Quotes by Ivan Illich

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We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation. more...

Leadership does not depend on being right. more...

Healthy people are those who live in healthy homes on a healthy diet; in an environment equally fit for birth, growth work, healing, and dying... Healthy people need no bureaucratic interference to mate, give birth, share the human condition and die. more...

The compulsion to do good is an innate American trait. Only North Americans seem to believe that they always should, may, and actually can choose somebody with whom to share their blessings. Ultimately this attitude leads to bombing people into the acceptance of gifts. more...

Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn't organized to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals. more...

At the moment of death I hope to be surprised. more...

There is no greater distance than that between a man in prayer and God. more...

The public school has become the established church of secular society. more...

Effective health care depends on self-care; this fact is currently heralded as if it were a discovery. more...

School divides life into two segments, which are increasingly of comparable length. As much as anything else, schooling implies custodial care for persons who are declared undesirable elsewhere by the simple fact that a school has been built to serve them. more...

To be ignorant or unconvinced of one's own needs has become the unforgivable anti-social act. The good citizen is one who imputes standardized needs to himself with such conviction that he drowns out any desire for alternatives, much less the renunciation of need. more...

Carry a candle in the dark, be a candle in the dark, know that you're a flame in the dark. more...

Jesus was an anarchist savior. That's what the Gospels tell us. more...

Current nationalism is merely the affirmation of the right of colonial elites to repeat historyand follow the road travelled by the rich toward the universal consumption of internationally marketed packages, a road which can ultimately lead only to universal pollution and universal frustration. more...

In both rich and poor nations consumption is polarized while expectation is equalized. more...

People need new tools to work with rather than new tools that work for them. more...

I intend to discuss some perplexing issues which are raised once we embrace the hypothesis that society can be deschooled; to search for criteria which may help us distinguish institutions which merit development because they support learning in a deschooled milieu; and to clarify those personal goals which would foster the advent of an Age of Leisure ( schole ) as opposed to an economy dominated by service industries. more...

I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a lifestyle which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a lifestyle which only allows to make and unmake, produce and consume - a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment. The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies. more...

A low-energy policy allows for a wide choice of life-styles and cultures. If, on the other hand, a society opts for high energy consumption, its social relations must be dictated by technocracy and will be equally degrading whether labeled capitalist or socialist. more...

Even if nonpolluting power were feasible and abundant, the use of energy on a massive scale acts on society like a drug that is physically harmless but psychically enslaving. A community can choose between Methadone and "cold turkey"-between maintaining its addiction to alien energy and kicking it in painful cramps-but no society can have a population that is hooked on progressively larger numbers of energy slaves and whose members are also autonomously active. more...

To deschool means to abolish the power of one person to oblige another. more...

School is an institution built on the axiom that learning is the result of teaching. And institutional wisdom continues to accept this axiom, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. more...

We can only live changes: we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create. more...

Health is not an objective condition which can be understood by the methods of natural science alone. It is rather a condition related to the mental attitude by which the individual has to value what is essential for his life. more...

I was recently told, 'You're a liar!' when I said to somebody I walked down the spine of the Andes. Every Spaniard in the sixteenth, seventeenth century did that. The idea that somebody could just walk! He can jog perhaps in the morning, but he can't walk anywhere! The world has become inaccessible because we drive there. more...

There is no greater distance than that between a man in prayer and God more...

School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age. more...

Losses of a kind of satisfaction that have no market equivalent don't show up in the calculations of economists. more...

If you want to change society then you must tell an alternative story. more...

The medical establishment has become the major threat to health. more...

The depersonalizati on of diagnosis and therapy has changed malpractice from an ethical into a technical problem. more...

Learning from programmed information always hides reality behind a screen. more...

School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught. more...

The pupil is ... 'schooled' to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. more...

In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy. more...

It takes more time and effort and delicacy to learn the silence of a people than to learn its sounds. Some people have a special gift for this. Perhaps this explains why some missionaries, notwithstanding their efforts, never come to speak properly, to communicate delicately through silences. Although they "speak with the accent of natives" they remain forever thousands of miles away. The learning of the grammar of silence is an art much more difficult to learn than the grammar of sounds. more...

Together we have come to realize that for most men the right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school. more...

The true miracle of modern medicine is diabolical. It consists in making not only individuals but whole populations survive on inhumanly low levels of personal health. more...

Culture makes pain tolerable by interpreting it's necessity; only pain perceived as curable is intolerable. more...

The new experience that has replaced dignified suffering is artificially prolonged, opaque, depersonalized maintenance. more...

Exporting Church employees to Latin America masks a universal and unconscious fear of a new Church. North and South American authorities, differently motivated but equally fearful, become accomplices in maintaining a clerical and irrelevant Church. Sacralizing employees and property, this Church becomes progressively more blind to the possibilities of Sacralizing person and community. more...

The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well. more...

The medicalization of early diagnosis not only hampers and discourages preventative health-care but it also trains the patient-to-be to function in the meantime as an acolyte to his doctor. He learns to depend on the physician in sickness and in health. He turns into a life-long patient. more...

The myth of unending consumption has taken the place of the belief in life everlasting. more...

Latin America can no longer tolerate being a haven for United States liberals who cannot make their point at home, an outlet for apostles too "apostolic" to find their vocation as competent professionals within their own community. The hardware salesman threatens to dump second-rate imitations of parishes, schools and catechisms - out-moded even in the United States - all around the continent. The traveling escapist threatens further to confuse a foreign world with his superficial protests, which are not viable even at home. more...

