Ryszard Kapuscinski
Quotations


Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.

When is a crisis reached? When questions arise that canít be answered.

Be careful: they have arms, and no alternatives.

The extent of one manís guilt may be defined by how much of it is experienced by the party he injured.

Our salvation is in striving to achieve what we know weíll never achieve.

We follow the mystics. They know where they are going. They, too, go astray, but when they go astray they do so in a way that is mystical, dark, and mysterious.

Do not be misled by the fact that you are at liberty and relatively free; that for the moment you are not under lock and key: you have simply been granted a reprieve.

In Poland a man must be one thing: white or black, here or there, with us or against us -- clearly, openly, without hesitations. . . . We lack the liberal, democratic tradition rich in all its gradations. We have instead the tradition of struggle: the extreme situation, the final gesture.

In a society of little economic development, universal inactivity accompanies universal poverty. You survive not by struggling against nature, or by increasing production, or by relentless labour; instead you survive by expending as little energy as possible, by striving constantly to achieve a state of immobility.

Although a system may cease to exist in the legal sense or as a structure of power, its values (or anti-values), its philosophy, its teachings remain in us. They rule our thinking, our conduct, our attitude to others. The situation is a demonic paradox: we have toppled the system but we still carry its genes.

The so-called new Russian man is characterized mainly by his complete exhaustion. You may find yourself wondering if he has the strength to enjoy his new-found freedom. He is like a long-distance runner who, on reaching the finishing line, is incapable even of raising his hands in a gesture of victory.

When man meets an obstacle he canít destroy, he destroys himself.

A population weakened and exhausted by battling against so many obstacles -- whose needs are never satisfied and desires never fulfilled -- is vulnerable to manipulation and regimentation. The struggle for survival is, above all, an exercise that is hugely time-consuming, absorbing and debilitating. If you create these ďanti-conditions,Ē your rule is guaranteed for a hundred years.

First you destroy those who create values. Then you destroy those who know what the values are, and who also know that those destroyed before were in fact the creators of values. But real barbarism begins when no one can any longer judge or know that what he does is barbaric.

In the tropics the white feels weakened, or downright weak, whence comes the heightened tendency to outbursts of aggression. People who are polite, modest or even humble in Europe fall easily into a rage here, get into fights, destroy other people, start feuds, fall prey to megalomania, grow touchy about their prestige and significance and go around completely devoid of self-criticism, bragging about the position and the influence they have at home.



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