Republican News · Thursday 21 December 2000

[An Phoblacht]

The Republic of Free Thought

Providing a definition for the meaning of republicanism and revolution is a difficult if not impossible task. But over the history of humanity, writers and thinkers have devoted huge consideration to the questions of freedom, rights and basic justice.

Here, ROBBIE MacGABHANN takes the long and winding route through some of their definitions on these important issues. So prepare to enter the Republic of Free Thought

Bad Government

``One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.'' - Plato, The Republic

``The more corrupt the republic, the more numerous the laws.'' - Tacitus, Annals

To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated, regimented, closed in, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, evaluated, censored, commanded: all by creatures that have neither the right, nor wisdom, nor virtue...To be governed means that at very move, operation or transaction one is noted, registered, entered in a census, taxed, stamped, priced, assessed, patented, licensed, authorised, recommended, admonished, prevented, reformed, set right, corrected. Government means to be subjected to tribute, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, pressured, mystified, robbed: all in the name of public utility and the general good. Then at the first sign of resistance or word of complaint, one is repressed, fined, despised, vexed, pursued, hustled, beaten up, garroted, imprisoned, shot, machine gunned, judged, sentenced, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed and to cap it all, ridiculed, mocked, outraged and dishonoured. That is government, that is its justice and morality!... O human personality! How can it be that you have cowered in such subjection for 60 centuries.'' - Pierre Joseph Proudhon

Good Government

``One portion of mankind will not, as now, be trained and placed to oppress, by force or fraud, another portion, to the great disadvantage of both; neither will one portion be trained in idleness, to live in luxury on the industry of those whom they oppress, while the latter are made to labour daily and live in poverty. Nor yet will some be trained to force falsehood into the human mind and be paid extravagantly for so doing while other parties are prevented from teaching the truth, or severely punished if they make the attempt.'' - Robert Owen from The Book of the New Moral World

``We do not want to create salaried workers docile to official thinking or `fellows' who live under the wing of the budget, exercising freedom in quotation marks. Revolutionaries will come to sing the song of the new man with the authentic voice of the people. It is a process that requires time.'' - Ché Guevara from Man and Socialism in Cuba

Definitions of Freedom

``Let us free Ireland! Never mind such base, carnal thoughts as concern work and wages, healthy homes, or lives unclouded by poverty.

``Let us free Ireland! The rackrenting landlord: is he not also an Irishman, and wherefore should we hate him? Nay, let us not speak harshly of our brother - yea, even when he raises our rent.

``Let us free Ireland! The profit grinding capitalist, who robs us of three fourths of the fruits of our labour, who sucks that very marrow of our bones when we are young, and then throws us out in the street, like a worn out tool when we are grown prematurely old in his service, is he not an Irishman, and mayhap a patriot, and wherefore should we think harshly of him.'' - James Connolly, The Workers' Republic, 1899

``No man has power over my rights and liberties, and I over no man's... by natural birth all men are equally and alike born to propriety, liberty and freedom.'' - English Leveller Richard Overton, An arrow Against All Tyrants, 12 October 1646

``All men were made brothers. The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who was born free should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases.'' - Chief Joseph (Nez Pierce)

``It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living pleasantly.'' - Epicurus.


``The more the citizen is trained in the consumption of packaged goods and services, the less effective he seems to become in shaping his environment.'' - Ivan Illich, Celebration of Awareness.

``Conspicious consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure.'' - Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class.

``In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves:the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.'' - Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality.


``Riots are the language of the unheard.'' - Martin Luther King.

``The argument of the broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics.'' - Emmeline Pankhurst

``A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.'' - Guy Fawkes.

Knowing you history

``If we live influenced by wind and sun and tree, and not by the passions and deeds of the past, we are a thriftless and a hopeless people.'' - Thomas Davis

``There are many things more horrible than bloodshed; and slavery is one of them.'' - Padraig Pearse

Last Messages

``Don't mourn, organise.'' - Joe Hill, before being executed

``We succeeded in proving that Irishmen are ready to die endeavouring to win for Ireland those national rights which the British Government has been asking them to die to win for Belgium. As long as that remains the case, the cause of Irish freedom is safe.'' - James Connolly, from his last statement.

``The Republic stands for truth and honour - for all that is noblest in our race. By Truth and Honour - by Principle and Sacrifice alone will Ireland be free.'' - Liam Mellows.

On life before becoming a revolutionary

``The two Gordons dine with me. Very drunk. Fall in the gutter and spoil my coat, bend my sword etc.'' - Thomas Russell, while still a British officer in April 1791


``Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.'' - Brendan Behan, Richard's Cork Leg

``The English and Americans dislike only some Irish - the same Irish that the Irish themselves detest, Irish writers - the ones that think.'' - Brendan Behan, Richard's Cork Leg


``The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.'' - Marshall McLuhan

Theism and Atheism

``He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him).'' - George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

``Your religion was written on tablets of stone, ours on our hearts'' - Chief Seattle

``There is one God looking down on us all. We are all the children of one God. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we have to say.'' - Geronimo

``You can't teach an old dogma new tricks.'' - Dorothy Parker.

On Struggle

``Ever tried? Ever failed? Try again. Fail again. Fail better.'' - Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho

``We will be victorious if we have not forgotten how to learn'' - Rosa Luxembourg


``All forms of exploitation are identical because all of them are applied against the same `object': man. - Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

``Modern man lives under illusion that he knows what he wants, while he actually wants what he is supposed to want'' - Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom

``They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.'' - Red Cloud, leader of the Ogala Teton Sioux

``The white race is the cancer of human history, it is the white race, and it alone - its ideologies and inventions - which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.'' - Susan Sontag

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