The Watering Hole; Friday May 15 2015; Bertrand Russell

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure
and the intelligent full of doubt.”
~Bertrand Russell

A decade or two ago, I happened across a quote by Bertrand Russell. Two things caught my eye: (1) his ‘definition’ of fascism matched what appeared to be underway in the US at least since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, and (2) Russell had penned the line in 1940, two years before I was born.

“The first step in a fascist movement is the combination under an energetic leader of a number of men who possess more than the average share of leisure, brutality, and stupidity. The next step is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand and terrorism on the other.” ~Bertrand Russell: Freedom; (Harcourt Brace, 1940)

I was curious. I had heard of Russell, of course, but having not been much of a humanities student whilst in college all those years ago, I was largely unfamiliar with the specifics of his work, of his ideas. So I dug a little deeper and found tons more tidbits of B.R. wisdom. Here are a small handful that demonstrate, to me, Russell’s immense capacity for rational thought as well as his amazing ability to clearly summarize most any topic, all-the-while subtly exposing popular fallacies in the process.

“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.”

“We may define ‘faith’ as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. [and] We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.”

“If throughout your life you abstain from murder, theft, fornication, perjury, blasphemy, and disrespect towards your parents, your Church, and your king, you are conventionally held to deserve moral admiration even if you have never done a single kind or generous or useful action. This very inadequate notion of virtue . . . has done untold harm.”

“If you think that your belief is based upon reason, you will support it by argument, rather than by persecution, and will abandon it if the argument goes against you. But if your belief is based on faith, you will realize that argument is useless, and will therefore resort to force either in the form of persecution or by stunting and distorting the minds of the young in what is called ‘education.’ This last is peculiarly dastardly since it takes advantage of the defenselessness of immature minds. Unfortunately it is practiced in a greater or less degree in the schools of every civilized country.”

And then there’s this GEM!

“The date of the creation of the world (according to the orthodox view) can be inferred from the genealogies in Genesis, which tell how old each patriarch was when his oldest son was born. Some margin of controversy was permissible, owing to certain ambiguities and to differences between the Septuagint and the Hebrew text; but in the end Protestant Christendom generally accepted the date 4004 B.C., fixed by Archbishop Usher. Dr. Lightfoot, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, who accepted this date for the Creation, thought that a careful study of Genesis made even greater precision possible; the creation of man, according to him, took place at 9.00 A.M. on October 23rd. This, however, has never been an article of faith; you might believe, without risk of heresy, that Adam and Eve came into existence on October 16th or October 30th, provided your reasons were derived from Genesis. The day of the week was, of course, known to have been Friday, since God rested on the Saturday.”

Undercurrent thesis stated another way,

“Dogma demands authority, rather than intelligent thought, as the source of opinion; it requires persecution of heretics and hostility to unbelievers; it asks of its disciples that they should inhibit natural kindliness in favor of systematic hatred.”

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) lived a long and extremely productive life. I’ll not even attempt to make a list his accomplishments — the multi-paged Wikipedia link embedded above offers a detailed summary of his life; it also includes links to more detailed information for any who so desire. Suffice to say that in my somewhat shriveled and mediocre mind, I see the world in much the same way as he did — a footnote I readily admit and accept.

Here, for example, is Russell speaking of God and Religion in 1959. Curiously, he and I do share one tiny bit of religious ‘history.’ When asked when he decided not to remain a believer in the Christian beliefs he’d been taught, he said that “by the time I was eighteen, I discarded the last of them.” For me, likewise. 🙂

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity
toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”
Bertrand Russell

21st Century GOP defined. Amen.


45 thoughts on “The Watering Hole; Friday May 15 2015; Bertrand Russell

  1. Here’s one that was told to me by an old pilot buddy who has since passed.

    “you’re not a part of the herd. You can think on your feet and don’t take shit from anyone. The universe runs on fear and you don’t buy into that. That’s why no one will hire you.
    I know exactly where you’re at because I’ve been there. You can sleep well because you haven’t sold your soul. You’re part of a very, very small club that few ever get to”.

    What really stuck in my mind was: The universe runs on fear.

    Take a few steps back and look around, suddenly, it all adds up.
    The universe really does run on fear.

    The lucky bastard got out with a massive heart attack. I miss him.

