Milton Mayer

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The common enemy is the animality in man, and not the men here and there who are behaving like animals at the moment.

Milton Sanford Mayer (August 24, 1908April 20, 1986) was an American journalist and educator, most famous for his long-running column in The Progressive magazine.

Quotes[edit]

I Think I'll Sit This One Out (1939)[edit]

When we have produced men of reason, we shall have a world of reason, and the Hitlers will disappear. As long as we produce men of force we shall have a world of force, and the Hitlers, whoever wins the wars, will carry the day.
"I Think I'll Sit This One Out" in Saturday Evening Post (7 October 1939); republished in We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now ( 2008), edited by Murray Polner and Thomas E. Woods, p. 193
  • If I believed that force would ever build a better world, I would be a Marxist revolutionary. But I have no more faith in poor men's animalism than in rich men's. And I want no proletarian revolution until the proletariat has demonstrated devotion to reason which the rich, with larger opportunities to cultivate that virtue, have so universally failed to achieve. I favor the underdog against the upperdog, but I favor something better than a dog above both of them.
  • Socialism may be all right when men are fit to be socialists. The way maybe hard and slow, but until went take it we shall find that the so-called Socialist state degenerates and Fascism as rapidly as the pacifist with warm hearts to generate into militarists with fevered brows.
    Marxism, like fascism and capitalism is materialism. The love of material goods above all others is as animal as of love of war. The love of justice above material goods must save us in the end it saved we may be.
  • Justice alone knows liberty, equality, and fraternity, and justice is a human virtue arising from man's human capacity to reason. We cannot make sense out of justice by looking at the moon or taking dope or building battleships. We can make sense out of justice by using our reason to discover that justice, like wisdom, is better than rubies.
  • It is a sensible military tactic to recognize the enemy before you shoot. The common enemy is the animality in man, and not the men here and there who are behaving like animals at the moment. Neither science nor prayer nor force will save us. What will save us is the reason that enables men, in ancient Israel and modern America, to choose between guns and butter, and to choose well. When we have produced men of reason, we shall have a world of reason, and the Hitlers will disappear. As long as we produce men of force we shall have a world of force, and the Hitlers, whoever wins the wars, will carry the day.
    Society may make many demands on me, as long as it keeps me out of the cave. It may take my property. It may take my life. But when it puts me back into the cave I must say, politely but firmly, to hell with society. My ancestors were cannibals without benefit of parliaments.

They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-35 (1955)[edit]

National Socialism did not make men unfree; unfreedom made men National Socialists.
  • If the last and the worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked. If, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the “German Firm” stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next.
  • One day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying “Jew swine,” collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you lived in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
  • The masses of the people could not be held back from Nazism, so powerful was its appeal, and this same priest, who would not leave his people, went with them to Nazism, too.
    • p. 219
  • National Socialism did not make men unfree; unfreedom made men National Socialists.
    • p. 277
  • Hitlerism was a mass flight to dogma, to the barbaric dogma that had not been expelled with the Romans, the dogma of the tribe, the dogma that gave every man importance only in so far as the tribe was important and he was a member of the tribe.
    • p. 288

Quotes about Mayer[edit]

  • Mayer was definitely a left-winger in politics, even a revolutionary. But his would be a revolution different from the one urged by the typical anti-capitalist agitator, socialist, or communist. His, an anti-materialist one, would indeed put an end to capitalism, but, he told the editors of Christian Century in 1944, it would be a moral one.

External links[edit]

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