Nuggets and Aphorisms
Food for thought. These first appeared in Amit Varma's blog, India Uncut
Monday, August 07, 2006
Smug, arrogant, insane
The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.Jane's Law, as blogged by Megan McArdle (who blogs as Jane Galt) here.
In an Indian context, the Left plays the unique double-role of acting as both the party in power -- propping up the UPA government -- and the opposition -- in opposing most of the government's policies that promote economic freedom. So does that make them smug, arrogant and insane? I wouldn't argue with that.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
From PHALLIC to italic
ONCE I LIVED IN CAPITALS,Roger McGough, the British poet who was a favourite of mine in my PHALLIC college days, but who I now, in my cynical Italic way, find somewhat gimmicky. Still, fun has to come, that's all, and his Collected Poems has plenty of it.
MY LIFE INTENSELY PHALLIC,
but now I'm sadly lowercase,
with the occasional italic.
(I was reminded of this poem by this post of Gaurav's. Fugger. People make me do push-ups for punishment when I crack jokes like that. Run around Lokhandwala four times. Sing Robindro Shongeet backwards. And so on.)
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Madame, your chicken is ready!
In a way, the most morally troubling thing about killing chickens is that after a while it is no longer morally troubling.Michael Pollan, in "The Omnivore's Dilemma." The quote reminds me of the anecdote about how Leo Tolstoy's aunt once visited him for dinner and found a live chicken on her chair, and a carving knife besides it. "We knew you wanted chicken," Tolstoy said, "but none of us would kill it." (I wonder what Tolstoy would have done had the lady wanted beef, but you get the point.)
That anecdote formed the basis of an essay I wrote around three years ago called "Two chickens." (The one that we eat and the one on the chair, as Tolstoy's aunt found it.) I had just turned vegetarian, and wrote the essay to explain my reasons for it; I resumed eating meat a year later. Well, I just opened the Word doc with that unpublished essay a few moments ago, and it seems so naive to me, both in terms of style and content. Who the fug was I fooling, I wonder, but myself? And who, indeed, am I fooling now?
Anyway, on that note, an email from Kind Friend just rolled in, with a link to Julia Keay's review of "The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times" by Tristram Stuart. I shall write more on the subject when I'm in the mood to berate myself, instead of merely bemoaning my existence, a pleasurable activity I find myself performing frequently these days. As Marquis de Sade famously said, "Why pity others, motherfugger, when you can pity yourself?"
Monday, July 24, 2006
The Catholics say, “Shit happens.” The Protestants say, “The other guy is responsible for the shit.” The Muslims say “The shit is the Will of Allah.” The Jews go, “Why, oh why, is all the shit falling only on us?" The Buddhists reply, “But there is no shit.” And the Japanese Zen masters whisper, “Listen closely and you will hear the sound of shit falling."A character in Shaere Zobale-Ha (Scream of the Ants), a new film by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. I got the quote from Jai Arjun Singh's post on the film; he thinks it's shit.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Here I sit, broken-hearted
Here I sitInscription in a women's restroom, quoted in The Writings on the Stall.
Came to shit
But only farted
(Link to the main site via Zigzackly.)
Saturday, June 24, 2006
In most men there is something evil which resents greatness in others. With what delight are tales repeated of people's private lives as though the fact that Marlowe was a homosexual, Shelley a nympholept, Dr Johnson a masochist, Dostoevsky a gambler, Turner a miser or that Dickens maintained at least one mistress, in any way affects the greatness of their work? Unable to attack that work, the denigrators think by labelling the men with various weaknesses that they belittle it, which is nonsense. Just as, unable to bear the thought of any one one man being as mighty as Shakespeare, people must invent theories to prove that he was a syndicate or at least that he was a gentleman, a Bacon or a de Vere or a cryptogram, so must tales be whispered about Bradman, and when these tales fail to stick, envy mutters its last poison with the word machine.Philip Lindsay, in his delighful biography, "Don Bradman." Such truth, though I'm not sure I concur with the word "evil" in the first sentence. If something so commonplace can be termed evil, what does that say about us?
Machines can be very beautiful things.
Friday, June 23, 2006
The dribble, the pass, the beauty
[W]e love the ball more than the game and, for that reason, the dribble more than the pass.Jorge Valdano, about the way Argentina like to play their football, in a fascinating piece in the Guardian about that famous Argentina-England game in the 1986 World Cup, and those two goals Diego Maradona scored.
