"The mechanism seems simple: poor people are forced to share their time and resources more than wealthy people are, and as a result they live in close"The mechanism seems simple: poor people are forced to share their time and resources more than wealthy people are, and as a result they live in closer communities. Inter-reliant poverty comes with its own stresses--and certainly isn't the American ideal--but it's much closer to our evolutionary heritage than affluence. A wealthy person who has never had to rely on help and resources from his community is leading a privileged life that falls way outside more than a million years of human experience. Financial independence can lead to isolation, and isolation can put people at a greatly increased risk of depression and suicide. This might be a fair trade for a generally wealthier society--but a trade it is" (20-21).
"It can be assumed that hunter-gatherers would treat their version of a welfare cheat or a dishonest banker as decisively as they would a coward. They may not kill him, but he would certainly be banished from the community. The fact that a group of people can cost American society several trillion dollars in losses--roughly one-quarter of that year's gross domestic product--and not be tried for high crimes shows how completely de-tribalized the country has become" (30-31).
"I know what coming back to America from a war zone is like because I've done it so many times. First there is a kind of shock at the level of comfort and affluence that we enjoy, but that is followed by the dismal realization that we live in a society that is basically at war with itself. People speak with incredible contempt about--depending on their views--the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign-born, the president, or the entire US government. It's a level of contempt that is usually reserved for enemies in wartime, except that now it's applied to our fellow citizens. Unlike criticism, contempt is particularly toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the speaker. Contempt is often directed at people who have been excluded from a group or declared unworthy of its benefits. Contempt is often used by governments to provide rhetorical cover for torture or abuse. Contempt is one of four behaviors that, statistically, can predict divorce in married couples. People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long" (125-6).
"The ultimate betrayal of tribe isn't acting competitively--that should be encouraged--but predicating your power on the excommunication of others from the group. That is exactly what politicians of both parties try to do when they spew venomous rhetoric about their rivals. That is exactly what media figures do when they go beyond criticism of their fellow citizens and openly revile them. Reviling people you share a combat outpost with is an incredibly stupid thing to do, and public figures who imagine their nation isn't, potentially, one huge combat post are deluding themselves" (128)....more
"'For more than a third of a century, assertions of Soviet superiority created calls for the United States to "re-arm." In the 1980s, the call was hee"'For more than a third of a century, assertions of Soviet superiority created calls for the United States to "re-arm." In the 1980s, the call was heeded so thoroughly that the United States embarked on a trillion dollar defense buildup,' Anne Hessing Cahn wrote in 1993. 'As a result, the country neglected its school, cities, roads and bridges and health care system. From the world's greatest creditor nation, the United States became the world's greatest debtor--in order to pay for the arms to counter the threat of a nation that was collapsing'" (69)....more
Loved the shout-out to the politics of postal services in the Afterword: "And yes, you really should call it Istanbul, not Constantinople. Although theLoved the shout-out to the politics of postal services in the Afterword: "And yes, you really should call it Istanbul, not Constantinople. Although the Ottoman aristocracy used to name Konstantiniyye for many centuries, and many westerners cling to the name in story and song, Istanbul was a more common name among its people. (Actually, most of them just called it 'the City.') In any case, the Turkish post office stopped delivering mail marked 'Constantinople' in 1923" (484-5).
