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Quotations about Society
and Modern Living




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Most people are awaiting Virtual Reality; I'm awaiting virtuous reality.  ~Eli Khamarov, "Lives of the Cognoscenti"


I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance.  ~Reuben Blades


When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?  ~Chuck Palahniuk


One of the misfortunes of our time is that in getting rid of false shame, we have killed off so much real shame as well.  ~Louis Kronenberger, Company Manners, 1954


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.  ~Krishnamurti


Our modern society is engaged in polishing and decorating the cage in which man is kept imprisoned.  ~Swami Nirmalananda, Enlightened Anarchism


Do not waste your time on Social Questions.  What is the matter with the poor is Poverty; what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.  ~George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists


Our democratic capitalist society has converted Eros into an employee of Mammon.  ~Octavio Paz


The first gold star a child gets in school for the mere performance of a needful task is its first lesson in graft.  ~Philip Wylie, Generation of Vipers, 1942


I think God's going to come down and pull civilization over for speeding.  ~Steven Wright


There comes a time when a woman needs to stop thinking about her looks and focus her energies on raising her children.  This time comes at the moment of conception.  A child needs a role model, not a supermodel.  ~Astrid Alauda, on the "hot mom" trend


What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?  ~Henry David Thoreau


It's a sad and stupid thing to have to proclaim yourself a revolutionary just to be a decent man.  ~David Harris


We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


It'll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.  ~Unknown author, quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs


If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.  ~Author Unknown


The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat.  ~Lily Tomlin


Natives who beat drums to drive off evil spirits are objects of scorn to smart Americans who blow horns to break up traffic jams.  ~Mary Ellen Kelly


Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependant upon popular opinion?  ~William Lloyd Garrison


Society is composed of two great classes - those who have more dinners than appetite, and those who have more appetite than dinners.  ~Sébastien-Roch Nicholas de Chamfort


A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower, first inaugural address, 20 January 1953


It is the safest of times, it is the riskiest of times.... What the Dickens is going on here?  ~Denton Morrison, on chemicals, technology, and risk, quoted in National Academy of Sciences, Improving Risk Communication, 1989


Few great men could pass Personnel.  ~Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized Society, 1956


You're obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd.  You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn, and know lack all foundation.  It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretenses of your civilization which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced.  In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers.  That's the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.  ~Octave Mirbeau, Torture Garden, "The Mission," Chapter 8


It would be a service to mankind if the pill were available in slot machines and the cigarette were placed on prescription.  ~Malcolm Potts, MD


There is no hope for a civilization which starts each day to the sound of an alarm clock.  ~Author Unknown


Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.  ~Bill Vaughn


The time is ripe, and rotten-ripe, for change.  ~Lowell


Perhaps in time the so-called Dark Ages will be thought of as including our own.  ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


The danger of the past was that men became slaves.  The danger of the future is that man may become robots.  ~Erich Fromm


We create an environment where it is alright to hate, to steal, to cheat, and to lie if we dress it up with symbols of respectability, dignity and love.  ~Whitney Moore, Jr.


When people go to work, they shouldn't have to leave their hearts at home.  ~Betty Bender


Widespread caffeine use explains a lot about the twentieth century.  ~Greg Egan, "Distress"


People have become as processed as food.  ~Astrid Alauda


In these times you have to be an optimist to open your eyes when you awake in the morning.  ~Carl Sandburg, New York Post, 9 September 1960


Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.  ~Author Unknown


Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favor.
~Robert Frost, "The Black Cottage," North of Boston, 1914


Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
~T.S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock


Today the world changes so quickly that in growing up we take leave not just of youth but of the world we were young in.  ~Peter Medawar


Mammalia, n.pl.  A family of vertebrate animals whose females in a state of nature suckle their young, but when civilized and enlightened put them out to nurse, or use the bottle.  ~Ambrose Bierce


Choice has always been a privilege of those who could afford to pay for it.  ~Ellen Frankfort


You can't make up anything anymore.  The world itself is a satire.  All you're doing is recording it.  ~Art Buchwald