That second goal, ah, such football! That's beauty in the service of efficiency, something great teams and great players managed. And Maradona could pass as well as he could dribble and score -- Brazil found that out the hard way in 1990.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The long and the short of it
Schmuck! You shortchanged yourself. What studio head tells a director to make a picture longer? Only a nut like me. You shot a saga, and you turned in a trailer. Now give me a movie.Robert Evans, Hollywood mogul, shouting at Francis Ford Coppola after the first screening of "The Godfather."
I found this quote in an excellent feature in the Guardian by Peter Bradshaw on how extremely long modern Hollywood films are getting. He's upset that "The Da Vinci Code" was "a pitiless two-and-a-half hours." Peter, dude, if you're in Mumbai anytime soon, gimme a buzz and I'll take you for a Yashraj film or two. They you'll know 'pitiless'!
Nah, actually I agree with Bradshaw, and the greatest movie-watching experiences of my life have come watching the ten one-hour films in "The Decalogue," Krzysztof Kieslowski's masterpiece. In India, strangely, we have a taste for the longer stuff. Are our lives are so wretched that we need more of the escapism? Nah.
(Link via email from Kind Friend.)
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Piss, and copyright
It is better to be pissed off than pissed on.Stephen James Joyce, grandson of James, quoted in an excellent feature by DT Max in the New Yorker, "The Injustice Collector." Stephen Joyce controls James Joyce's estate, and the piece is about how, in his efforts to 'protect' his grandaddy's estate, he stifles a lot of legitimate scholarship.
Having copyright protection extend to 70 years after the creator's death seems a bit excessive to me. (It was 50 until the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.) I quite understand Stephen Joyce's desire to protect his family's privacy, but trying to shield his granddad from literary criticism by not allowing scholars to quote from his works is pushing it too far.
(Link via email from The Graduate, in response to this post of mine.)
Update: Ashutosh Jogalekar writes in to remind me of Lyndon Johnson's famous quote about why he kept K Edgar Hoover in the FBI. Johnson remarked that it was "better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in."
What I want to know is what the hell was a tent doing there? Brokeback Mountain or what?
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
The absurdity of money
We were in a lawyer's office and we had to decide at what age Otto would be given a, you know, substantial amount of money. And they said, '15?' and we said, 'God no!' And they kept suggesting older and older ages until we surpassed our own age: 'People of 33 should not be handling this sum of money. That's absurd!'Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, in an interview with my former boss, Tim de Lisle. "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (a lovely series, though it gets tiresome if you try to read all the books at one go) has earned Handler more than US$ 50 million, and yet he's struggling to make a mark in adult fiction under his own name. Such irony.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Our cherished beliefs
There seems ... to be a problem with some of our most cherished beliefs about the world: they are leading us, inexorably, to kill one another. A glance at history, or at the pages of any newspaper, reveals that ideas which divide one group of human beings from another, only to unite them in slaughter, generally have their roots in religion. It seems that if our species ever eradicates itself through war, it will not be because it was written in the stars but because it was written in our books; it is what we do with words like “God” and “paradise” and “sin” in the present that will determine our future.Sam Harris, in "The End of Faith." This particular quote is from the first chapter, which is available here. Do read.
An angry reader emailed me some days ago accusing me of being "against religion." Whoa. I'm not against religion, provided it is restricted to the private domain, and is a personal matter. I am against coercion. And religion is the most common excuse used to try and justify coercion, of all kinds. Religion must not be beyond examination, and there should be no sacred cows at all. (Cows are divine in an entirely different way.)
Vaguely related posts: 1, 2.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Through my blue fingers, pink grains are falling, haphazard, random, a disorganised stream of silicone that seems pregnant with the possibility of every conceivable shape... but this is illusion.Dr Manhattan, in "Watchmen" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. I've been reading a lot of graphic novels recently, and have been amazed at the heights that some of them achieve. I was first sucked in by Art Spiegelman's "Maus," which I read astounded at the power and depth that could be contained within a single frame. Jai made me buy both parts of Moore's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" during a visit to Delhi, and I especially loved Part II -- my favourite sequence is the one where Mr Hyde explains at a dinner table why he is so big and Dr Jekyll so small.
Things have their shape in time, not space alone. Some marble blocks have statues within them, embedded in their future.
I'm currently reading my way through Frank Miller's "Sin City" and rediscovering Neil Gaimon's "Sandman," and it's a trip. I pick one of them up and I'm like a little boy lost in comic books. Maybe that isn't too far from the truth.
(A more detailed post on what I love about some of these books will follow later, when time permits.)
Friday, March 31, 2006
On the inside, not the outside
Once upon a time, on a nudist beach, I saw a man sitting, naked, delightedly engrossed in an issue of Playboy.Amos Oz, in his excellent collection of essays, "The Story Begins: Essays on Literature".
