Quotes from Regarding the Pain of Others

Susan Sontag ·  117 pages

Rating: (7.9K votes)


“To paraphrase several sages: Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers. The question of what to do with the feelings that have been aroused, the knowledge that has been communicated. If one feels that there is nothing 'we' can do -- but who is that 'we'? -- and nothing 'they' can do either -- and who are 'they' -- then one starts to get bored, cynical, apathetic.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Wherever people feel safe (...) they will be indifferent.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“[O]ne person's 'barbarian' is another person's 'just doing what everybody else is doing.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“So far as we feel sympathy, we feel we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence. To that extent, it can be (for all our good intentions) an impertinent- if not inappropriate- response. To set aside the sympathy we extend to others beset by war and murderous politics for a reflection on how our privileges are located on the same map as their suffering, and may- in ways we might prefer not to imagine- be linked to their suffering, as the wealth as some may imply the destitution of others, is a task for which the painful, stirring images supply only an initial spark.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Someone who is permanently surprised that depravity exists, who continues to feel disillusioned (even incredulous) when confronted with evidence of what humans are capable of inflicting in the way of gruesome, hands-on cruelties upon other humans, has not reached moral or psychological adulthood.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“It is passivity that dulls feeling.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“There is simply too much injustice in the world. And too much remembering (of ancient grievances: Serbs, Irish) embitters. To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“We can't imagine how dreadful, how terrifying war is; and how normal it becomes. Can't understand, can't imagine. That's what every soldier, and every journalist and aid worker and independent observer who has put in time under fire, and had the luck to elude the death that struck down others nearby, stubbornly feels. And they are right.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“That we are not totally transformed, that we can turn away, turn the page, switch the channel, does not impugn the ethical value of an assault by images. It is not a defect that we are not seared, that we do not suffer enough, when we see these images. Neither is the photograph supposed to repair our ignorance about the history and causes of the suffering it picks out and frames. Such images cannot be more than an invitation to pay attention, to reflect, to learn, to examine the rationalizations for mass suffering offered by established powers. Who caused what the picture shows? Who is responsible? Is it excusable? Was it inevitable? Is there some state of affairs which we have accepted up to now that ought to be challenged? All this, with the understanding that moral indignation, like compassion, cannot dictate a course of action.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“People don't become inured to what they are shown - if that's the right way to describe what happens - because of the quantity of images dumped on them. It is passivity that dulls feeling. The states described as apathy, moral or emotional anesthesia, are full of feelings; the feelings are rage and frustration. ”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“There is nothing wrong with standing back and thinking. To paraphrase several sages: 'Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“As objects of contemplation, images of the atrocious can answer to several different needs. To steel oneself against weakness. To make oneself more numb. To acknowledge the existence of the incorrigible. ”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“To the militant, identity is everything.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“War has been the norm and peace the exception”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“All memory is individual, unreproducible - it dies with each person. What is called collective memory is not a remembering but a stipulating: that this is important, and this is the story about how it happened, with the pictures that lock the story in our minds.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“To have a museum chronicling the great crime that was African slavery in the United States of America would be to acknowledge that the evil was here. Americans prefer to picture the evil that was there, and from which the United States-a unique nation, one without any certifiably wicked leaders throughout its entire history-is exempt. That this country, like every other country, has its tragic past does not sit well with the founding, and still all-powerful belief in American exceptionalism.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Narratives can make us understand. Photographs do something else: they haunt us.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Queremos que el fotógrafo sea un espía en la casa del amor y de la muerte y que los retratados no sean conscientes de la cámara, se encuentren con "la guardia baja".”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Remembering is an ethical act, has ethical value in and of itself. Memory is, achingly, the only relation we can have with the dead. So the belief that remembering is an ethical act is deep in our natures as humans, who know we are going to die, and who mourn those who in the normal course of things die before us—grandparents, parents, teachers, and older friends. Heartlessness and amnesia seem to go together. But history gives contradictory signals about the value of remembering in the much longer span of a collective history. There is simply too much injustice in the world. And too much remembering (of ancient grievances: Serbs, Irish) embitters. To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited. If the goal is having some space in which to live one’s own life, then it is desirable that the account of specific injustices dissolve into a more general understanding that human beings everywhere do terrible things to one another. *   *   * P”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Indeed, the very first acknowledgment (as far as I am aware) of the attraction of mutilated bodies occurs in a founding description of mental conflict. It is a passage in The Republic, Book IV, where Plato’s Socrates describes how our reason may be overwhelmed by an unworthy desire, which drives the self to become angry with a part of its nature.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Photographs objectify: they turn an event or a person into something that can be possessed.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Ninguna definición compleja de lo que es o podrá ser la fotografía atenuará jamás el placer deparado por una foto de un hecho inesperado que capta a mitad de la acción un fotógrafo alerta.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Is there an antidote to the perennial seductiveness of war? And is this a question a woman is more likely to pose than a man? (Probably yes.)”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“What is odd is not that so many of the iconic news photos of the past, including some of the best-remembered pictures from the Second World War, appear to have been staged. It is that we are surprised to learn they were staged and always disappointed.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Compassion is an unstable emotion. It needs to be translated into action, or it withers.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“It is intolerable to have one's sufferings twinned with anybody else's.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“Son múltiples los usos para las incontables oportunidades que depara la vida moderna de mirar —con distancia, por el medio de la fotografía— el dolor de otras personas. Las fotografías de una atrocidad pueden producir reacciones opuestas. Una llamada a la paz. Un grito de venganza. O simplemente la confundida conciencia, repostada sin pausa de información fotográfica, de que suceden cosas terribles."

Susan Sontag| Ante el dolor de los demás.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“No "we" should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people's pain.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


“With time, many staged photographs turn back into historical evidence, albeit of an impure kind - like most historical evidence.”
― Susan Sontag, quote from Regarding the Pain of Others


About the author

Susan Sontag
Born place: in New York, New York, The United States
Born date January 16, 1933
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