Schools teach the need to be taught. more...

Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being "with it," yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation. more...

The re-establishment of an ecological balance depends on the ability of society to counteract the progressive materialization of values. The ecological balance cannot be re-established unless we recognize again that only persons have ends and only persons can work towards them. more...

School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is. more...

The most important thing you learn at school is that learning only happens by being taught. more...

To hell with the future. It's a man-eating idol. more...

Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends upon knowing that secret; that secrets can only be known in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets. An individual with a schooled mind conceives of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessible only to those who carry the proper tags. more...

The household has become the place where the consumption of wages takes place more...

Societies in which most people depend for most of their goods and services on the personal whim, kindness, or skill of another are called underdeveloped, while those in which living has been transformed into a process of ordering from an all-encompassing store catalogue are called advanced. more...

School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught. Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness attractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition. more...

The more time, toil, and sacrifice spent by a population in producing medicine as a commodity, the larger will be the by-product, namely, the fallacy that society has a supply of health locked away which can be mined and marketed. more...

The State shall make no law with respect to the establishment of education. more...

What kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn? more...

Neither revolution nor reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into the future so that we can take the next step... If you want to change a society, then you have to tell an alternative story. more...

We cannot go beyond the consumer society unless we first understand that obligatory public schools inevitably reproduce such a society, no matter what is taught in them. more...

Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments show that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical. The political process breaks down, because people cease to be able to govern themselves; they demand to be managed. more...

I believe that if something like a political life is to remain for us in this world of technology, then it begins with friendship. Therefore my task is to cultivate disciplined, self-denying, careful, tasteful friendships. more...

Most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives. more...

In schools, including universities, most resources are spent to purchase the time and motivation of a limited number of people to take up predetermined problems in a ritually defined setting. The most radical alternative to school would be a network or service which gave each man the same opportunity to share his current concern with others motivated by the same concern. more...

I don't want to die of some disease I want to die of death more...

The knowledge of the individual citizen is of less value than the knowledge of science. The former is the opinion of individuals. It is merely subjective and is excluded from policies. The latter is objective - defined by science and promulgated by expert spokesmen. This objective knowledge is viewed as a commodity which can be refined... and fed into a process, now called decision-making. This new mythology of governance by the manipulation of knowledge-stock inevitably erodes reliance on government by people. more...

It is really an alienation to believe that learning is the result of teaching. more...

The pupil's imagination is 'schooled' to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. more...

Man must choose whether to be rich in things or in the freedom to use them. more...

We can only live the changes we wish to see: we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create. We must break the obsolete social and economic systems that divide the world between the over-privileged and the under-privileged. Each of us, whether government leader or protester, business executive or worker, professor or student, share a common guilt. more...

We have failed...through our lack of responsible awareness...and thus added to suffering around the world. All of us are cripples-some physically, some mentally, some emotionally. We must, therefore, strive cooperatively to create a new world. There is no time left for destruction, for hatred, for anger. We must build, in hope and joy and celebration. more...

The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies. more...

The goals of development are always and everywhere stated in terms of consumer value packages standardized around the North Atlantic-and therefore always and everywhere imply more privileges for a few... Underdevelopment is the result of a state of mind common to both socialist and capitalist countries. Present development goals are neither desirable nor reasonable. Unfortunately antiimperialism is no antidote. more...

It takes more time and effort and delicacy to learn the silence of a people than to learn its sounds. Some people have a special gift for this. Perhaps this explains why some missionaries, notwithstanding their efforts, never come to speak properly, to communicate delicately through silences. Although they speak with the accent of natives they remain forever thousands of miles away. The learning of the grammar of silence is an art much more difficult to learn than the grammar of sounds. more...

Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn't organised to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals. more...

Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being with it, yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation. more...

Increasingly people live in an artifact and become artifacts themselves, feel satisfied, feel fit for that artifact insofar as they themselves have been manipulated. more...

The two of us haven't seen each other for a year now, and when we saw each other we bowed in front of each other. This very idea of bowing - you don't bow in front of a screen. It's made impossible, or very difficult, for people who constantly see non-persons on the screen. more...

I cannot come to be fully human unless I have received myself as a gift and accepted myself as a gift of somebody who has, as we say today, distorted me the way you distorted me by loving me. more...

I can choose. I have to choose. I have to make my mind up whom I will take into my arms, to whom I will lose myself, whom I will treat as that vis-a-vis, that face into which I look, which I lovingly touch with my fingering gaze, from whom I accept being who I am as a gift. more...

School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught. Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness attractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition. more...

The USDHEW calculates that 7% of all patients suffer compensable injuries while hospitalized .....One out of every five patients admitted to a typical research hospital acquires an iatrogenic (Caused by the treatment process) disease, one case in thirty leading to death. Half of these episodes result from complications of drug therapy; amazingly, one in ten come from diagnostic procedures. more...

Traditional society was more like a set of concentric circles of meaningful structures, while modern man must learn how to find meaning in many structures to which he is only marginally related. In the village, language and architecture and religion and work and family customs were consistent with one another, mutually explanatory and reinforcing. To grow into one implied a growth into others. more...

Culture makes pain tolerable by interpreting its necessity; only pain perceived as curable is intolerable. more...


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