Quotations about   status

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Americans are the only people in the world known to me whose status anxiety prompts them to advertise their college and university affiliations in the rear window of their automobiles.

Paul Fussell (1924-2012) American cultural and literary historian, author, academic
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, ch. 4 (1983)
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Added on 1-Jul-21 | Last updated 1-Jul-21
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People become wedded to their beliefs, because the validity of those beliefs reflects on their competence, commends them as authorities, and rationalizes their mandate to lead. Challenge a person’s beliefs, and you challenge his dignity, standing, and power.

Steven Pinker (b. 1954) Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, author
The Better Angels of Our Nature, ch. 4 (2011)
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Added on 19-May-21 | Last updated 19-May-21
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For life without life’s joys
Is living death; and such a life is his.
Riches and rank and show of majesty
And state, where no joy is, are empty, vain
And unsubstantial shadows, of no weight
To be compared with happiness of heart.

[τὰς γὰρ ἡδονὰς
ὅταν προδῶσιν ἄνδρες, οὐ τίθημ᾽ ἐγὼ
ζῆν τοῦτον, ἀλλ᾽ ἔμψυχον ἡγοῦμαι νεκρόν.
πλούτει τε γὰρ κατ᾽ οἶκον, εἰ βούλει, μέγα
καὶ ζῆ τύραννον σχῆμ᾽ ἔχων: ἐὰν δ᾽ ἀπῇ
τούτων τὸ χαίρειν, τἄλλ᾽ ἐγὼ καπνοῦ σκιᾶς
οὐκ ἂν πριαίμην ἀνδρὶ πρὸς τὴν ἡδονήν]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 1165ff [Messenger] (441 BC) [tr. Watling (1947), Epilogos, l. 977ff]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

For him I reckon but
An animate corpse, and not a living man,
Whose life's delights are cast away. Thy house,
I grant thee, may be richly stored with wealth;
And thou may'st live in royal pomp: but if
Joy is not there the while, and I must lose
All happiness thereby, I would not give
Smoke's shadow as the price of all the rest.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

For a life
Without life's joys I count a living death.
You'll tell me he has ample store of wealth,
The pomp and circumstance of kings; but if
These give no pleasure, all the rest I count
The shadow of a shade, nor would I weigh
His wealth and power 'gainst a dram of joy.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

For when a man is lost to joy,
I count him not to live, but reckon him
A living corse. Riches belike are his,
Great riches and the appearance of a King;
But if no gladness come to him, all else
Is shadow of a vapour, weighed with joy.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

When a man has forfeited his pleasures, I do not reckon his existence as life, but consider him just a breathing corpse. Heap up riches in your house, if you wish! Live with a tyrant's pomp! But if there is no joy along with all of that, I would not pay even the shadow of smoke for all the rest, compared with joy.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

For when a man hath forfeited his pleasures, I count him not as living, -- I hold him but a breathing corpse. Heap up riches in thy house, if thou wilt; live in kingly state; yet, if there be no gladness therewith, I would not give the shadow of a vapour for all the rest, compared with joy.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

Who can say
That a man is still alive when his life’s joy fails?
He is a walking dead man. Grant him rich,
Let him live like a king in his great house:
If his pleasure is gone, I would not give
So much as the shadow of smoke for all he owns.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 910ff]

Yes, when a man has lost all happiness,
he's not alive. Call him a breathing corpse.
Be very rich at home. Live as a king.
But once your joy has gone, though these are left
they are smoke's shadow to lost happiness.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

He who forfeits joy
Forfeits his life; he is a breathing corpse.
Heap treasures in your palace, if you will,
And wear the pomp of royalty; but if
You have no happiness, I would not give
A straw for all of it, compared with joy.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Believe me,
when a man has squandered his true joys,
he's good as dead, I tell you, a living corpse.
Pile up riches in your house, as much as you like --
live like a king with a huge show of pomp,
but if real delight is missing from the lot,
I wouldn't give you a wisp of smoke for it,
not compared to joy. [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 1284ff]

