What We Love Will Ruin Us

In an issue of the print magazine The Week, for which my wife Tamara has a subscription, I noticed this in the ‘Memorable Quotes’ section:

“The surest way to work up a crusade in favour of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behaviour righteous indignation’ — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats.” Aldous Huxley, quoted in The Spectator

Quite a quote.

A statement about man that we mostly want to pretend isn’t true.

But dig under the ideology of this man or that and we find that the ideology serves the man and not the other way around.

We might hear a person in his innermost being say “Give me an ideology that fits my needs and desires — for me, not for the benefit of anyone else.”

Yes, quite a quotation, and naturally it interested me to know exactly where Huxley said it, in what book or article or pamphlet or interview.

So I googled for the origin of the quote.

Most search results that came up — and there are a lot of them — do not give an origin for the quote but merely repeat it.

Some reported where the quote was quoted, but still not where the quote originated.

Some, however, say it is in Huxley’s book Crome Yellow.

I bought the Kindle version of the book for pennies and searched.

And the quote is not there.

I found an online HTML version of Crome Yellow from Project Gutenberg and searched it as well, just in case. And the quote is not there.

I searched for bits of the quote, picking out salient words such as ‘maltreatment’ and ‘righteous indignation’ and ‘moral treats’.


I thought maybe it was in Huxley’s novel ‘Island’ — so I bought a Kindle copy and searched.

Still nothing.

So I asked Bard — Google’s AI tool — and this is what it says:

The quote “To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior ‘righteous indignation’ — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats.” is attributed to Aldous Huxley, but the exact source of this quote has been debated.

Some sources suggest that it comes from Huxley’s 1932 novel “Brave New World,” while others claim it is from his 1962 essay collection “The Doors of Perception.” However, neither of these works contains the exact phrase in question.

The earliest known appearance of the quote is in a 1966 book called “God Running” by John S. Hall. Hall attributes the quote to Huxley, but he does not provide a specific source.

It is possible that Huxley did utter the phrase at some point in his life, but there is no definitive evidence to prove it. The quote has certainly been widely circulated since the 1960s, and it is often used to criticize hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

So did Huxley ever say it at all?

Is it not indicative of the modern world and the casual brushes with the truth that The Week copied the quote from The Spectator and used it and neither publication checked whether the quote was in fact a quote.

The Spectator describes itself in its ‘About’ as follows:

The Spectator was established in 1828, and is the best-written and most influential weekly in the English language. Our writers have no party line; their only allegiance is to clarity of thought, elegance of expression and independence of opinion. Our writers’ opinions range from left to right, their circumstances from high life to low life. None make any pretence at being impartial: our motto is “firm, but unfair”.

We are a member of IPSO, the independent press regulator, and abide by the Editor’s Code. We also uphold strict standards of accuracy.

But Wait, There’s More

If this was all I have to say, then I would think I had made a poor effort.

But here is something that Neil Postman wrote about Huxley and George Orwell, that is worth reflecting on in these times. And I leave you with this:

On Orwell and Huxley’s vision of our future/present:
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”
“In 1984”, Huxley added, “people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.”
In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. ~Neil Postman

By the way — did Neil Postman actually write this? Yes he did — in his book Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Railways Self-Inflicted Mess

There was a time when the Railways were owned by the nation. One political party, the Conservatives, prefers what is known as privatisation. That means selling the railways to private investors. But to make the investment attractive, the railways were sold off in bits – the tracks to one buyer, the rolling stocks (the trains and carriages) to another, and so on. Then private companies were invited to bid for a licence to run trains along a particular route.

There is continuing competition between the investors who want a profit out of their investments, and the workers who keep the trains running. That is no way to structure a business, much less many interlocking businesses. The resulting mess accounts for why the strikes that have been happening and which will extend into January seem to involve different unions.

National Rail has the following information, and to understand it, note that:

ASLEF is Britain’s trade union for train drivers.
RMT is The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, with members in mainline and
underground railways, shipping and offshore, buses and road freight.
Unite the Union, commonly known as Unite, was formed on 1 May 2007 by the merger of Amicus and the Transport and General Workers’ Union.

Forthcoming strike action:

We are aware that there may be other forms of industrial action taking place on a much more localised level, on different dates and only affecting one or two train companies. Please see below where any known will be listed or check with your train operator in such cases.

Sunday 11 and Monday 12 December – action by RMT union. This will affect Avanti West Coast only. Further information here. This was called off
Tuesday 13 December through to Sunday 8 January 2023 – action by RMT union. In addition to the national strikes shown above, Chiltern Railways will be significantly impacted by additional industrial action throughout this whole period. Further information here on Chiltern Railways website.
Friday 23 and Saturday 24 December – action by Unite union. This will affect East Midlands Railway only. Further information here.
Industrial action for January 2023

National level

We have been notified of forthcoming 48 hour strikes which will affect the network nationally on the following dates:

Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 January 2023 – action by the RMT union.
Thursday 5 January 2023 – action by the ASLEF union.
Friday 6 and Saturday 7 January 2023 – action by the RMT union.

Teaching Advice

Q: What’s the best teaching advice you’ve ever received?

A: After you teach them, get the students to teach each other: It’s good for those teaching and it’s a whole different dynamic for those being taught.

Not Kurt Vonnegut’s Mind

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. One of the archeologists asked those kinds of ‘getting to know you’ questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, ‘No, I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes. And he went, ‘That’s amazing!’ And I said, ‘But I’m not good at any of them.’

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind: ‘I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.’

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could win’ at them.!’

-Kurt Vonnegut

Seen on Twitter.

Did he really say it – perhaps so. Bizjournal thinks so and quotes a story in “Bits & Pieces,” that he spent a month working on an archaeological dig.

But then in Wikiquote it is described as misattributed and gives a link to a website where one person quotes Vonnegut’s advice on writing, and someone else responds with the quote above. So it was never Vonnegut at all.

But he did give advice on writing:

Vonnegut’s Advice

“Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

The Earliest Known Written Sentence

From The Week 19 November 2022 p19

The earliest known sentence 
The Canaanite people are believed to have been the first to have used an alphabet. Now, researchers in Israel have for the first time identified and translated a sentence written in that script. Engraved on a 3,700-year-old ivory comb, it reads simply: “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.” The 3.5cm-long artefact was unearthed in 2017 at Lachish – a major Canaanite city in the Biblical kingdom of Judah – but it was only this year that the faint inscription was spotted.

“The comb inscription is direct evidence for the use of the alphabet in daily activities some 3,700 years ago,” said Prof Yosef Garfinkel, who led the team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “This is a landmark in the history of the human ability to write.”

In a design that is still in use today, the comb had two sides. On one, there were six thick teeth that would have been used to detangle hair; the other had 14 fine teeth, for the removal of lice and their eggs. Made of elephant ivory, it would have been a luxury item for a rich family; poorer people probably used combs made of wood. 

Food Poisoning Facts

Reported in The Observer 16 October 2022 article by Jay Rayner

According to a report from the Food Standards Agency, there were an estimated 2.4m cases of foodborne illness in the UK in 2018, 16,400 of which resulted in hospital admissions. Roughly 180 people died.