Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Darwin did not know what a bitter satire he wrote on mankind ... when he showed that free competition, the struggle for existence, which the economists celebrate as the highest historical achievement, is the normal state of the animal kingdom. Only conscious organization of social production, in which production and distribution are carried on in a planned way, can lift mankind above the rest of the animal.
What we have witnessed in our own time is the death of universities as centres of critique. Since Margaret Thatcher, the role of academia has been to service the status quo, not challenge it in the name of justice, tradition, imagination, human welfare, the free play of the mind or alternative visions of the future. We will not change this simply by increasing state funding of the humanities as opposed to slashing it to nothing. We will change it by insisting that a critical reflection on human values and principles should be central to everything that goes on in universities, not just to the study of Rembrandt or Rimbaud.
In the past, when gays were very flamboyant as drag queens or as leather queens or whatever, that just amused people. And most of the people that come and watch the gay Halloween parade, where all those excesses are on display, those are straight families, and they think it's funny. But what people don't think is so funny is when two middle-aged lawyers who are married to each other move in next door to you and your wife and they have adopted a Korean girl and they want to send her to school with your children and they want to socialize with you and share a drink over the backyard fence. That creeps people out, especially Christians. So, I don't think gay marriage is a conservative issue. I think it's a radical issue.
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.
It's almost hard to imagine anything more undemocratic than the view that political officials should not debate American wars in public, but only express concerns 'privately with the administration.' That's just a small sliver of Johnson's radicalism: replacing Feingold in the Senate with Ron Johnson would be a civil liberties travesty analogous to the economic travesty from, say, replacing Bernie Sanders with Lloyd Blankfein.
Individuals are prey to institutions in modern mass societies... Individuals can struggle mightily against institutionalized conditions, but without changing the institutions themselves, those efforts will be largely for naught, since peopletire, lose focus, forget, and, eventually, give up their ghosts, while institutions share no such limitations.
Now I've been criticized for advocating that people push their boundaries because sometimes people get caught. Sometimes people get fired. Sometimes people lose their jobs because of pushing the boundaries too far, but it's an interesting experience. They found they didn't want to stay within those limitations that they were pushing. Once people find they can survive outside the limits, they're much happier. They don't want to feel trapped. So I think we can urge people to push the boundaries as far as they can, and if they get in trouble, fine; that's not too bad if that's what they want to do.
The matter on which I judge people is their willingness, or ability, to handle contradiction. Thus Paine was better than Burke when it came to the principle of the French revolution, but Burke did and said magnificent things when it came to Ireland, India and America. One of them was in some ways a revolutionary conservative and the other was a conservative revolutionary. It's important to try and contain multitudes. One of my influences was Dr Israel Shahak, a tremendously brave Israeli humanist who had no faith in collectivist change but took a Spinozist line on the importance of individuals. Gore Vidal's admirers, of whom I used to be one and to some extent remain one, hardly notice that his essential critique of America is based on Lindbergh and 'America First' the most conservative position available. The only real radicalism in our time will come as it always has from people who insist on thinking for themselves and who reject party-mindedness.