When every source of joy deserts a man,
I don't call him alive: he's an animated corpse.
For my money, you can get rich as you want,
You can wear the face of a tyrant,
But if you have no joy in this,
Your life's not worth the shadow of a puff of smoke.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

Whenever men forfeit their pleasures, I do not regard
such a man as alive, but I consider him a living corpse.
Be very wealthy in your household, if you wish, and live
the style of absolute rulers, but should the enjoyment of these
depart, what is left, compared to pleasure,
I would not buy from a man for a shadow of smoke.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

When a man’s body has lost all sense of joy, you can say he’s not alive any more. He is a living corpse. You can have as much wealth in your house as you like and you can live like a king but when joy is missing then all those other things I wouldn’t exchange for the price of the shadow of smoke -- not against the sweetness of joy!
[tr. Theodoridis (2004), "Herald"]

For when a man has lost
what gives him pleasure, I don’t include him
among the living -- he’s a breathing corpse.
Pile up a massive fortune in your home,
if that’s what you want -- live like a king.
If there’s no pleasure in it, I’d not give
to any man a vapour’s shadow for it,
not compared to human joy.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 1296ff]

But when people lose their pleasures, I do not consider this life -- rather, it is just a corpse with a soul.
[tr. @sentantiq (2018)]
Added on 25-Mar-21 | Last updated 25-Mar-21
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[The right wing] believe that their prestige in the community, even indeed their self-esteem, depends on having these values honored in public. Besides their economic expectations, people have deep emotional commitments in other spheres — religion, morals, culture, race relations — which they also hope to see realized in political action. Status politics seeks not to advance perceived material interests but to express grievances and resentments about such matters, to press claims upon society to give deference to non-economic values.

Douglas R. Hofstadter (b. 1945) American academic, cognitive scientist, author
“Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited — 1965,” sec. 4 (1965)
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Added on 4-Nov-20 | Last updated 4-Nov-20
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Ill can he rule the great, that cannot reach the small.

Edmund Spenser (c. 1552-1599) English poet
The Faerie Queene, Book 5, Canto 2, st. 43 (1589-96)
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Added on 22-Jun-20 | Last updated 22-Jun-20
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RESPECTABILITY, n. The social status of people whose sins haven’t quite caught up with them.

Edmund H. Volkart (1919-1992) American sociologist, researcher, editor
The Angel’s Dictionary: A Modern Tribute to Ambrose Bierce (1986)
Added on 28-Apr-20 | Last updated 28-Apr-20
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There are two kinds of people in one’s life — people whom one keeps waiting — and the people for whom one waits.

S. N. Behrman (1893-1973) American playwright, screenwriter, biographer, writer [Samuel Nathaniel Behrman]
Biography, Act 1 [Feydak] (1933)
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Added on 7-Apr-20 | Last updated 7-Apr-20
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Anxiety is the handmaiden of contemporary ambition.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
Status Anxiety (2004)
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Added on 10-Jan-18 | Last updated 10-Jan-18
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The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him, they crush those beneath them.

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) British novelist, poet [pseud. Ellis Bell]
Wuthering Heights, ch. 11 [Heathcliff] (1847)
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Added on 29-Dec-16 | Last updated 29-Dec-16
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All the pieces wish to be, if not a player, at least the piece the players are most concerned with.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Dragon (1998)
Added on 15-Jul-16 | Last updated 15-Jul-16
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He is not well-bred, that cannot bear Ill-Breeding in others.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (1748)
Added on 19-Feb-16 | Last updated 19-Feb-16
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Men are more ready to sacrifice their lives than their livelihood: and to sacrifice their own importance often comes hardest of all.

B. H. Liddell Hart (1895-1970) English soldier, military historian (Basil Henry Liddell Hart)
Thoughts on War, ch. 10 (1944)
Added on 9-Mar-15 | Last updated 9-Mar-15
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To assert dignity is to lose it.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The League of Frightened Men, ch. 4 [Wolfe] (1935)
Added on 6-Feb-14 | Last updated 6-Feb-14
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