelled by the belief that the next task is more important than the present task and that speed and crowded diaries correspond to social importance.

This is pollution of the mind where no-one has time for the leisurely exchange of views with a friend or a colleague”. — John Whitelegg, 'The society now departing'. An article in The Guardian, 15 June 1990.

The picture is of a painting I believe is entitled 'Summer afternoon' and was on a card I once received which I have lost, but I copied for my noticeboard to go with the above quote. I searched on the web without success, so any leads would be appreciated, as I would like to acknowledge the artist and copyright holder as well (and buy a print if one is available).

'Pop', my maternal grandfather

If work was such a good thing, the rich would keep it all for themselves.  — Pop said this on many occasions. He was a lifelong self-employed plumber and central heating engineer 'who wiped a joint as good as any', but preferred to play snooker in the Fair View Club, Wembley — I took this photograph in 1960 a week after my 16th birthday. It got torn and I stuck it together with sellotape as you can see above.

Dag Hammerskjold

For him that hath faith the last miracle shall be greater than the first”. — Dag Hammerskjold, Markings.

John Berger

Publicity is the life of this culture — insofar as with publicity (corporate) capitalism could not survive — and at the same time publicity is its dream. Capitalism survives by forcing the majority to define their own interests as narrowly as possible. This was once achieved by extensive deprivation. Today in developed countries, it is being achieved by imposing a false standard of what is and what is not desirable. — John Berger, Ways of Seeing.

Rebecca West

Charity is an ugly trick. It is a virtue grown by the rich on the graves of the poor. In former times it was used as fire insurance by the rich, but now the fear of Hell as gone it is used to gild mean lives with nobility of political instrument… Women know the true damnation of charity because the habit of civilisation has always been to throw them cheap alms rather than good pay”. — Rebecca West, The Clarion, December 1912. 

Dom Helder Camara

When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist”. — Archbishop Dom Helder Camara (d.1999).

Raymond Williams

In an increasingly educated society, in which millions of people are capable of taking part in decisions, in which there is all the experience of a mature labour movement and a political democracy, in which there is a growing and vital confidence in our ability to run our own lives, we are faced with something alien and thwarting: a manipulative politics, often openly aggressive and cynical, which has taken our meanings and changed them, which seems of our creation, yet now stands against us, as an agent of the priorities of money and power ”. — Raymond Williams (d.1988).  May Day Manifesto introduction, 1968.

James Connelly

None so fitted to break the chains as those who wear them, none so well equipped to decide what is a fetter. In its march towards freedom, the working class of Ireland must cheer on those women, who feeling on their souls and bodies the fetters of the ages, have risen to clear them off, and cheer all the louder if in its hatred of thraldoms and passion for freedom the women's army forges ahead of the militant army of labour. But whoever carries the outworks of the citadels of oppression, the working class can alone raze it to the ground ”. — James Connelly (executed by the British Government 1916), The Reconquest of Ireland.

Alan Simpson

“The right to live in open, tolerant societies, free from fear or persecution, has to be fought for in the face of those who would divided and exploit us all. It is a struggle as much against those who would takes innocent lives and prospects by economic means as against those who do so by suicide bombs. We cannot pretend that one is an outrage and the other not”. — Alan Simpson, 'Martyrs, Mantras and Casualties of War', Morning Star, 28 July 2005.

5 May 2012. More to be added over the next few weeks…

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