Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Meandering we go on and on . . .

Today is the birthday of Albert Jay Nock (October 13, 1870 – August 19, 1945), author, educational theorist, and social critic.

"The mind is like the stomach. It is not how much you put into it that counts, but how much it digests — if you try to feed it with a shovel you get bad results."
- Albert J. Nock

"Assuming that man has a distinct spiritual nature, a soul, why should it be thought unnatural that under appropriate conditions of maladjustment, his soul might die before his body does; or that his soul might die without his knowing it?"
- Albert J. Nock

"Concerning culture as a process, one would say that it means learning a great many things and then forgetting them; and the forgetting is as necessary as the learning."
- Albert J. Nock

"The question of who is right and who is wrong has seemed to me always too small to be worth a moment's thought, while the question of what is right and what is wrong has seemed all-important."
- Albert J. Nock

"Once, I remember, I ran across the case of a boy who had been sentenced to prison, a poor, scared little brat, who had intended something no worse than mischief, and it turned out to be a crime. The judge said he disliked to sentence the lad; it seemed the wrong thing to do; but the law left him no option. I was struck by this. The judge, then, was doing something as an official that he would not dream of doing as a man; and he could do it without any sense of responsibility, or discomfort, simply because he was acting as an official and not as a man. On this principle of action, it seemed to me that one could commit almost any kind of crime without getting into trouble with one's conscience.

Clearly, a great crime had been committed against this boy; yet nobody who had had a hand in it — the judge, the jury, the prosecutor, the complaining witness, the policemen and jailers — felt any responsibility about it, because they were not acting as men, but as officials. Clearly, too, the public did not regard them as criminals, but rather as upright and conscientious men.

The idea came to me then, vaguely but unmistakably, that if the primary intention of government was not to abolish crime but merely to monopolize crime, no better device could be found for doing it than the inculcation of precisely this frame of mind in the officials and in the public; for the effect of this was to exempt both from any allegiance to those sanctions of humanity or decency which anyone of either class, acting as an individual, would have felt himself bound to respect — nay, would have wished to respect. This idea was vague at the moment, as I say, and I did not work it out for some years, but I think I never quite lost track of it from that time."
- Albert J. Nock
Nock image source (1)

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