Tuesday, July 13, 2004

"Quotes are used to surround words of important value"

Welcome back or just welcome. Today I'll be examining the phenomenon of quotes, or to raise the irony bar "quotes". People throw around quotes like Germans threw hand grenades in World War 2. In fact, the Germans would throw quotes at the same time as hand grenades- stuff like "Mein Leben!" and "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time". The former is based on my playing of Wolfenstein 3d, an authentic simulation of WW2 combat, especially the part about Hitler having two chainguns for arms. The latter can't be proven, because the soldier who would use that quote was often shot midsentence, and would have to quickly scribble the rest down on a scrap of paper, or else the hand grenade would explode, and there would be no time for writing.

To stay somewhat on point, people are fond of using quotes to prove things. For instance, if we were having a discussion about drugs, and I suddenly burst forth with "Well, Socrates said 'Let all men taste of all of the plants and animals and minerals of the earth." Then I would fix a triumphant gaze upon you, my quote firmly establishing the superiority of my beliefs over yours. Of course, Socrates never said such a thing, and even if he did, it was probably in Greek, that being his nationality.

More to the point, how can Socrates, a Greek man from thousands of years ago, ever have any sway over our beliefs of today. Sure, he may have been wise, but he didn't use a flush toilet. He couldn't even have imagined a flush toilet. He would be squatting over some pot somewhere and thinking "This is as good as it will ever get". Even if you use a more contemporary figure- a modern flush-toilet-using man such as JFK, there's not really any reason that his words are any more profound than anyone else's. The guy was allegedly a philanderer, and who knows what else he did in his private life? Maybe he picked his nose, and do you really want some nose picker telling you that you should "ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country?" Can I pick my nose for my country, you philandering, nose-picking, albino communist midget?

Perhaps I go to far. But isn't it Mark Twain who said, "It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either."?

-M

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