A book has been taken. A book has been taken? You summoned the Watch," Carrot drew himself up proudly, "because someone's taken a book? You think that's worse than murder?"The Librarian gave him the kind of look other people would reserve for people who said things like "What's so bad about genocide?
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A book has been taken. A book has been taken? You summoned the Watch,” Carrot drew himself up proudly, “because someone’s taken a book? You think that’s worse than murder?”The Librarian gave him the kind of look other people would reserve for people who said things like “What’s so bad about genocide?

-Terry Pratchett

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My identity as Jewish cannot be reduced to a religious affiliation. Professor Said quoted Gramsci, an author that I’m familiar with, that, and I quote, ‘to know thyself is to understand that we are a product of the historical process to date which has deposited an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory’. Let’s apply this pithy observation to Jewish identity. While it is tempting to equate Judaism with Jewishness, I submit to you that my identity as someone who is Jewish is far more complex than my religious affiliation. The collective inventory of the Jewish people rests on my shoulders. This inventory shapes and defines my understanding of what it means to be Jewish. The narrative of my people is a story of extraordinary achievement as well as unimaginable horror. For millennia, the Jewish people have left their fate in the hands of others. Our history is filled with extraordinary achievements as well as unimaginable violence. Our centuries-long Diaspora defined our existential identity in ways that cannot be reduced to simple labels. It was the portability of our religion that bound us together as a people, but it was our struggle to fit in; to be accepted that identified us as unique. Despite the fact that we excelled academically, professionally, industrially, we were never looked upon as anything other than Jewish. Professor Said in his book, Orientalism, examined how Europe looked upon the Orient as a dehumanized sea of amorphous otherness. If we accept this point of view, then my question is: How do you explain Western attitudes towards the Jews? We have always been a convenient object of hatred and violent retribution whenever it became convenient. If Europe reduced the Orient to an essentialist other, to borrow Professor Said’s eloquent language, then how do we explain the dehumanizing treatment of Jews who lived in the heart of Europe? We did not live in a distant, exotic land where the West had discursive power over us. We thought of ourselves as assimilated. We studied Western philosophy, literature, music, and internalized the same culture as our dominant Christian brethren. Despite our contribution to every conceivable field of human endeavor, we were never fully accepted as equals. On the contrary, we were always the first to be blamed for the ills of Western Europe. Two hundred thousand Jews were forcibly removed from Spain in 1492 and thousands more were forcibly converted to Christianity in Portugal four years later. By the time we get to the Holocaust, our worst fears were realized. Jewish history and consciousness will be dominated by the traumatic memories of this unspeakable event. No people in history have undergone an experience of such violence and depth. Israel’s obsession with physical security; the sharp Jewish reaction to movements of discrimination and prejudice; an intoxicated awareness of life, not as something to be taken for granted but as a treasure to be fostered and nourished with eager vitality, a residual distrust of what lies beyond the Jewish wall, a mystical belief in the undying forces of Jewish history, which ensure survival when all appears lost; all these, together with the intimacy of more personal pains and agonies, are the legacy which the Holocaust transmits to the generation of Jews who have grown up under its shadow. -Fictional debate between Edward Said and Abba Eban.

-R.F. Georgy

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Every person you meet has been assigned to play a role in your story as you are assigned to play one in someone else’s. I often say that the people we come across can be one of the four kinds. They can be like pebbles, fountains, quagmire or bridges. Pebbles are those who you meet commonly and in abundance. They do not facilitate anything great but they help you continue walking on this journey of life. Everyone you cross in life without really connecting with them are pebbles. Then there are fountains – who spring water of happiness on you. They bring positivity and joy; they nourish your soul and irrigate the seeds of good thoughts. Your friends, well-wishers are all fountains. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have quagmires. These are the people who cause you pain. Now, even some pebbles may have caused you pain as it happens if you tread on a barbed pebble but the difference is that quagmires do that on purpose. They pull you down, induce fear and negativity by discouraging you and worrying you. They will not let you move on – that’s why they keep you bogged down in your failures. Finally, the rarest ones are the bridges – they connect you to unchartered ground that you wouldn’t have reached on your own. They unite you to your destiny. With them, your plane of consciousness expands, you see things you have not seen before; your life becomes more aware, more enlightened. Your parents, your teachers and anyone who touches your life and transcends it into something more beautiful – they are all bridges.

-Nistha Tripathi

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-Naji Sabri

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