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“Social work didn’t make her happy, though. From one nonprofit to another, from city contracts to federal agencies, she kept running into the same systemic problems. ‘Nonprofits require you to sell your soul to the politicians. You have to fight for money against other agencies.’ She said bitterly. ‘Then I find there’s backstabbing everywhere. And they don’t really care about people. Keeping them poor is their business. As long as they keep them poor, they keep getting more grants and bigger budgets. Then, there are the volunteers. The message implicit in volunteering is, ‘You need me, I’m good. I’m better than you, you have nothing to give.””

Po Bronson interviewing Ana Miyares, What Should I Do with My Life?

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“Belief is both prize & battlefield, within the mind & in the mind’s mirror, the world […] If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe [diverse] races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. Torturous advances won over generations can be lost by a single stroke of myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword.”

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

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“The white man’s god is just like the white man. He thinks he is the only god, just like the white man thinks he is the only man. But the only reason he is god instead of Nyame or Chukwu or whoever is because we let him be. We do not fight him. We do not even question him. The white man told us he was the way, and we said yes, but when has the white man ever told us something was good for us and that thing was really good? They say you are an African witch, and so what? So what? Who told them what a witch was?”

-Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

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“You have to look! […] That’s another one of our rules. Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will be even worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in, Mr. Nakata. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.”

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

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“In that hideous water, bodies floated past. Some were alive, calling out. A searchlight revealed a boy halfway up the anchor chain of a battle ship. Sailors dumped oil on him and he slipped back into the water. 

On the deck of the ship, three new French citizens looked back at the burning city, ablaze from end to end. The fire would continue for the next three days, the flames visible for fifty miles. At sea, sailors would mistake the rising smoke for a gigantic mountain range. In the country they were headed for, America, the burning of Smyrna made the front pages for a day or two, before being bumped off by the Hall-Mills murder case (the body of Hall, a Protestant minister, had been found with that of Miss Mills, an attractive choir member) and the opening of the World Series.”

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex