Quotations about   disaster

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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
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, # 28 (1821 ed.)
Added on 10-Mar-16 | Last updated 10-Mar-16
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Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)
Added on 3-Mar-16 | Last updated 3-Mar-16
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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 (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) 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) US President (1901-1909)
Autobiography (1913)
Added on 4-Jun-14 | Last updated 4-Jun-14
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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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Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Isaiah 10:1-3 (NIV)

Alt. trans:
  • GNB: "You are doomed! You make unjust laws that oppress my people. That is how you keep the poor from having their rights and from getting justice. That is how you take the property that belongs to widows and orphans. What will you do when God punishes you? What will you do when he brings disaster on you from a distant country? Where will you run to find help? Where will you hide your wealth?"
  • KJV: "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?"
Added on 25-Apr-11 | Last updated 26-Oct-18
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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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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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