Those persons who are burning to display heroism may rest assured that the course of social evolution will offer them every opportunity.  ~Havelock Ellis


The trouble with our age is that it is all signposts and no destination.  ~The War Cry


It isn't so much that hard times are coming; the change observed is mostly soft times going.  ~Groucho Marx


We have produced a world of contented bodies and discontented minds.  ~Adam Clayton Powell, Keep the Faith, Baby!, 1967


Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three oclock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.  ~Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, commonly misattributed to Barbara Jordan because she quoted Fulghum in a commencement address


The world has achieved brilliance without conscience.  ~Omar Bradley


Being human in our modern civilization is being forced into a boxing ring with Nature.  And we're bloodied every time.  ~M. Robin D'Antan


Speed kills colour... the gyroscope, when turning at full speed, shows up gray.  ~Paul Morand


We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.  ~Alfred E. Newman


The thoughts of Plato and Machiavelli... don't seem quite enough armor for a world beset with splitting the atoms, urban guerrillas, nineteen varieties of psychotherapists, amplified guitars, napalm, computers, astronauts, and an atmosphere polluted simultaneously with auto exhaust and TV commercials.  ~John Fischer


Nothing can be more readily disproved than the old saw, "You can't keep a good man down." Most human societies have been beautifully organized to keep good men down.  ~John W. Gardner


The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.  ~Paul Valery


What's wrong with this world is, it's not finished yet.  It is not competed to the point where man can put his final signature to the job and say, "It is finished.  We made it and it works."  ~William Faulkner, address, Wellesley, Massachusetts, 8 June 1952


Most people are willing to pay more to be amused than to be educated.  ~Robert C. Savage, Life Lessons


Life has been reduced to getting food out of cans.  ~Martin H. Fischer


Food.  Water.  Shelter.  Air.  Sleep.  Societal inflation has expanded need into greed.  Suddenly the basic survival needs also include a cell phone, cable TV, and French manicured fingernails.... We've become the absolute biggest whiners of all human history with the absolute smallest justification for whining.  ~Charlie Diekatze


When we think of the past, we forget the fools and remember the sage.  We reverse the process for our own time.  ~George Boas


Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.  ~Gertrude Stein


Yes, I am positive that one of the great curatives of our evils, our maladies, social, moral, and intellectual, would be a return to the soil, a rehabilitation of the work of the fields.  ~Charles Wagner


Commuter - one who spends his life
In riding to and from his wife;
A man who shaves and takes a train,
And then rides back to shave again.
~E.B. White, "The Commuter," Poems and Sketches, 1982


Unhappy is a people that has run out of words to describe what is going on.  ~Thurman Arnold


You taught me to be nice, so nice that now I am so full of niceness, I have no sense of right and wrong, no outrage, no passion.  ~Garrison Keillor


The year is 2006.  The world has changed in about 364 significant ways since you started reading this sentence.  ~Ed Northstrum


Fame is proof that the people are gullible.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


I believe that one of the great problems for us as individuals is the depression and the tension resulting from existence in a world which is increasingly less pleasing to the eye.  ~Lady Bird Johnson


So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent.  ~Henry George, Progress and Poverty, 1879


One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal.  Soon we'll need a new definition.  ~Alvin Toffler


The world is so dreadfully managed, one hardly knows to whom to complain.  ~Ronald Firbank


Depressed?  Of course we're all depressed.  We've been so quickly, violently, and irreconcilably plucked from nature, from physical labor, from kinship and village mentality, from every natural and primordial anti-depressant.  The further society "progresses," the grander the scale of imbalance.  Just as fluoride is put in water to prevent dental caries, we'll soon find government mandating Prozac in our water to prevent mental caries.  ~M. Robin D'Antan


We get lost in a fog of abstractions and easily forget that man is a bloodhound sniffing out the real.  ~Robert C. Pollock


Failure seems to be regarded as the one unpardonable crime, success as the all-redeeming virtue, the acquisition of wealth as the single worthy aim of life.  The hair-raising revelations of skullduggery and grand-scale thievery merely incite others to surpass by yet bolder outrages and more corrupt combinations.  ~Charles Francis Adams