Just like that man, on the inside, not on the outside, is where the good reader ought to be while reading.
Of course, there is a danger in being too much on the inside, and too little on the outside. I think it's one that most writers probably face. What are its consequences? Let's not go there. Get the Playboy.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Democracy and cricket
In our country, democracy is a bit like cricket: it's a spectator sport.Ramesh Ramanathan of Janaagraha, on a show on NDTV 24x7 last evening.
While I believe that democracy is the only system of government we should have -- in fact, the only moral system -- I'm uncomfortable when I hear it offered as a justification for all kinds of things. Everything that a government does is not ok just because a majority of people voted for it, and what is popular is not necessarily right. Consider Gujarat; consider Germany 1933; consider Hamas.
That is why, important as democracy is, it is as important to have protections for minority rights and individual freedoms build into the constitution, so that no matter what the majority want, no matter what the government of the day is like, the relatively powerless have some basic protection. Naturally, this has to go land in hand with a strong and efficient legal system.
And do we have this in India? Heh.
Friday, March 24, 2006
The world happens in real time
We tend to think people are driven by purposeful choices. We think big things drive big behaviors: if people don’t go to school, we think they don’t like school. Instead, most behaviors are driven by the moment. They aren’t purposeful, thought-out choices. That’s an illusion we have about others. Policymakers think that if they get the abstractions right, that will drive behavior in the desired direction. But the world happens in real time. We can talk abstractions of risk and return, but when the person is physically checking off the box on that investment form, all the things going on at that moment will disproportionately influence the decision they make. That’s the temptation element—in real time, the moment can be very tempting. The main thing is to define what is in your mind at the moment of choice. Suppose a company wants to sell more soap. Traditional economists would advise things like making a soap that people like more, or charging less for a bar of soap. A behavioral economist might suggest convincing supermarkets to display your soap at eye level—people will see your brand first and grab it.Sendhil Mullainathan, an economist, quoted in "The Marketplace of Perceptions," a superb essay on behavioral economics by Craig Lambert.
(Link via email from Rohit Gupta.)
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Reason's like a fish-eye lens
It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the world to the scratching of my fingerDavid Hume, as quoted by Norman Barry in "The Tradition of Spontaneous Order." (PDF file here.)
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.Milton Friedman, quoted here, via Cafe Hayek.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Doing a lot with computers
We were lucky enough to get our first home computer in 1978. It was huge, and it cost a lot of money, and we couldn't afford to eat well after that. I always liked computers because I thought you could a lot with them.Larry Page, quoted in "The Google Story" by David Vise.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Information, not ammunition
In the information age, it’s not just whose army wins, but whose story wins.Joseph S Nye Jr, a professor of international relations at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, as quoted in this article, which focusses on why it benefits the USA to welcome foreign students to its shores.
(Link via Abi.)
Monday, November 14, 2005
No power, no responsibility
Those who are not in power always take an anti-reform position.Sharad Pawar, in this revealing interview by Shekhar Gupta.
Friday, November 11, 2005
What comes next?
To be a modern politician is to have a schedule, not a life.Charles Bowden, in “Being Max Cleland,” a profile of Cleland published in the August 1999 issue of Esquire -- the American edition.
The quote, of course, strikes me as being true not just of politicians.
Monday, October 24, 2005
It's funny how much America can influence countries just by their pop culture. You can do a lot more with pop culture than dropping Patriot missiles. You can get away with so much more. Because it's just so appealing. How many girlfriends I lost because of John Travolta, because the girls were looking for a guy who could dance like Travolta? It's amazing how much we were infiltrated with no resistance. "Saturday Night Fever," "Star Wars," it's like we were living parallel.Ziad Doueiri, director of West Beyrouth, in this interview by Anthony Kaufman. (Link via Chandrahas Choudhury's fine review of the film.)
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Accuracy can be boring
The vast majority of the press is not interested in covering what is actually happening. They are interesting in covering what they think people want to think is actually happening. Everything is sensationalized. In 1999, it was sensationalized on the positive side, and in 2002, it was sensationalized on the negative side. It's never exactly accurate. As it turns out, accuracy can be quite boring. And quite boring does not sell newspapers and magazines.Bo Peabody, the founder of Tripod, in "Lucky or Smart? : Secrets to an Entrepreneurial Life."
Thursday, October 13, 2005
What is truly important
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.Steve Jobs, in an immensely moving and inspiring speech he made at Stanford in June this year.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
(Link via email from Abhishek Mehrotra a few weeks ago.)
