Tag Archives: time

The Winter of Our Discontent

“Men don’t get knocked out, or I mean they can fight back against big things. What kills them is erosion; they get nudged into failure. They get slowly scared. I’m scared. Long Island Lightning Company might turn off the lights. My wife needs clothes. My children – shoes and fun. And suppose they don’t get an education? And the monthly bills and the doctor and teeth and a tonsillectomy, and beyond that suppose I get sick and can’t sweep this goddam sidewalk? Course you don’t understand. It’s slow. It rots out your guts. I can’t think beyond next month’s payment on the refrigerator. I hate my job and I’m scared I’ll lose it. How could you understand that?” John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent,  p. 14, Penguin Books, 1961.

I started reading again; luckily I’m not a man to keep with any plan. This is great. Steinbeck is great. American lit is great. As if it feels a responsibility to make up for the lack of American history. When I read this in context I thought this is the kind of stuff capitalism generates.  I was wrong: this is the human condition. The problem is not hope but the lack of it. Or, seen from the other angle, the problem is not hope but the omnipresent all-pervasive fear of losing it.

The key word in the above, for me, is ‘refrigerator’. Continue reading

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Que le goust des biens et des maux dépend en bonne partie de l’opinion que nous en avons

“J’en faisoy un secret; et moy, qui ose tant dire de moy, ne parloy de mon argent qu’en mensonge, comme font les autres, qui s’appauvrissent riches, s’enrichissent pauvres, et dispensent leur conscience de jamais tesmoigner sincerement de ce qu’ils ont. Ridicule et honteuse prudence.”  M. De Montaigne,  Essais, Livre 1, Flammarion 1969, Chapitre XIV, p. 105.

(amateuristic English translation: “I made it a secret; and I, who dare say so much about myself, did not speak about my monery except in lies, as do the others, who make seem they are poor when they are rich, or make seem they are rich when they are poor, and discharge their conscience of ever saying truthfully what they own. Ridiculous and shameful prudence.”)

I am rich. Worse than merely being rich, I became rich by complying to the social pressure towards a profession which was almost sure to make me rich; and abandoning what hope I had from achieving something meaningful in the line of things that were of real interest to me.

Shame on me?

Continue reading