Quotations about:
    disaster


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But in the days that are now passing over us, even fools are arrested to ask the meaning of them; few of the generations of men have seen more impressive days. Days of endless calamity, disruption, dislocation, confusion worse confounded: if they are not days of endless hope too, then they are days of utter despair. For it is not a small hope that will suffice, the ruin being clearly, either in action or in prospect, universal. There must be a new world, if there is to be any world at all!

Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) Scottish essayist and historian
Latter-Day Pamphlets, # 1 “The Present Time” (1850-02-01)
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Added on 16-May-24 | Last updated 13-May-24
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When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer, literary scholar, lay theologian [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Spurious)

Popularly attributed to Lewis, but no citation is ever given, and it is not found in searches of his written works.
 
Added on 6-Nov-23 | Last updated 6-Nov-23
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LEAR: Blow winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks.
You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head. And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world.
Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once
That makes ingrateful man.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Lear, Act 3, sc. 2, l. 1ff (3.2.1-11) (1606)
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Added on 25-Sep-23 | Last updated 29-Jan-24
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GLOUCESTER: These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend no good to us. Though the wisdom of nature can reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself scourged by the sequent effects. Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide; in cities, mutinies; in countries, discord; in palaces, treason; and the bond cracked ’twixt son and father. This villain of mine comes under the prediction: there’s son against father. The King falls from bias of nature: there’s father against child. We have seen the best of our time. Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
King Lear, Act 1, sc. 2, l. 109ff (1.2.109-121) (1606)
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Added on 31-Jul-23 | Last updated 29-Jan-24
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Who knows whether, when a comet shall approach this globe to destroy it, as it often has been and will be destroyed, men will not tear rocks from their foundations by means of steam, and hurl mountains, as the giants are said to have done, against the flaming mass? — and then we shall have traditions of Titans again, and of wars with Heaven.

Lord Byron
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Conversations of Lord Byron with Thomas Medwin, Vol. 2 (1832)
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Added on 23-Mar-23 | Last updated 23-Mar-23
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“Dystopia” isn’t when things go wrong. Assuming nothing will go wrong doesn’t make you an optimist, it makes you an asshole. A dangerous asshole. Assuming nothing will go wrong is why they didn’t put enough lifeboats on the Titanic. Dystopia isn’t where things go wrong. Dystopia is when things go wrong, and nothing can be done about it.

Cory Doctorow (b. 1971) Canadian-British blogger, journalist, activist, author
“Social Quitting,” Pluralistic blog (8 Jan 2023)
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Reposted on Twitter (8 Jan 2023).
 
Added on 14-Feb-23 | Last updated 14-Feb-23
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Public calamity is a mighty leveler.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
“On Conciliation With America,” speech, House of Commons (22 Mar 1775)
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Added on 1-Nov-22 | Last updated 1-Nov-22
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A blueprint for disaster in any society is when the elite are capable of insulating themselves.

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond (b. 1937) American geographer, historian, ornithologist, author
“Choosing Success,” interview by Catherine Sepp, National Review (30 Jun 2005)
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Added on 15-Jun-22 | Last updated 15-Jun-22
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When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movements become headlong — faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thoughts of obstacles and forget the precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it’s too late.

Frank Herbert (1920-1986) American writer
Dune, Book 3 “The Prophet” (1965)
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Jessica, quoting a Bene Gesserit proverb.

In Appendix 2, there is reference to another Bene Gesserit teaching: "When religion and politics ride the same cart, when that cart is driven by a living holy man (baraka), nothing can stand in their path."
 
Added on 10-Mar-22 | Last updated 10-Mar-22
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All the livid steeds of the Apocalypse have stormed through my life — revolution and famine, inflation and terror, epidemics and emigration. I have seen the great mass ideologies grow and spread before my eyes — Fascism in Italy, National Socialism in Germany, Bolshevism in Russia, and above all else that arch-plague nationalism which has poisoned the flower of our European culture.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
The World of Yesterday [Die Welt von Gestern], Preface (1942)
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Alternate translation [Sonnenfeld]:

All the pale horses of the apocalypse have stormed through my life, revolution, starvation, devaluation of currency and terror, epidemics, emigration; I have seen the great ideologies of the masses grow and spread out before my eyes. Fascism in Italy, National Socialism in Germany, Bolshevism in Russia, and, above all, that arch-pestilence, nationalism, which poisoned our flourishing European culture.
 
Added on 22-Jul-21 | Last updated 22-Jul-21
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For friendship adds a brighter radiance to prosperity and lessens the burden of adversity by dividing and sharing it.

