The Dispossessed

Last updated Jan 08, 2024

The Dispossessed

After I finished the book I wanted to read more about Ursula’s thoughts on anarchism. I’ll continue reading her other books, but in the meantime this essay by Victor Urbanowicz was interesting: Personal and Political in The Dispossessed.


All such luxuries which if freely allowed to the public would tend to drain irreplaceable natural resources or to foul the environment with waste products were strictly controlled by regulation and taxation. — p. 71

Paradise is for those who make Paradise. — p. 77

The explorer who will not come back or send back his ships to tell his tale is not an explorer, only an adventurer, and his sons are born in exile. — p. 77

“Excess is excrement,” Odo wrote in the Analogy. “Excrement retained in the body is a poison.” — p. 84

But for those who accepted the privilege and obligation of human solidarity, privacy was a value only where it served a function. — p. 95

Here in A-Io they fear me less because they have forgotten the revolution. They don’t believe in it any more. They think if people can possess enough things they will be content to live in prison. — p. 118

To make a thief, make an owner; to create crime, create laws. The Social Organism. — p. 118

The Urrasti had taste, but it seemed often to be in conflict with an impulse towards display—conspicuous expense. The natural, aesthetic origin of the desire to own things was concealed and perverted by economic and competitive compulsions, which in turn told on the quality of the things: all they achieved was a kind of mechanical lavishness. Here, instead, was grace, achieved through restraint. — p. 124

Nobody owns anything to rob. If you want things you take them from the depository. As for violence, well, I don’t know, Oiie; would you murder me, ordinarily? And if you felt like it, would a law against it stop you? Coercion is the least efficient means of obtaining order. — p. 127

You can’t crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them. By refusing to think, refusing to change. — p. 140

In other words, he has power over you. Where does he get it from? Not from vested authority, there isn’t any. Not from intellectual excellence, he hasn’t any. He gets it from the innate cowardice of the average human mind. Public opinion! That’s the power structure he’s part of, and knows how to use. The unadmitted, inadmissible government that rules the Odonian society by stifling the individual mind. — p. 140

But you spoke of physical suffering, of a man dying of burns. And I speak of spiritual suffering! Of people seeing their talent, their work, their lives wasted. Of good minds submitting to stupid ones. Of strength and courage strangled by envy, greed for power, fear of change. Change is freedom, change is life—is anything more basic to Odonian thought than that? But nothing changes any more! Our society is sick. You know it. You’re suffering its sickness. Its suicidal sickness! — p. 141

The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death. — p. 162

And you the possessors are possessed. You are all in jail. Each alone, solitary, with a heap of what he owns. You live in prison, die in prison. It is all I can see in your eyes—the wall, the wall! — p. 194

A child free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. It is useless work that darkens the heart. The delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skillful maker, of anyone doing needed work and doing it well—this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection, and of sociality as a whole. — p. 209

Every Odonian has to be a functions analyst. You’re thirty, aren’t you? By that age a man should know not only his cellular function but his organic function—what his optimum role is the social organism is. — p. 224

It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have had to learn it. We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give. — p. 254

We have no law but the single principle of mutual aid between individuals. We have no government but the single principle of free association. We have no states, no nations, no presidents, no premiers, no chiefs, no generals, no bosses, no bankers, no landlords, no wages, no charity, no police, no soldiers, no wars. Nor do we have much else. We are sharers, not owners. We are not prosperous. None of us is rich. None of us is powerful. If it is Anarres you want, if it is the future you seek, then I tell you that you must come to it with empty hands. You must come to it alone, and naked, as the child comes into the world, into his future, without any past, without any property, wholly dependent on other people for his life. You cannot take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere. — p. 254

He explained to Atro that he now understood why the army was organized as it was. It was indeed quite necessary. No rational form of organization would serve the purpose. He simply had not understood that the purpose was to enable men with machine guns to kill unarmed men and women easily and in great quantities when told to do so. Only he still could not see where courage, or manliness, or fitness entered. — p. 259

It isn’t changing around from place to place that keeps you lively. It’s getting time on your side. Working with it, not against it. — p. 262

That we’re ashamed to say we’ve refused a posting. That the social conscience completely dominates the individual conscience, instead of striking a balance with it. We don’t cooperate—we obey. We fear being outcast, being called lazy, dysfunctional, egoizing. We fear our neighbor’s opinion more than we respect our own freedom of choice. — p. 279

For her as for him, there was no end. There was process: process was all. You could go in a promising direction or you could go wrong, but you did not set out with the expectation of ever stopping anywhere. All responsibilities, all commitments thus understood took on substance and duration. — p. 282

Fulfillment, Shevek thought, is a function of time. The search for pleasure is circular, repetitive, atemporal. The variety seeking of the spectator, the thrill hunter, the sexually promiscuous, always ends in the same place. It has an end. It comes to the end and has to start over. It is not a journey and return, but a closed cycle, a locked room, a cell. — p. 283

When the enemy enthusiastically embraces you, and the fellow countrymen bitterly reject you, it is hard not to wonder if you are, in fact, a traitor. — p. 299

If we must all agree, all work together, we’re no better than a machine. If an individual can’t work in solidarity with his fellows, it’s his duty to work alone. His duty and his right. We have been denying people that right. We’ve been saying, more and more often, you must work with the others, you must accept the rule of the majority. But any rule is tyranny. The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts, to be responsible. Only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive. We are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society founded upon revolution. Revolution is our obligation: our hope of evolution. ‘The Revolution is in the individual spirit, or it is nowhere. It is for all, or it is nothing. If it is seen as having any end, it will never truly begin.’ We can’t stop here. We must go on. We must take the risks. — p. 303