American cultural institutions seem so bent on preserving the values of "Western civilization," the mythical "Whitetown," that we learn about one another's cultures the same way we learn about sex: in the streets.
(Ishmael Reed (b. 1938), U.S. novelist, poet, essayist. repr. In Writin'Is Fightin,'Atheneum (1988). "Hymietown Revisited," California Magazine (October 1984).)
The best political economy is the care and culture of men; for, in these crises, all are ruined except such as are proper individuals, capable of thought, and of new choice and the application of their talent to new labor.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Wealth," English Traits (1856).
The crises Emerson refers to here are the cyclical depressions and recessions inherent in the capitalist system. He is specifically referring to the advent of new technologies and raw materials that supersede and then destroy existing industries and products, robbing workers of their jobs and, as Emerson puts it, sacrificing whole towns "like ant hills.")
Nobody of any real culture, for instance, ever talks nowadays about the beauty of sunset. Sunsets are quite old fashioned.... To admire them is a distinct sign of provincialism of temperament. Upon the other hand they go on.
(Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Anglo-Irish playwright, author. Vivian, in The Decay of Lying, Intentions (1891).)
When we want culture more than potatoes, and illumination more than sugar-plums, then the great resources of a world are taxed and drawn out, and the result, or staple production, is, not slaves, nor operatives, but men,those rare fruits called heroes, saints, poets, philosophers, and redeemers.
(Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. "Life Without Principle" (1863), in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 4, p. 480, Houghton Mifflin (1906).)
Not out of those, on whom systems of education have exhausted their culture, comes the helpful giant to destroy the old or to build the new, but out of unhandselled savage nature, out of terrible Druids and Berserkirs, come at last Alfred and Shakespeare.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Oration, August 31, 1837, delivered before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Cambridge, Massachusetts. "The American Scholar," repr. In Emerson: Essays and Lectures, ed. Joel Porte (1983).)