Also loved the steampunk/Clanker library: "He turned to face what looked like a piano set into the desk, and clacked away at its keys. No music emerged, but as he typed a punch card emerged from a slot in the desk. He handed it to her and pointed. "'Good luck.' "Deryn bowed and thanked him, then followed his gesture to a kiosk in the center of the room. She watched another patron use it first. The woman fed her punch card into what looked like a miniature loom. The card slid beneath a fine-tooth comb, whose tiny metal teeth jabbed up and down, as if scrutinizing the holes in the card. "After a moment's spinning and clattering, the card was spat back out. From the top of the kiosk, a clockwork machine climbed up and out, then went skittering away into the stacks of books. "Deryn felt queasy from following the Clanker logic of it all, but stepped forward to repeat the process with her own card. When the card popped back out, she discovered that it was stamped with a number. After a minute's wandering about the lobby, Deryn found a row of small tables labeled with numbers of their own. She sat down at the one that matched her card and pulled out her sketchbook. "As she drew, the whirr and clatter of the machines echoed around her, the sounds blending like the crash of distant waves. Deryn wondered how the Clankers managed it, translating questions into scatterings of holes in paper. Did every wee sliver of knowledge have its own number? The system was probably quicker than wandering through the ceiling-high shelves, but what other books might she have found, doing it herself? "She looked up at the calculating engines that covered the walls, and wondered what they were up to. Did they record every question that the librarians had been asked? And if so, who looked at the results?" (321-2)....more
Tears were streaming: "Eventually we reached the bay, spread out the rugs on the sand, arranged the food, placed the battalion of wine-bottles in the sTears were streaming: "Eventually we reached the bay, spread out the rugs on the sand, arranged the food, placed the battalion of wine-bottles in the shallows to keep cool, and the great moment had arrived. Amid much cheering Mother removed her housecoat and stood revealed in all her glory, clad in the bathing-costume which made her look, as Larry pointed out, like a sort of marine Albert Memorial. Roger behaved very well until he saw Mother wade into the shallow water in a slow and dignified manner. He then got terribly excited. He seemed to be under the impression that the bathing-costume was some sort of sea monster that had enveloped Mother and was now about to carry her out to sea. Barking wildly, he flung himself to the rescue, grabbed one of the frills dangling so plentifully round the edge of the costume, and tugged with all his strength in order to pull Mother back to safety. Mother, who had just remarked that she thought the water a little cold, suddenly found herself being pulled backwards. With a squeak of dismay she lost her footing and sat down heavily in two feet of water, while Roger tugged so hard that a large section of the frill gave way. Elated by the fact that the enemy appeared to be disintegrating, Roger, growling encouragement to Mother, set to work to remove the rest of the offending monster from her person. We writhed on the sand, helpless with laughter, while Mother sat gasping in the shallows, making desperate attempts to regain her feet, beat Roger off, and retain at least a portion of her costume. Unfortunately, owing to the extreme thickness of the material from which the costume was constructed, the air was trapped inside; the effect of the water made it inflate like a balloon, and trying to keep the airship of frills and tucks under control added to Mother's difficulties. In the end it was Theodore who shooed Roger away and helped Mother to her feet. Eventually, after we had partaken of a glass of wine to celebrate and recover from what Larry referred to as Perseus's rescue of Andromeda, we went in to swim, and Mother sat discreetly in the shallows, while Roger crouched nearby, growling ominously at the costume as it bulged and fluttered round Mother's waist" (153-4)....more
Warren frowned. 'Surely the public assistance rates aren't so bad as that? They're revised from time to time, aren't they? You don't just have to starWarren frowned. 'Surely the public assistance rates aren't so bad as that? They're revised from time to time, aren't they? You don't just have to starve?' She shook her head. 'No, you don't have to starve. The rates are all right--in theory, Mr. Warren. You can keep alive and fit on P.A.C. relief--if you happen to have been born an archangel.' 'What do you mean?' She stopped and faced him. 'It's like this. There's really nothing wrong with the rates of relief. If you are careful, and wise, and prudent, you can live on that amount of money fairly well. And you've got to be intelligent, and well educated, too, and rather selfish. If you were like that you'd get along all right--but you wouldn't have a penny to spare.' She paused. 'But if you were human--well, you'd be for it. If you got bored stiff with doing nothing so that you went and blued fourpence on going to the pictures--you just wouldn't have enough to eat that week. Or if you couldn't cook very well, and spoiled the food a bit, you'd go hungry. You'd go hungry if your wife had a birthday and you wanted to give her a little present costing a bob--you'd only get eighty percent of your food that week. And of course, if your wife gets ill and you want to buy her little fancy bits of things...' (72-3).
'I had time to think about all this when I was here in hospital. I was right away from it then, able to see my job from the outside. And it seemed to me then, as it does now, that there's only one thing really worth working for in the City. That's to create work. 'I don't know if you've ever thought about machines,' he said. 'Every machine that's put into a factory displaces labour. That's a very old story, of course. The man who's put to work the machine isn't any better off than he was before; the three men that are thrown out of a job are very much worse off....The cure is for somebody to buckle to and make a job for the three men. 'I believe that that's the thing most worth doing in this modern world,' he said quietly. 'To create jobs that men can work at, and be proud of, and make money by their work. There's no dignity, no decency, or health today for men that haven't got a job. All other things depend on work today: without work men are utterly undone' (167)....more