Everybody's shouting: Which side are you on?
-- Bob Dylan, "Desolation Row"
Whoever does not take sides in a civil war is struck with infamy, and loses all right to politics.
-- Solon, Athenian Constitution
And if there were a devil it would not be one who decided against God, but one who, in eternity, came to no decision.
-- Martin Buber, Good and Evil
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.
-- Joshua 5:13-14
Whitman can sing difference but cannot differentiate himself without compromising his labor -- which is part of why his labor has to be a kind of leisure, a profession that transcends the professions; Whitman can't take sides. In this regard his work as a Civil War nurse seems significant: He can tend the sick, recognize the humanity of the soldiers (from the North, but also the South), and love these historical persons as they are sacrificed for the future union. But he cannot fight.
-- Ben Lerner, Hatred of Poetry
The god whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals, but gives a sign.
The abortive revolution of 1905 placed Rozanov in a quandary; he admired the vigor of the revolutionaries while detesting their violence. He regarded the Tsarist government as tired, outworn, incapable of ruling except as a faceless bureaucracy; and at the same time he rejoiced in the stability of the monarchy, at least as an ideal. Without the least cynicism he found himself cheering both sides in the conflict -- he acclaimed the established order in the conservative New Times, and in liberal periodicals, writing under the pseudonym "Varvarin," he celebrated the revolutionaries. It was a completely untenable situation, and inevitably he was accused of the crassest cynicism. When a young revolutionary reminded him that Russia was in a terrible state and something had to be done, Rozanov answered, "I'll tell you what has to be done. If it is summer, pick berries and make jam. If it is winter, drink tea sweetened with jam."
-- Robert Payne, introduction to Vasily Rozanov, The Apocalypse of Our Time & other writings
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
-- Desmond Tutu
We should keep a perfect indifference for all opinions, not wish any of them true or try to make them appear so, but, being indifferent, receive and embrace them according as evidence and that alone gives the attestation of truth.
-- John Locke, Of the Conduct of the Understanding 34
You either got faith or you got unbelief, and there ain't no neutral ground.
-- Bob Dylan, "Precious Angel"
An attractive theory ... for pedantic poseurs, 'haunted by profound, unresolved doubts.' ... what it all comes down to is, "on the one hand we cannot but admit," and, "on the other it must be confessed"!
-- Rakitin in Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov part 1 book 2, ch 7
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
-- Matthew 12:30
You had some very bad people ... but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.
-- Donald J. Trump, August 15 2017
I don’t know about sides. I go my own way; but your way may go along with mine for a while. … I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me. ...there are some things, of course, whose side I am altogether not on; I am against them altogether.
-- Treebeard in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
The intellectual must take sides, with this group of violent men, since he has only the choice between their triumph or that of the others. He will give them his signature; perhaps his life. But he will retain the right to judge them.
-- Julien Benda, a propos the Spanish Civil War
Dialectics ... does not reason on the "on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand" principle, but always points out the determining aspect, that element in the unity of opposites.
--Evald Ilyenkov, Dialectics of Abstract & Concrete, ch 2
And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
-- Luke 9:49-50
Action and speech are so closely related because the primordial and specifically human act must at the same time contain the answer to the questions asked of every newcomer: “Who are you?” .... The revelatory quality of speech and action comes to the fore when people are with others and neither for nor against them — that is, in sheer human togetherness.
-- Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition ch. V, sec. 24
There's not even room enough to be anywhere.
-- Bob Dylan, "Not Dark Yet"
My standpoint is armed neutrality.
-- Søren Kierkegaard
"you can't be neutral on a moving train" (Zinn)ReplyDelete
much of this recalls various pre-Socratic stuff on equipollence or exercising epoché, a deliberate withholding of judgment while gathering up evidence, perceptions, and the like. this willful detachment takes recent form in phenomenological eidetic reduction, or thereabouts. in any event, i wonder what purpose is served by a chrestomathy of similar quotations referencing the general abstract problem better put, I think, as "the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity." is its purpose to suspend us in the breach or to initiate some escape? what is the affect of this post, then, if not fatigued relief to cite rather than address a very old and crude antinomy?ReplyDelete
Since the whole conceit of this piece is to find a way to "avoid speaking," as Derrida says somewhere or other, it would be quite counter to its spirit to remark in my own voice. The demand to "say what you mean," to pronounce upon a matter, to commit, to engage, to stand up and be counted, is precisely what is being called into question here -- as is, of course, the calling-into-question. I have certainly not resolved this dilemma! nor did I mean to. Whether it is interesting or not, of course, is not for me to say. But you are clearly right that Yeats has anticipated the whole tangle, and, in the Revised Edition, I will probably incorporate his line. In any case, my intention here is simply to break a certain ind of silence, which had become too fraught -- but by, in a certain sense, extending it as well. Now that I have been drawn into actually commenting, of course, the jig is up. Or is it?Delete