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
A question of choices
Too often a false contrast is made between the impersonal marketplace and the compassionate policies of various government programs. But both systems face the same scarcity of resources and both systems make choices within the contraints of that scarcity. The difference is that one system involves each individual making choices for himself or herself, while the other system involves a smaller number of people making choices for millions of others.Thomas Sowell in "Basic Economics."
Monday, September 05, 2005
A horse pulling a cart started to walk towards us, followed by other vehicles, then passersby - in short, all the hustle and bustle of a street. We sat with our mouths open, without speaking, filled with amazement.George Méliès, describing his reaction on his first glimpse of moving pictures, in 1895. Quoted by Chandrahas Choudhury during an excellent review of Nagesh Kukunoor's Iqbal.
Friday, September 02, 2005
The driving force of economies
Economies are driven not by the dollars in people's pockets but by the ideas in their heads.Jude Wanniski, quoted in a tribute to him by George Gilder.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Filling the cracks
It's just endless what you can learn from a single work of art. You can fill up the crevices of your life, the cracks of your life, the places where the mortar comes out and falls away--you can fill it up with the love of art.Vincent Price, quoted in a nice article in the Wall Street Journal, "Price Was Right" by Terry Teachout.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Whatever happened to Page 2?
News is increasingly becoming trivia, and trivia are being passed on as news.Rajdeep Sardesai, speaking at the annual convocation of Pioneer Media School, as reported by the Pioneer here. In the same vein he also said, "Page 1 should not become Page 3. Interestingly, Page 3 is getting on Page 1." Quite. TV channels don't have pages, of course.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Who's Lord Jones?
I know it is the practice of journalists to put the end of the story at the beginning and call it a headline. I know that journalism largely consists of saying "Lord Jones Dead" to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive. Your present correspondent thinks that this, like many other journalistic customs, is bad journalism...From "The Purple Wig" by GK Chesterton, one of the stories in the collection "The Wisdom of Father Brown". Also collected in the superb "The Best of Father Brown".
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
She felt terribly sorry for people who suffered from constipation, and she knew that there were many who did. There were probably enough of them to form a political party -- with a chance of government perhaps -- but what would such a party do if it was in power? Nothing, she imagined. It would try to pass legislation, but would fail.From "The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. An utterly charming book.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Trouble in the next world
You just wait for the next world, you civilians, then we clergy will show you who's going to be saved. You may have the upper hand now but later on you're really going to be in the shit.Père Marais, a French priest, teasing Julian Barnes about his atheism during a stint Barnes had as a lecteur d'anglais at the Collège Saint-Martin in Rennes in 1966-67. Quoted in Barnes's fine book of essays on France, "Something to Declare".
I'm an atheist, by the way, and I think we're all in the shit. Let's have fun while it lasts.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
A saint in every dream
And they all pretend they're OrphansFrom "Time" by Tom Waits. It's track 9 of Raindogs, one of Waits's finest albums, and its lyrics contain some haunting images, though they seem to mean nothing overall. I also love the bit where Waits sings that "the wind is making speeches/ And the rain sounds like a round of applause." Lovely stuff.
And their memory's like a train
You can see it getting smaller as it pulls away
And the things you can't remember
Tell the things you can't forget
That history puts a saint in every dream
And while I'm on Waits, here's a bonus nugget from another great song called "I Don't Wanna Grow Up", from the album Bone Machine:
Well when I see my parents fightMe neither, but it's too late.
I don't wanna grow up
They all go out and drinking all night
And I don't wanna grow up
I'd rather stay here in my room
Nothin' out there but sad and gloom
I don't wanna live in a big old Tomb
On Grand Street
When I see the 5 o'clock news
I don't wanna grow up
Comb their hair and shine their shoes
I don't wanna grow up
Stay around in my old hometown
I don't wanna put no money down
I don't wanna get me a big old loan
Work them fingers to the bone
I don't wanna float a broom
Fall in and get married then boom
How the hell did I get here so soon
I don't wanna grow up
Monday, July 18, 2005
[T]he new American home is a residential SUV.Robert Samuelson, in a fine article on homes in America.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
The invisible writer
I believe that writers lose a lot when they are seen in the flesh. In the old days the really popular writers were totally anonymous, just a name on the book cover, and this gave them an extraordinary mystique. [...] I believe that this is the ideal condition for a writer, close to anonymity: that is when his maximum authority develops, when the writer does not have a face, a presence, but the world he portrays takes up the whole picture. Like Shakespeare...Italo Calvino, in "Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings".