    • As Bertrand put it, “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” Your friend said precisely the same thing, and afaic, both were spot-on correct. I do understand, having spent the entire of my adult life living apart from the herd and its irrational fear, flipping it the bird whenever necessary, and being criticized by the herd for doing so. But I do sleep extremely well. 😉

  2. Bertrand Russell – great reading Fru. I went on a Hitchens kick yesterday:

    Hitchens revises the Ten Commandments – so good I am listening again

    • We in this particular household have concluded that Jeb is every bit as stupid as his bro George. Period. End of story.

      He’s probably also one of the brighter of the clown car passengers. Scary scary.

      • Humans have a short memory.
        I would like to remind the other forty nine states of the Terry Shiavo debacle that took place while he was Governor.
        He ordered the reinsertion of the feeding tube.
        We could on about this for days but the short story is: He’s a prick.

        • He’s a Bush. Stupid and Prick are automatic assignations. Here’s a quote I saved from the Schiavo debacle — sort of sums Jeb up:

          “Although Terri did not demonstrate during our 90-minute visit compelling evidence of verbalization, conscious awareness or volitional behavior, yet the visitor has the distinct sense of the presence of a living human being who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her.” ~Wm P. Cheshire, MD; (a Christian neurologist brought to the fore by Gov. Jeb Bush to review the Schiavo case. He was allowed to visit and review medical records, but not to conduct an examination; quoted in the New York Times 3/23/05)

    • Too bad there’s not an app for telling asshole politicians that their expensive wearables are not actually a replacement for a healthy diet and moderate effing exercise.
      He’s a Bush, sho nuff.

  3. So with the title of the mail “the real welfare queens” I sent this mail to my ‘married-to-a-teabagger” oil drilling reliability friend in Anchorage:

    The answer:
    “It’s called energy security. Did you walk or bike to work today?”

    My answer:
    “Hmm if this is a vital national interest, then it should be nationalized and not subsidized. If this is for profit, then it’s more like extortion than a legitimate business. And I walked 1.5 miles and bussed the rest yesterday.”

    His answer:
    “The bus……does it have solar panels on the roof….I doubt it. Barak approved Shell’s permit to punch holes in the arctic so you can take the bus to work. It’s doesn’t get much simpler than that.
    Am I missing something here? ” ( TtT – he is referring to this, current issue in Seattle – Shell has based a drilling rig here – it is not going to happen without a fight – )

    My answer:
    “Seriously, you are blaming the addict and not the pusher now – the pusher who is paying the cop to keep getting backsheesh to keep pushing his shit, though the addict knows he needs to get off the shit now? You can’t diminish the issue because there are no alternatives today. The presence of the subsidies hide the true costs of fossil fuels – the only way out is to correctly price that gallon of diesel. But our so-called leaders are bought and paid for by Big Fossil. When you’ve finished sucking that Koch, why don’t you give him a reacharound to finish? If I had a viable alternative to using the bus, I would probably do it. At least I not taking laps around the freeway stopping every lap for a burger and fries.” – yes I threw the first punch of poor taste.

    “My commute is 7 miles, roughly 11 minutes. But I extend it to 45 minutes one way to support the oil industry. I drive a beat up V8 with a 20 gal capacity gas tank that I fill up every 3 days because my car gets 11 miles to the gallon. Whatever it takes to support my bro’s in Texas and Louisiana.
    When you are ready to give up riding in a petroleum powered bus AND a few of the over 600 products made from petroleum, then let’s talk.”

    “Again with the straw man arguments……. you assume I am saying ‘no more oil’ back to making shit from hemp, animal bones and sinews. Don’t be dishonest. You are actually making my argument for me – why the fook are we digging the shite out of the ground, refining it and giving it to all you redneck assholes to make a bunch of left turns at 200mph all Saturday afternoon at 5mpg? What a fooking waste. Now that the fossil industry is driving us all off a fooking cliff into a pre-historic climate where frankly most of the wildlife and us will have a bloody hard time adapting to, those that don’t die …. we should probably save as much oil as we can for all the special materials and products that we really need and get off the wasteful burning of it (and the gas and coal by the way) which we know is going to fook us up seriously. And as for Obama – what a two-faced git – best Republican president since Eisenhower, including St Ronnie. ” ( <- this one tripped up the swear filter at BP and at his brother's business in "God's Kingdom on Earth" – Utah – I used the real words)

    "I am not prepared to live in a world without oil or the products that are derived from oil. Speak for yourself and vote accordingly with your conscience if that is how you want to live. BTW, start enjoying the view of the large offshore rig as it moves past the Seattle skyline to pier 5. My apologies if the deep sea rig blocks the ocean view or the setting sun to the west. Just think of all of the young minds of boys and girls who will begin dreaming of working in the oil industry. You gotta love it. Oh, and please don't tell the protesting kayakers that they kayaks are made from the derivatives of oil, I would hate to see grown adults cry. Perhaps REI and Amazon should add right under the "made responsibly in China" message with "STOP, WAIT, Don't buy this product, it is made from oil".

    "Again with the strawman – 'if you don't like oil don't use any of it' – you are intellectually dishonest (his name here). Subsidizing the very industry that is making money (a lot of it) and buying politicians in order to continue to drive civilization off a climate cliff is insane. The only reason the Arctic is free to drill for fossil fuels is that the climate has warmed by the burning of fossil fuels – its insanity – and that Obama Admin allows this to proceed – you say vote for the choice that you want – there is no choice here, they are all bought and none of them will stop it."

    That was it for the conversation – calling him a liar seems to have shut him down. The rig is across the Elliott Bay from me here…. how seriously stupid are we and the Obama Admin to give a permit to Shell?

    I think I may go and see Mad Max tonight – I think it may end up being considered a documentary.

    • It just beggars belief, our money is being given to companies who give it to the politicians to ensure they keep getting the money (at an incredible rate of return – $1.8billion to US politicians and oil companies the world over get $550bn in subsidies). And they use this money to push more of this stuff to us, stamp out any alternative …. all the while taking the human race off a cliff….. and you see the reaction I get when I suggest ending the subsidies?

      • “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.” ~Bertrand Russell

        That’s close, but your post above makes me think that a better way to put it would be something like, “The trouble with the world is that because the stupid are cocksure — and stupid — they refuse to pay heed to any intelligent analysis that shrouds the legitimacy of any given premise with doubt.”

        Thanks for posting allathat, it’s a keeper.

      • Article has it at $1.8billion in lobbying returns $21billion in subsidies from the American taxpayer to Big Fossil (actually just Big Oil)…. that’s an ROI of 1166% – every year!

        Yes think that you can invest $100 in a mutual fund and you get back $1166 at the end of the year! That’s what is going on.

    • Dunno – looks like someone’s bum in the middle of that painting ….. and they didn’t blur it out…..

        • Yes if I had a pair of my own, I would not have to go out much on a Friday. But then you know what they say about boobies – if you’ve seen one pair, then you *have* to see them all 😉

  4. Speaking of The Stupid, there’s lotsa proof that some of them are, indeed, cocks ure. Here’s a prime example:

    Alan Keyes: Obama Is A Serial Killer In The Mold Of Hitler And Stalin

    What I learned about Obama as I prepared to run against him for the U.S. Senate in 2004 convinced me that he was a hardline socialist ideologue, in the ruthless, self-worshiping mold Hitler and Stalin had in common.

    I thought then that opportunity was all he lacked to be their equals in atrocity. I am even more certain of it now. For he and all those who collaborate with him have been working hard to supply that deficiency, and they are close to their goal. His facile tolerance for the extermination of Christians and other non-Muslim populations in the Middle East (like the Yazidi) lends credibility to the suspicion that the fatal Benghazi debacle came to pass in the course of covert efforts to supply arms to anti-Syrian Muslims, including the religiously genocidal mass murderers in ISIS.

  5. Ancient Antarctic Ice Shelf Nearing Complete Collapse

    According to a new NASA study, the remains of this ancient structure, which has existed for over 10,000 years, are likely to disintegrate completely before the end of the decade — an event that would significantly contribute to global sea level rise.

    Before the end of the decade? That’s gotta be part of that climate change hoax. I mean it was so cold in Boston this winter. (Trying to mimic a climate denier is extremely painful).

  6. Trains must automatically double their speed when a rock hits them. That’s the best explanation for traveling 106 mph instead of 50 mph.

  7. Zimmerman’s attacker could get a life sentence. Dare we assume his crime was more egregious because he missed?

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