American social arrangements, economic arrangements, the degree of inequality in American life, the relatively small role played by the government in American public life and so forth, compares to exactly the opposite conditions in most of the European societies.
It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.
Our culture is intent on taking the lines out of people’s faces – surgically, with costly creams, and with fear and trembling – when, in fact, the opposite should be the case. As artists know, if there is anything behind a face, that face improves with age.
It is simply not true that war is solely a means to an end, nor do people necessarily fight in order to obtain this objective or that. In fact, the opposite is true: people very often take up one objective or another precisely in order that they may fight.
The funny thing about insane people is that it is kind of the opposite of being a celebrity. Nobody envies you.
And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on.
Auden said poetry makes nothing happen. But I wonder if the opposite could be true. It could make something happen.
The fate of every democracy, of every government based on the sovereignty of the people, depends on the choices it makes between these opposite principles, absolute power on the one hand, and on the other the restraints of legality and the authority of tradition.
I say that democracy can never prove itself beyond cavil, until it founds and luxuriantly grows its own forms of art, poems, schools, theology, displacing all that exists, or that has been produced anywhere in the past, under opposite influences.
Everything the Beats stood for was the opposite of the dominant culture today.