[Nam et secundas res splendidiores facit amicitia et adversas partiens communicansque leviores.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Laelius De Amicitia [Laelius on Friendship], ch. 6 / sec. 22 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
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Alternate translations:

  • "Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief." [tr. Addison (1711), Spectator, #68 (18 May 1711)]
  • "For prosperity, friendship renders more brilliant, and adversity more supportable, by dividing and communicating it." [tr. Edmonds (1871)]
  • "Such friendship at once enhances the lustre of prosperity, and by dividing and sharing adversity lessens its burden." [tr. Peabody (1887)]
  • "For friendship both makes favourable things more splendid and disasters lighter, by splitting and sharing them." [Source]
 
Added on 1-Mar-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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So Henny-penny, Cocky-locky, Ducky-daddles, Goosey-poosey, Turkey-lurkey, and Foxy-woxy all went to tell the king the sky was a-falling.

Joseph Jacobs (1854-1916) Australian folklorist, literary critic, historian writer
English Fairy Tales, “Henny-Penny” (1890)
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Added on 28-May-20 | Last updated 28-May-20
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Every now and then, in the course of great events, the elements of tradition and innovation ally themselves and each one’s weakness supplements the other and together they achieve the perfect debacle.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
“The Genius of Mussolini,” New York Review of Books (7 Oct 1982)
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Reprinted in Rebellions, Perversities, and Main Events (1994).
 
Added on 29-Apr-20 | Last updated 29-Apr-20
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The newspapers still talk about glory but the average man, thank God, has got rid of that illusion. It is a damned bore, with a stalemate as the most probable outcome, but one has to see it through, and see it through with the knowledge that whichever side wins, civilisation in Europe will be pipped for the next 30 years. Don’t indulge in Romance here, Malcolm, or suppose that an era of jolly little nationalities is dawning. We shall be much too much occupied with pestilence and poverty to reconstruct.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
Letter to Malcolm Darling (6 Nov 1914)
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Added on 29-Apr-20 | Last updated 29-Apr-20
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I distrust Great Men. They produce a desert of uniformity around them and often a pool of blood too, and I always feel a little man’s pleasure when they come a cropper.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) English novelist, essayist, critic, librettist [Edward Morgan Forster]
“What I Believe,” The Nation (16 Jul 1938)
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Added on 29-Jan-20 | Last updated 29-Jan-20
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Eight years involved with the nuclear industry have taught me that when nothing can possible go wrong and every avenue has been covered, then is the time to buy a house on the next continent.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Post, alt.fan.pratchett (26 Aug 1998)
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Added on 16-Feb-18 | Last updated 20-Mar-20
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Y2K was a real end-of-civilization problem. And the people who could deal with it treated it as such, working flat-out on disaster management for the last year-long countdown. With the result that the end-of-the-world scenario didn’t happen … causing everyone not directly involved to conclude that it was a false alarm.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Nightmare Stacks (2016)
 
Added on 10-Oct-17 | Last updated 10-Oct-17
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It is the trifles of life that are its bores, after all. Most men can meet ruin calmly, for instance, or laugh when they lie in a ditch with their own knee-joint and their hunter’s spine broken over the double post and rails: it is the mud that has choked up your horn just when you wanted to rally the pack; it’s the whip who carries you off to a division just when you’ve sat down to your turbot; it’s the ten seconds by which you miss the train; it’s the dust that gets in your eyes as you go down to Epsom; it’s the pretty little rose note that went by accident to your house instead of your club, and raised a storm from madame; it’s the dog that always will run wild into the birds; it’s the cook who always will season the white soup wrong — it is these that are the bores of life, and that try the temper of your philosophy.

Ouida (1839-1908) English novelist [pseud. of Maria Louise Ramé]
Under Two Flags, ch. 1 (1867)
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Added on 3-Oct-17 | Last updated 3-Oct-17
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If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same ….

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“If–” st. 2 (1910)
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Added on 3-Jul-17 | Last updated 3-Jul-17
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There is a difference between tragedy and blind brutal calamity. Tragedy has meaning, and there is dignity in it. Tragedy stands with its shoulders stiff and proud. But there is no meaning, no dignity, no fulfillment, in the death of a child.

Walter M. Miller Jr. (1923-1996) American science fiction writer
“The Will” (1953)
 
Added on 6-Feb-17 | Last updated 6-Feb-17
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It was said that God, in order to test mankind which had become swelled with pride as in the time of Noah, had commanded the wise men of that age, among them the Blessed Leibowitz, to devise great engines of war such as had never before been upon the Earth, weapons of such might that they contained the very fires of Hell, and that God had suffered these magi to place the weapons in the hands of princes, and to say to each prince: “Only because the enemies have such a thing have we devised this for thee, in order that they may know that thou hast it also, and fear to strike. See to it, m’Lord, that thou fearest them as much as they shall now fear thee, that none may unleash this dread thing which we have wrought.” But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself: If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy these others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; the earth shall be mine.