The world is governed more by appearance than realities so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it.  ~Daniel Webster


The tragedy of it is that nobody sees the look of desperation on my face.  Thousands and thousands of us, and we're passing one another without a look of recognition.  ~Henry Miller


Most people know more about their congressmen via smear campaigns than they know about their own neighbor via conversations, and a lot of people know more about Britney Spears via tabloids than they know about their own congressmen via voting booklets.  Does anyone else see the problem here?  ~Brock Fiant


Armaments, universal debt and planned obsolescence - those are the three pillars of Western prosperity.  ~Aldous Huxley, Island


Flowers don't open to the clock
but to the sunshine spontaneous;
for modern humans that manner
of instinct is now extraneous.
~Astrid Alauda, "If I Cry Will I Rust"


People haven't time to learn anything.  They buy things ready-made in stores.  But since there are no stores where you can buy friends, people no longer have friends.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943, translated from French by Richard Howard


The human race has had long experience and a fine tradition in surviving adversity.  But we now face a task for which we have little experience, the task of surviving prosperity.  ~Alan Gregg


I never expected to see the day when girls would get sunburned in the places they do now.  ~Will Rogers


I don't believe medical discoveries are doing much to advance human life.  As fast as we create ways to extend it we are inventing ways to shorten it.  ~Christiaan Barnard


Society is always engaged in a vast conspiracy to preserve itself - at the expense of the new demands of each new generation.  ~John Haynes Holmes


The age of chivalry is gone.  That of sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded.  ~Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France


Junk mail, junk food, our society is full of junk living, period.  ~Carrie Latet


Information and communications technology unlocks the value of time, allowing and enabling multi-tasking, multi-channels, multi-this and multi-that.  ~Li Ka Shing


[The] men of the technostructure are the new and universal priesthood.  Their religion is business success; their test of virtue is growth and profit.  Their bible is the computer printout; their communion bench is the committee room.  ~J.K. Galbraith, The Age of Uncertainty, 1977


If living conditions don't stop improving in this country, we're going to run out of humble beginnings for our great men.  ~Russell P. Askue


With each passing year, one has less to say, and knows better how to say it.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966


The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.  ~Theodore Roosevelt


It is one of the maladies of our age to profess a frenzied allegiance to truth in unimportant matters, to refuse consistently to face her where graver issues are at stake.  ~Norman Douglas


There's a standard formula for success in the entertainment medium, and that is:  "Beat it to death if it succeeds."  ~Ernie Kovacs


[H]istory assures us that civilizations decay quite leisurely.  ~Will and Ariel Durant, Lessons of History


Usually, terrible things that are done with the excuse that progress requires them are not really progress at all, but just terrible things.  ~Russell Baker


Society is now one polish'd horde,
Formed of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.
~Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto XIII, stanza 95


I've been reading a lot lately about Indian captives.  One woman who had been captured by the Indians and made a squaw was resentful when she was rescued because she'd found that there was a lot more work to do as the wife of a white man.  ~Stephen Vincent Benét


Information should be used as food for thought, not poison to the soul.  ~Shellie R. Warren


The art of living is the art of knowing how to believe lies.  ~Cesare Pavese


The things that are wrong with the country today are the sum total of all the things that are wrong with us as individuals.  ~Charles W. Tobey


The twentieth century seems afflicted by a gigantic... power failure.  Powerlessness and the sense of powerlessness may be the environmental disease of the age.  ~Russell Baker, New York Times, 1 May 1969


Cell phones are the latest invention in rudeness.  ~D.H. Mondfleur


Punishment is now unfashionable... because it creates moral distinctions among men, which, to the democratic mind, are odious.  We prefer a meaningless collective guilt to a meaningful individual responsibility.  ~Thomas Szasz


The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun.  ~George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant, 1950


It is perfectly easy to be original by violating the laws of decency and the canons of good taste.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Over the Teacups, 1891


The three horrors of modern life - talk without meaning, desire without love, work without satisfaction.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960


