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- Do not imagine that there is any bird more easily caught by decoy, nor any fish sooner fixed on the hook by wormy bait, than are all these poor fools neatly tricked into servitude by the slightest feather passed, so to speak, before their mouths. Truly it is a marvelous thing that they let themselves be caught so quickly at the slightest tickling of their fancy. Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naïvely, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books.
- Étienne de la Boétie, Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, Part 2
- Men accept servility in order to acquire wealth; as if they could acquire anything of their own when they cannot even assert that they belong to themselves.
- Étienne de La Boétie, Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, Part 3.
- The same pride which makes a man treat haughtily his inferiors, makes him cringe servilely to those above him. It is the very nature of this vice, which is neither based on personal merit nor on virtue, but on riches, posts, influence, and useless knowledge, to render a man as supercilious to those who are below him as to over-value those who are above.
- Jean de La Bruyère, Characters, H. Van Laun, trans. (London: 1885) “Of The Gifts of Fortune,” #57
- I am as free as Nature first made man,
Ere the base laws of servitude began,
When wild in woods the noble savage ran.
- John Dryden, The Conquest of Granada (1670) Part 1, Act I, scene 1
- It is rare that individuals value their freedom more than the comfort that comes with servility.
- John Gray, The Unsaved, p. 123
- Ascetic ideals reveal so many bridges to independence that a philosopher is bound to rejoice and clap his hands when he hears the story of all those resolute men who one day said No to all servitude and went into some desert.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, § 3.7, W. Kaufmann, trans., Basic Writings of Nietzsche (1992), p. 543
- If “humility” means nothing more than the capacity to learn from criticism, then it has an undoubted value; but if “humility” means a willingness to submit to authority—to abandon or to modify what one is doing merely because it does not accord with the teachings of the Bible or the thoughts of Chairman Mao—then it is death to the spirit: the proper name for it, indeed, is “servility.”
- John Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 289
- Nunc fabularum cur sit inventum genus,
Brevi decebo. Servitus obnoxia,
Quia, quae volebat, non audebat dicere,
Affectus proprios in fabellas transtulit.
Aesopi illius semita feci viam.
- Attend me briefly while I now disclose
How art of fable telling first arose.
Unhappy slaves, in servitude confined,
Dared not to harsh masters show their mind,
But under veiling of fable’s dress
Contrived their thoughts and feelings to express,
Escaping still their lords’ affronted wrath.
So Aesop did; I widen out his path.
- Attend me briefly while I now disclose
- The fundamental political question is why do people obey a government. The answer is that they tend to enslave themselves, to let themselves be governed by tyrants. Freedom from servitude comes not from violent action, but from the refusal to serve. Tyrants fall when the people withdraw their support.
- The poor man’s son ... devotes himself for ever to the pursuit of wealth and greatness. To obtain the conveniencies which these afford, he submits in the first year, nay in the first month of his application, to more fatigue of body, and more uneasiness of mind, than he could have suffered through the whole of his life from the want of them. ... He makes his court to all mankind; he serves those whom he hates, and is obsequious to those whom he despises. Through the whole of his life he pursues the idea of a certain artificial and elegant repose which he may never arrive at, for which he sacrifices a real tranquillity that is at all times in his power.
- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part 4, Chapter 1