Such was the folly of princes, and there followed the Flame Deluge.

Walter M. Miller Jr. (1923-1996) American science fiction writer
A Canticle for Leibowitz, “Fiat Homo,” ch. 6 (1959)
 
Added on 30-Jan-17 | Last updated 30-Jan-17
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Times of general calamity and confusion have ever been productive of the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace, and the brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm.

Colton - brightest thunderbolt - wist_info quote

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer, aphorist
Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words, Vol. 1, § 28 (1820)
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Added on 10-Mar-16 | Last updated 29-Nov-23
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CALAMITY, n. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
“Calamity,” The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)
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Included in The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
 
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 16-May-23
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They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

The Bible (The New Testament) (AD 1st - 2nd C) Christian sacred scripture
Matthew 15:14 [KJV]

Jesus referring to the Pharisees.
 
Added on 4-Jan-16 | Last updated 4-Jan-16
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Sorvalh smiled, and it was terrifying, and glorious. “And so we learn how simple it is to change the history of the universe,” Sorvalh said. “All you need is for every other thing to have gone so horribly wrong first.”

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The End of All Things (2015)
 
Added on 3-Sep-15 | Last updated 3-Sep-15
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Americans learn only from catastrophes and not from experience.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) American politician, statesman, conservationist, writer, US President (1901-1909)
Autobiography (1913)
 
Added on 4-Jun-14 | Last updated 4-Jun-14
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This is a column for everyone who ever said, “I’m sorry, I’m just not interested in politics,” or, “There’s nothing I can do about it,” or, “Hey, they’re all crooks anyway.” … I’ve got one word for all of you: Katrina. … This, friends, is why we need to pay attention to government policies, not political personalities, and to know whereon we vote. It is about our lives.

Molly Ivins (1944-2007) American writer, political columnist [Mary Tyler Ivins]
The Progressive (Oct 2005)
 
Added on 15-Dec-11 | Last updated 3-Nov-20
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What’s wan man’s news is another man’s throubles.

[What’s one man’s news is another man’s troubles.]

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
“The News of a Week,” Observations by Mr. Dooley (1902)
 
Added on 26-Oct-11 | Last updated 4-Mar-16
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War is the unfolding of miscalculations.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
The Guns of August (1962)

In Stilwell and the American Experience in China (1970), she gave this as "History is the unfolding of miscalculations."
 
Added on 26-Jul-11 | Last updated 23-Jun-15
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VENKMAN: This city is headed for a disaster of Biblical proportions.

MAYOR: What do you mean, “Biblical”?

RAY: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!

EGON: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes …

WINSTON: The dead rising from the grave!

VENKMAN: Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

Dan Aykroyd (b. 1952) Canadian comedian
Ghostbusters [with Harold Ramis] (1984)
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Added on 18-May-10 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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To be broke is not a disgrace, it is only a catastrophe.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The League of Frightened Men, ch. 7 [Wolfe] (1935)
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Added on 11-Jan-10 | Last updated 24-Sep-21
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Divine Providence sends the chiefest benefits under the mask of calamities.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“The Fortune of the Republic,” lecture, Boston (1878-03-30)

Final version of a lecture first given in 1863, and his last public speech.
 
Added on 24-Mar-09 | Last updated 27-Mar-23
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Heaven-sent calamities you may stand up against, but you cannot survive those brought on by yourself.

Shu Ching (6th Century BC) Chinese collection of political philosophy [Shujing, Shu-kin, Shangshu, The Book of History, The Book of Documents, or The Classic of History]
T’ai Chia

Also cited as Shu Ching 4, 5
 
Added on 17-Oct-05 | Last updated 17-Mar-16
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It is only a step from victory to disaster. My experience is that, in a crisis, some detail always decides the issue.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) French emperor, military leader
Letter to Tallyrand (7 Oct 1797)
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Napoleon's Letters [tr. J. M. Thompson (1934)]
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 13-Apr-20
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GARIBALDI: No boom?
SINCLAIR: No boom.
IVANOVA: No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There’s always a boom tomorrow. What? Look, somebody’s got to have some damn perspective around here! Boom. Sooner or later. BOOM!

Christy Marx (b. 1952) American screenwriter, photographer, game designer
Babylon 5, 1×15 “Grail” (6 Jul 1994)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Mar-22
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SON: Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.

Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry VI, Part 3, Act 2, sc. 5, l. 55 (2.5.55) (1591)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Jan-24
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