In those days we did not trust anyone who had not been in the war, but we did notcompletely trust anyone.
Then we change our possy and lie down again to play cards. We know how to do that: to play cards, to swear, and to fight. Not much for twenty years;--and yet too much for twenty years.
Casting a curious gaze down on planet Earth, extra-terrestrial beings could well be forgiven for assuming that we humans are programmed in every move we make, by a palm-sized, oblong, slab of glass. More perplexing than that, who on earth could convince them otherwise ?
I had try to tell the difference between the night and the day and how the night was better unless the day was very clean and cold and I could not tell it, as I cannot tell it now. But if you have had it you know.
We are homeless enough in this world under the best of circumstances without going to any special effort to test our capacity to be more so.
They were learning that New York had another life, too — subterranean, like almost everything that was human in the city — a life of writers meeting in restaurants at lunchtime or in coffee houses after business hours to talk of work just started or magazines unpublished, and even to lay modest plans for the future. Modestly they were beginning to write poems worth the trouble of reading to their friends over coffee cups. Modestly they were rebelling once more.
Something must be radically wrong with a culture and a civilisation when its youth begins to desert it. Youth is the natural time for revolt, for experiment, for a generous idealism that is eager for action. Any civilisation which has the wisdom of self-preservation will allow a certain margin of freedom for the expression of this youthful mood. But the plain, unpalatable fact is that in America today that margin of freedom has been reduced to the vanishing point. Rebellious youth is not wanted here. In our environment there is nothing to challenge our young men; there is no flexibility, no colour, no possibility for adventure, no chance to shape events more generously than is permitted under the rules of highly organised looting. All our institutional life combines for the common purpose of blackjacking our youth into the acceptance of the status quo; and not acceptance of it merely, but rather its glorification.
Our morality system has become a mechanical device for protecting us against ourselves, it is the handiwork of terror.
The root of liberalism, in a word, is hatred of compulsion, for liberalism has the respect for the individual and his conscience and reason which the employment of coercion necessarily destroys. The liberal has faith in the individual – faith that he can be persuaded by rational means to beliefs compatible with social good.
When distinction of any kind, even intellectual distinction, is somehow resented as a betrayal of the American spirit of equal opportunity for all, the result must be just this terror of individualistic impulses setting us apart, either above or below our neighbours; just this determination to obey without questioning and to subscribe with passion to the conventions and traditions. The dilemma becomes a very real one: How can this sense of democratic equality be made compatible with respect for exceptional personalities or great minds? How can democracy, as we understand it today, with its iron repression of the free spirit, its monotonous standardisation of everything, learn to cherish an intellectual aristocracy without which any nation runs the risk of becoming a civilisation of the commonplace and the second-rate?
The late 1920s were an age of islands, real and metaphorical. They were an age when Americans by thousands and tens of thousands were scheming to take the next boat for the South Seas or the West Indies, or better still for Paris, from which they could scatter to Majorca, Corsica, Capri or the isles of Greece. Paris itself was a modern city that seemed islanded in the past, and there were island countries, like Mexico, where Americans could feel that they had escaped from everything that oppressed them in a business civilization. Or without leaving home they could build themselves private islands of art or philosophy; or else - and this was a frequent solution - they could create social islands in the shadow of the skyscrapers, groups of close friends among whom they could live as unconstrainedly as in a Polynesian valley, live without moral scruples or modern conveniences, live in the pure moment, live gaily on gin and love and two lamb chops broiled over a coal fire in the grate. That was part of the Greenwich Village idea, and soon it was being copied in Boston, San Francisco, everywhere.
A neat little apartment with a neat little bourgeois life. A neat little security on the edge of the abyss. Do you really see that?