Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Liberation

"I see in the present and the past knowledge, truth, moral strength, the striving for independence, love of beauty in a small handful of people who are treated as enemies, lost in an environment which does not sympathize with them. On the other hand I see the tight-fisted development of the remaining strata of society, with their narrow ideas, based upon tradition, their limited needs, a few strivings towards the good, a few feeble impulses towards evil... The mass is only a good when it is faceless. The development of the unique individual, that charming phenomenon, is what everything free, talented and strong works towards....

"If people would sooner or later get the idea of saving themselves rather than saving the world, of liberating themselves rather than liberating humanity, how much they would do towards saving the world and liberating humanity."—Alexander Herzen

Alexander Herzen was one of the great and original thinkers of the 19th Century. His memoir, My Past and Thoughts, is one of my most beloved books, not only for his thinking but for the humanity that is revealed in his character. I found the above quotations in a recent book by Lesley Chamberlain (author of the wonderful Nietzsche in Turin), entitled Motherland. I am only part way into it, but I can already recommend it highly for anyone interested in Russia, philosophy, or the history of ideas.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Fitzgerald said...

That is a cool quote. Maybe one day we will come around to that way of thinking.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks Fitz! Have a look at Herzen when you have time --- he's an excellent writer and crucial in Russian literary & political history.

9:48 AM  

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