Most of our diversions do not so much delay death as accustom us to it.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966


There is no appeal from the ways of the world, which must continue on its own terms or take us all down with it into chaos and confusion.  ~Mark van Doren


Once the Xerox copier was invented, private diplomacy died.  There's no such thing as secrecy.  It's just a question of whether it's leaked or revealed openly.  ~Andrew Young


It is madness beyond compare
To try to reform the world.
~Molière, The Misanthrope, 1666


In nature, there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.  ~Robert Greene Ingersoll, "The New Testament," Some Reasons Why, 1881


The number of substitutes for fine and clean thinking the world provides positively gnaws at one's vitals.  ~Harold J. Laski


The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.  ~Marcus Aurelius


I think societal instinct much deeper than sex instinct - and societal repression much more devastating.  ~D.H. Lawrence


In spite of all our speeding it's still the style to be late.  ~Kin Hubbard


Noise, crowding, pollution, and the sheer rush of our complex, modern society are rapidly becoming as oppressive to many individuals as the worst kind of political dictatorship.  ~Thomas F. Eagleton


The public is hedged about by so many goddam bookkeepers that no time is left in which to produce.  More time is spent in carrying out garbage than in carrying in food.  ~Martin H. Fischer


The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature.  Yet how can anyone speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?... With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?  ~Emma Goldman, Anarchism


I am not quite sure what the advantage is in having a few more dollars to spend if the air is too dirty to breathe, the water too polluted to drink, the commuters are losing out in the struggle to get in and out of the city, the streets are filthy, and the schools so bad that the young perhaps wisely stay away, and the hoodlums roll citizens for some of the dollars they saved in the tax cut.  ~John Kenneth Galbraith


Beggars should be abolished.  It annoys one to give to them, and it annoys one not to give to them.  ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, "On the Pitying," Thus Spake Zarathustra


We have smothered ourselves, buried ourselves, in the vast heap of information which all of us have and none of us has.  ~Gamaliel Bradford


The secret to living contently and sanely in this modern world is to... find the beautiful in the ugly - but don't get confused which is which.  ~Leslie Grimutter


I believe... that security declines as security machinery expands.  ~E.B. White


If some people got their rights they would complain of being deprived of their wrongs.  ~Oliver Herford


How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?  ~Paul Sweeney


Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.  ~Mignon McLaughlin


Final Ruin fiercely drives
Her ploughshare o'er creation.
~Edward Young


Any society that needs disclaimers has too many lawyers.  ~Erik Pepke


There are more doctors in a single North Shore medical building than in one entire West Side ghetto.  ~Jack Starr


The human race's prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenceless against tigers than they are today when we have become defenceless against ourselves.  ~Arnold Toynbee


Psychoanalysis can provide a theory of 'progress,' but only by viewing history as a neurosis.  ~Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death


You make me sick!  You are offered meat and you choose a banana-split-with-nuts.  ~Martin H. Fischer


We're the middle children of history.... no purpose or place.  We have no Great War, no Great Depression.  Our great war is a spiritual war.  Our great depression is our lives.  ~From the movie Fight Club, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk


American youth attributes much more importance to arriving at driver's-license age than at voting age.  ~Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964


You can say this for ready-mixes - the next generation isn't going to have any trouble making pies exactly like mother used to make.  ~Earl Wilson


You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.  ~Charles Kuralt


If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on the human face - forever.  ~George Orwell


No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.  ~Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns 50


[A] science is said to be useful if its development tends to accentuate the existing inequalities in the distribution of wealth, or more directly promotes the destruction of human life.  ~Harold Hardy Godfrey, A Mathematician's Apology, 1941


