Friday, March 18, 2011

"in the most secret heart of every intellectual ... lies hidden ... the hope of power"

--- Lionel Trilling's character Gifford Maxim, from the 1947 novel The Middle of the Journey via Michael Knox Berry's opinion piece "When compassion turns to coercion", Christian Science Monitor March 14, 2011

Quote in context:

For a moment Maxim did not answer. Then, “Is it not strange,” he said, “do you not find it strange that as we become more sensitive to the sufferings of mankind, we become more and more cruel? The more we think of the human body and the human mind as being able to suffer, and the sorrier we feel for that, and the more we plan to prevent suffering, the more we are drawn to inflict suffering. The more tortures we think up, the more people we believe deserve to be tortured. The more we think that people can be ruled by fear of suffering. We have become our brother’s keeper—and we will keep him in fear, we will keep him in concentration camps, we will keep him in straitjackets, we will keep him in the grave.”


“And never has there been so much talk of liberty while the chains are being forged. Democracy and freedom. And in the most secret heart of every intellectual, where he scarcely knows of it himself, there lies hidden the real hope that these words hide. It is the hope of power, the desire to bring his ideas to reality by imposing them on his fellow man. We are all of us, all of us, the little children of the Grand Inquisitor. The more we talk of welfare, the crueler we become. How can we possibly be guilty when we have in mind the welfare of others, and of so many others?”