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Paris, Charb quotes Zapata or Sartre — or Hobbes?

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — chasing a wild, but eventually mummified and golden, goose ]
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quote-it-is-better-to-be-the-widow-of-a-hero-dolores-ibarruri

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Richard Landes wrote a piece on Paris the other day for the LA Times Review of Books’ Marginalia blog, in which he said:

In the words of the martyr in chief, “Charb,” taken up as the manif’s motto: “Better to die standing than live on one’s knees.”

Indeed, in an interview with Le Monde, Charb is quoted as having said:

Je n’ai pas de gosses, pas de femme, pas de voiture, pas de crédit. C’est peut-être un peu pompeux ce que je vais dire, mais je préfère mourir debout que vivre à genoux.

Stéphane Charbonnier — Charb — the editor of Charlie Hebdo, lived those words. But was he quoting?

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There’s a passage in Joseph Heller‘s Catch 22:

“They are going to kill you if you don’t watch out, and I can see now that you are not going to watch out. Why don’t you use some sense and try to be more like me? You might live to be a hundred and seven, too.”

“Because it’s better to die on one’s feet than live on one’s knees,” Nately retorted with triumphant and lofty conviction. “I guess you’ve heard that saying before.”

“Yes, I certainly have,” mused the treacherous old man, smiling again. “But I’m afraid you have it backward. It is better to live on one’s feet than die on one’s knees. That is the way the saying goes.”

“Are you sure?” Nately asked with sober confusion. “It seems to make more sense my way.”

“No, it makes more sense my way. Ask your friends.”

**

The quote has been attributed, with greater or lesser validity, to:

  • Albert Camus
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • In Australian jest, it has been attributed to Thomas Hobbes:

    In the December 1982 edition of Rolling Stone, Thomas Hobbes published a scathing review of Midnight Oil’s ‘10-to-1’ album. Midnight Oil, Hobbes claimed, were corrupting Australian youth with such politically incendiary tracks as ‘Short Memory’ and ‘US Forces’. But it was the lyrics to ‘The Power and the Passion’ with which Hobbes took particular issue, writing:

    We hear that “It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees”. How foolish! What vainglory! Who penned such rot? Was it Hirst, Moginie or Garrett? Have The Oils taken leave of their senses? Anybody who has lived through the English Civil War and who can ratiocinate knows that the opposite is true. Standing up for political ideals can only lead to political subversion, civil unrest and, ultimately, civil war. And with civil war comes a return to the State of Nature — a state in which all persons, upright, kowtowed and procumbent, face the constant threat of death; a state in which, as I have argued elsewhere (see my Leviathan (Bohn, 1651)), life for all is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. All things considered, therefore, it’s better to live on one’s knees than to die on one’s feet.

    In this entry I’ll give a few working examples of political idealism and political realism before moving onto Hobbes’ criticism of the former and his argument that domestic peace and commodious living require us to forfeit our political ideals lest they undermine the sovereign’s authority.

    **

    Jennifer Speake, in A Dictionary of Proverbs, attributes the quote to Dolores Ibarruri, La Pasionaria, in a speech given on September 3rd, 1936. La Pasionaria was a Basque, and a Republican in the Spanish Civil War, to whom the similar but so different quote at the head of this post is also attributed. Speake goes on to list Emiliano Zapata as another to whom the quote is often attributed, and to list various later uses.

    And hey, the quote has also been attributed toL

  • Che Guevara
  • **

    Okay, so who actually died on his knees? Tutankhamun, apparently:

    The pharaoh’s injuries have been matched to a specific scenario – with car-crash investigators creating computer simulations of chariot accidents. The results suggest a chariot smashed into him while he was on his knees – shattering his ribs and pelvis and crushing his heart.

    Tutankhamun 602

    Sunday surprise 8: introducing “Quotes from Outer Orbits”

    Sunday, October 13th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — eccentric cleanliness and uncleanness, and a righteous blast of Handel ]
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    I ran across two quotes the other day that made me decided to start a collection of what I’ll call “Quotes from Outer Orbits”. Here are the first two:

    My first pick comes from the label of one of Dr Bronner’s Magical Soaps:

    Replace half-true Socialist-fluoride poison & tax-slavery with full-truth, work-speech-press & profitsharing Socialaction! All-One! So, help build 4 billion Hannibal wind-power plants, charging 96 billion battery-banks, powering every car-factory-farm-home-monorail & pump, watering Babylon-roof-gardens & 800 billion Israel-Milorganite fruit trees, guarded by Swiss 6000 year Universal Military Training

    My second is a lot fiercer, but no less strange — it’s from radio host Pete Santilli, speaking on air:

    I want to shoot her right in the vagina and I don’t want her to die right away; I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say, on behalf of all Americans that you’ve killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS, the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama, Obama bin Laden thing, that whole fake scenario, because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all. On behalf of all of those people, I’m supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina.

    I’ll take the literal soap box over the metaphorical one, thanks!

    **

    But I don’t mean to leave you depressed at the state of the world. Meanwhile the Ensemble Zaïs, led by Benoît Babel, plays one of Handel‘s Organ Concerti with a vitality that inspires me…

    Who can despair at this?

    Unrenormalizable

    Thursday, September 19th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — a quick quantum DoubleQuote in music and jewel — humor, edutainment ]
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    Nibbling at the tasseled fringes of science is as close as I get, but these two otherwise unrelated pieces caught my eye…

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    My first entry:
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    Pretty cool, pretty popular — and my second?
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    Read all about it: A Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics

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    A little video music, a little digital art, a little physics — what’s not to like?

    And my title, Unrenormalizable? In physics, so I’m told, “Unrenormalizable theories contain infinitely many free parameters”. I’m no theory, but I suspect I’m unrenormalizable too.

    There will always be a breakfast

    Sunday, September 15th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — for all those who worry about the state of the world ]
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    Ideologies? It really doesn’t matter who wins or who loses, so long as the butler brings me breakfast in bed with a neatly ironed copy of The Times.

    Except, that is, for the Oxford and Cambridge boat race.

    **

    Oh, I don’t really mean it — as Logan Pearsall Smith once said:

    I got up with Stoic fortitude of mind in the cold this morning: but afterwords, in my hot bath, I joined the school of Epicurus. I was a Materialist at breakfast; after that an Idealist; and as I smoked my first cigarette I transcendentally turned the world to vapor. But when I began to read The Times I had no doubt of an externally existing world…

    **

    Sources:

    Chewing Qat with a spork?

    Monday, September 9th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — a popular catch-phrase fumbled ]
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    **

    TE Lawrence was an original. The “second senior official” either has a poor memory for quotations, or wishes he were an original, sad in either case.

    Hat-tip to the Small Wars Journal editors, who noted the combo — they referenced John Nagl, who borrowed his book title from Lawrence, while I prefer to attribute the spoon to Lawrence directly, but no matter.

    What comes next? Chewing Qat with a spork?


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