It's difficult to view the world outside our human context.  Staying alive and paying the bills both require our attention squarely fixed on our own business.  Our sprawling cities and suburbs are wonderful and frightening tributes to creative self-absorption.  In them, we spend our microscheduled days bustling between work and the endless details of our private lives, turning in our moments of rest to the buzzing distractions of television and computers - all accelerating toward some ultimate, unseen fulfillment of convenience and hyperreality.  Little encourages us to pause and look around, much less question the end goal of all our busyness.  Anything slower than the quick cuts of TV commercials is overwhelmed by our impatience and short attention.  Unfortunately, we might be missing something important - to our happiness and to our survival.  The purpose of this book is to help remind us.  ~From the introduction to The Sacred Earth: Writers on Nature & Spirit, edited by Jason Gardner, 1998, New World Library


The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live.  Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.  We have guided missiles and misguided men.  ~Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963


My meaningless office job:  they pay me for my body and mind, but my heart gets no paycheck and my soul pays the taxes.  ~Carrie Latet


Everything is for the eye these days - TV, Life, Look, the movies.  Nothing is just for the mind.  The next generation will have eyeballs as big as cantaloupes and no brain at all.  ~Fred Allen


Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic.  ~Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin, 1973


The trouble with the laws these days is that criminals know their rights better than their wrongs.  ~Author Unknown


Somebody recently figured out that we have 35 million laws to enforce the ten commandments.  ~Attributed to both Bert Masterson and Earl Wilson


In the lifetime of one person, we went from figuring out where we came from to figuring out how to get rid of ourselves.  ~Jack Horner, on the eighty years between Darwin's On the Origin of Species and the nuclear bomb, in Time, 26 April 1993


Living in this modern toxic world, we are all slowly being poisoned to death.  ~Carrie Latet


Death is losing its terror.  It is the emergency exit for a world that is becoming more frightening death ever was.  ~Julian Green, Diary, 28 December 1958


A Galileo could no more be elected president of the United States than he could be elected Pope of Rome.  Both high posts are reserved for men favored by God with an extraordinary genius for swathing the bitter facts of life in bandages of self-illusion.  ~H.L. Mencken


Somehow among all our use of antibiotic medicine and antibacterial soap our souls are becoming sanitized as well - don't let it happen to you!  ~Brock Fiant


Scientific discovery consists in the interpretation for our own convenience of a system of existence which has been made with no eye to our convenience at all.  ~Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings, 1950


Science is now the craft of the manipulation, substitution and deflection of the forces of nature.  What I see coming is a gigantic slaughterhouse, an Auschwitz, in which valuable enzymes, hormones, and so on will be extracted instead of gold teeth.  ~Erwin Chargaff, Columbia Forum, Summer 1969


I always turn to the sports section first.  The sports section records people's accomplishments; the front page nothing but man's failures.  ~Earl Warren, quoted in Sports Illustrated, 22 July 1968


When Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilization, he said, "It would be nice."  ~Author Unknown


It seems a long time since the morning mail could be called correspondence.  ~Jacques Barzun, God's Country and Mine, 1954


On an average day 7 minutes of news happens.  Yet there are currently three full-time, 24-hour news networks.  ~Jon Stewart


Our current obsession with creativity is the result of our continued striving for immortality in an era when most people no longer believe in an afterlife.  ~Arianna Stassinopoulos


Social reform aims to improve the condition of the poor by worsening the condition of the rich.  ~Martin H. Fischer


Progress imposes not only new possibilities for the future but new restrictions.  ~Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings, 1950


Jefferson thought schools would produce free men: we prove him right by putting dropouts in jail.  ~Benjamin R. Barber


Man is the animal that intends to shoot himself out into interplanetary space, after having given up on the problem of an efficient way to get himself five miles to work and back each day.  ~Bill Vaughan


The world is changing so fast I've got societal vertigo.  ~The Quote Garden


If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.  ~Pearl S. Buck


This strange disease of modern life, with its sick hurry, its divided aims.  ~Matthew Arnold


In this prostituting society, we all have to hustle, and I'd rather suck cock than kiss ass!  ~Margo St. James, attributed


The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation's development.  A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success.  Without a revolution in spirit, the forces which had produced inequities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration.  It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights.  There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance, and fear.  ~Aung San Suu Kyi


We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork.  ~Milton Friedman


There is more to life than increasing its speed.  ~Mohandas K. Gandhi


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