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
[W]e are all minorities in India.Shashi Tharoor, in "India: From Midnight to the Millennium". Tharoor's point is that there is no such thing as "an archetypal Indian", that India is so heterogenous and pluralistic that it consists of many different minorities, with no particular kind of Indian who can consider himself part of a majority. Tharoor writes: "If America is a melting pot then to me India is a thali, a selection of sumptuous dishes in different bowls."
Monday, June 20, 2005
Trade and employment
We cannot increase employment by restricting trade.1028 economists, in a protest letter against the Hawley-Smoot tariff bill, shortly before it was signed on June 17, 1930. Quoted recently in "A day of import" by Thomas Sowell, that warns against the USA repeating such a huge mistake. The truism quoted above has universal relevance, though.
(Link via Cafe Hayek.)
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Anyone taken as an individual is tolerably sensible and reasonable – as a member of a crowd, he at once becomes a blockhead.Friedrich Schiller, the German playwright. Quoted in Collapse by Jared Diamond.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
We've got the cow
Her presence shows that New Salem grows"Ballad of the Holstein", quoted in "Salem Sue - World's Largest Cow". Outstandingly cheesy, as anything to do with cows should be.
With milk-producers' yields;
We've got the cow, world's largest cow
That looks across our fields.
(Link via email from Mandar Talvekar. Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.)
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Both mental game and contact sport
Chess is savagely and remorselessly interactive: it is both mental game and contact sport. What's it like? All-in wrestling between octopuses? Centipedal kickboxing? In its apparent languor, its stealthy equipoise, as each player wallows in horrified fascination, waiting to see what his opponent has seen, or has not seen, one may call to mind a certain punitive ritual of the Yanomani. Only one blow at a time is delivered by the long stave. The deliverer of the blow spends many minutes aiming; the receiver of the blow spends many minutes waiting.Martin Amis, from a review collected in The War Against Cliché.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
The limits of edible oils
Prohibition of Use of Certain Expressions While Labelling of Edible Oils and Fats: The package, label or the advertisements of edible oils and fats shall not use the expressions Super-Refined, Extra-Refined, Micro-Refined, Double-Refined, Ultra-Refined, Anti-Cholestrol, Cholestrol Fighter, Soothing to Heart, Cholestrol Friendly, Saturated Fat Free or such other expressions which are exaggerations of the quality of the product.Rule 37-D, Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 2002 (PDF file). Quoted in Law, Liberty and Livelihood, edited by Parth Shah and Naveen Mandava. (For an earlier post on the book, click here.)
Friday, June 03, 2005
If economists wished to study the horse, they wouldn't go and look at horses. They'd sit in their studies and say to themselves, "What would I do if I were a horse?"Ely Devons, the English economist. Quoted in "The Task of the Society" by Ronald H Coase.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Strange place, this
The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine.JBS Haldane, the geneticist who coined the word "clone". I first read this quote in the fine article "Time's Up, Einstein" by Josh McHugh, and got the link to that article from Harini, during a disagreement about whether atheism is a faith. (Of course it's not.) To add to the wonder, Haldane was a Marxist, and I don't often quote that kind approvingly. Strange universe, indeed.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
A last song
Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the houseFrom "Keep Me In Your Heart", the last song of Warren Zevon's last album, The Wind, recorded when he knew he had cancer, and this would be his last time out. I discovered this album through this superb review by Bill Barol.
Maybe you'll think of me and smile
You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for awhile
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
No one's there, and he's bugging me
As I was going up the stair"Antigonish", by Hughes Mearns.
I met a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish, I wish, he'd go away
Note: I'd originally mistakenly picked up from somewhere that this ditty was by John Donne. My mistake. Sorry. J Alfred Prufrock 2 kindly sent me an email pointing out my mistake, as well as another ditty by Mearns:
As I was sitting in my chair,
I knew the bottom wasn't there,
Nor legs nor back, but I just sat,
Ignoring little things like that.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Virtue isn't urgent
Lord, give me chastity, but not yet.St Augustine, before his conversion to Christianity. From Confessions, VIII vii, translated by Henry Chadwick.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
From crime to culture
If only one person in the world held down a terrified, struggling, screaming little girl, cut off her genitals with a septic blade, and sewed her back up, leaving only a tiny hole for urine and menstrual flow, the only question would be how severely that person should be punished, and whether the death penalty would be a sufficiently severe sanction. But when millions of people do this, instead of the enormity being magnified millions-fold, suddenly it becomes ‘culture’, and thereby magically becomes less, rather than more, horrible, and is even defended by some Western ‘moral thinkers’, including feminists.Donald Symons, writing about moral relativism. Quoted in The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker.