Quotations about   injustice

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Women are stripped to the skin in the presence of leering, white-skinned, black-hearted brutes and lashed into insensibility and strangled to death from the limbs of trees. A girl child of fifteen years was lynched recently by these brutal bullies. Where has justice fled? The eloquence of Wendell Phillips is silent now. John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave. But will his spirit lie there moldering, too? Brutes, inhuman monsters — you heartless brutes — you whom nature forms by molding you in it, deceive not yourselves by thinking that another John Brown will not arise.

Lucy Parsons
Lucy Parsons (1851-1942) American labor organizer, anarchist, orator [a.k.a. Lucy Gonzalez]
“Southern Lynching” (Apr 1892)
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Added on 14-Apr-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Because we have sought to cover up past evil, though it still persists, we have been powerless to check the new evil of today. Evil unchecked grows, evil tolerated poisons the whole system. And because we have tolerated our past and present evils, international affairs are poisoned and law and justice have disappeared from them.

Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) Indian nationalist leader, politician, statesman, author
“The Bombing of Open Towns,” speech, International Peace Campaign Conference, Paris (24 Jul 1938)
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Nehru was comparing rising fascism to colonial imperialism, and the bombings of cities in Spain and China to ongoing British bombing of villages in the North-West Frontier of India. Collected in The Unity of India : Collected Writings, 1937-1940 (1942).
Added on 21-Feb-22 | Last updated 21-Feb-22
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What is blasphemy? I will give you a definition; I will give you my thought upon this subject. What is real blasphemy?

To live on the unpaid labor of other men — that is blasphemy.

To enslave your fellow-man, to put chains upon his body — that is blasphemy.

To enslave the minds of men, to put manacles upon the brain, padlocks upon the lips — that is blasphemy.

To deny what you believe to be true, to admit to be true what you believe to be a lie — that is blasphemy.

To strike the weak and unprotected, in order that you may gain the applause of the ignorant and superstitious mob — that is blasphemy.

To persecute the intelligent few, at the command of the ignorant many — that is blasphemy.

To forge chains, to build dungeons, for your honest fellow-men — that is blasphemy.

To pollute the souls of children with the dogma of eternal pain — that is blasphemy.

To violate your conscience — that is blasphemy.

The jury that gives an unjust verdict, and the judge who pronounces an unjust sentence, are blasphemers.

The man who bows to public opinion against his better judgment and against his honest conviction, is a blasphemer.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech to the Jury, Trial of C. B. Reynolds for Blasphemy, Morristown, New Jersey (May 1887)
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Added on 13-Oct-21 | Last updated 13-Oct-21
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It is not pointless to acquire wealth but it is more evil than anything to get it from injustice.

[Χρήματα πορίζειν μὲν οὐκ ἀχρεῖον, ἐξ ἀδικίης δὲ πάντων κάκιον.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 78 (Diels) [tr. @sententiq (2018)]
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Original Greek. Diels citation "78. (74 N.) DEMOKRATES. 43."; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium 4, 31, 21. Bakewell lists this under "The Golden Sayings of Democritus." Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter. Alternate translations:

  • "Making money is not without its value, but nothing is baser than to make it by wrong-doing." [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
  • "To make money is not without use, but if it comes from wrong-doing, nothing is worse." [tr. Freeman (1948)]
Added on 27-Apr-21 | Last updated 27-Apr-21
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As citizens, we must prevent wrongdoing because the world in which we all live, wrong-doer, wrong sufferer and spectator, is at stake.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
The Life of the Mind (1977)
Added on 25-Mar-21 | Last updated 25-Mar-21
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There are two kinds of injustice — the one, on the part of those who inflict wrong, the other on the part of those who, when they can, do not shield from wrong those upon whom it is being inflicted. For he who, under the influence of anger or some other passion, wrongfully assaults another seems, as it were, to be laying violent hands upon a comrade; but he who does not prevent or oppose wrong, if he can, is just as guilty of wrong as if he deserted his parents or his friends or his country.

[Sed iniustitiae genera duo sunt, unum eorum, qui inferunt, alterum eorum, qui ab iis, quibus infertur, si possunt, non propulsant iniuriam. Nam qui iniuste impetum in quempiam facit aut ira aut aliqua perturbatione incitatus, is quasi manus afferre videtur socio; qui autem non defendit nec obsistit, si potest, iniuriae, tam est in vitio, quam si parentes aut amicos aut patriam deserat.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 7 / sec. 23 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Alternate translations:

The vice that is opposite to justice is injustice, of which there are two sorts: the first consists in the actual doing an injury to another; the second, in tamely looking on while he is injured, and not helping and defending him though we are able: for he that injuriously falls on another, whether prompted by rage or other violent passion, does as it were leap at the throat of his companion; and he that refuses to help him when injured, and to ward off the wrong if it lies in his power, is as plainly guilty of baseness and and injustice as though he had deserted his father, his friends, or his native country.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

There are two kinds of injustice: Of the one, they are guilty who do an injury; of the other, they who, if they are able, do not defend those from injury to whom it is offered. For he who urged on by anger, or some violent passion, attempts to injure any man, lifts his hand against his brother' and he who interferes not to resist or repel the attempt, is as guilty as if he had deserted his parents, his friends, or his country.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

But there are two kinds of injustice; the first of those who offer an injury, the second of those who have in their power to avert an injury from those to whom it is offered, and yet do it not. For if a man, prompted either by anger or any sudden perturbation, unjustly assaults another man, such a one seems as it were to lay violent hands on one's ally; and the man who does not repel or withstand the injury, if he can, is as much to blame as if he deserted the cause of his parents, his friends, or his country.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

Of injustice there are two kinds, -- one, that of those who inflict injury; the other, that of those who do not, if they can, repel injury from those on whom it is inflicted. Moreover, he who, moved by anger or by some disturbance of mind, makes an unjust assault on any person, is as one who lays violent hands on a casual companion; while he who does not, if he can, ward off or resist the injury offered to another, is as much in fault as if he were to desert his parents, or his friends, or his country.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 22-Mar-21 | Last updated 22-Mar-21
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Injustice often arises also through chicanery, that is, through an over-subtle and even fraudulent construction of the law. This it is that gave rise to the now familiar saw, “More law, less justice.”

[Existunt etiam saepe iniuriae calumnia quadam et nimis callida sed malitiosa iuris interpretatione. Ex quo illud “summum ius summa iniuria” factum est iam tritum sermone proverbium.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 10 / sec. 33 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:


    But another great spring from which injuries arise, is some quirk or cavil, and an oversubtle and malicious interpretation of the laws; from whence that saying, "The height of justice is the height of roguery," is now become a daily and common proverb among us.
    [tr. Cockman (1699)]

    Injustice is often done by artful evasions, and from a too shrewd, but malicious interpretation of the laws. Hence the proverb, "the strictest justice is the greatest injury," has become quite familiar in conversation.
    [tr. McCartney (1798)]

    Very often wrongs arise through a quirk, and through a too artful but fraudulent construction of the law. Hence, "the rigour of law is the rigour of injustice," is a saying that has now passed into a proverb.
    [tr. Edmonds (1865)]

    There are, also, wrongs committed by a sort of chicanery, which consists in a too subtle, and thus fraudulent, interpretation of the right. Hence comes the saying: The extreme of right is the extreme of wrong.
    [tr. Peabody (1883)]

    A common form of injustice is chicanery, that is, an over-subtle, in fact a fraudulent construction of the law. Hence the hackneyed proverb: "The greatest right is the greatest wrong."
    [tr. Gardiner (1899)]

    A perversion of justice, some extremely clever but harmful interpretation of a statute, also is a frequent cause of wrongdoing. Hence we have the saying, "Extreme legality is the worst law," a proverb become a cliche by daily use.
    [tr. Edinger (1974)]

    See Terence.
Added on 26-Oct-20 | Last updated 1-Apr-22
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That men should pray and fight for their own freedom, and yet keep others in slavery, is certainly acting a very inconsistent, as well as unjust and, perhaps, impious part, but the history of mankind is filled with instances of human improprieties.

John Jay (1745-1829) American statesman, diplomat, abolitionist, politician, Chief Justice (1789-1795)
Letter to Rev. Doctor Price (27 Sep 1785)
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Added on 23-Sep-20 | Last updated 23-Sep-20
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We are the most unfair, not towards him whom we do not like, but toward him for whom we feel nothing at all.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
Thus Spoke Zarathustra [Also Sprach Zarathustra], Part 2, “Of the Compassionate [Von den Mitleidigen]” (1892) [tr. Hollingdale (1961)]
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I find it very difficult to enthuse

Over the current news.

Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens,

And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Everybody Tells Me Everything,” The Face Is Familiar (1940)
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Now the abuse of authority can be of two kinds. First, when what is commanded by the ruler is contrary to the purpose for which the ruler was appointed: for example, if some sinful act is commanded contrary to the virtue which the ruler is ordained to foster and preserve. In this case, not only is one not bound to obey the ruler, but one is bound not to obey him, as in the case of the holy martyrs who suffered death rather than obey the ungodly commands of tyrants.

Second, when what is demanded goes beyond what the order of authority can require: if, for example, a master were to exact a payment which a servant is not bound to give, or something of the kind. In this case the subject is not bound to obey; nor, however, is he bound not to obey.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard [Scriptum super libros Sententiarium], Book 2, dist. 44, quest. 2, art. 2 (1252-56) [tr. Dyson (2002)]
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Alt. trans. [Dawson]:
With regard to the abuse of authority, this also may come about in two ways. First, when what is ordered by an authority is opposed to the object for which that authority was constituted (if, for example, some sinful action is commanded or one which is contrary to virtue, when it is precisely for the protection and fostering of virtue that authority is instituted). In such a case, not only is there no obligation to obey the authority, but one is obliged to disobey it, as did the holy martyrs who suffered death rather than obey the impious commands of tyrants.

Secondly, when those who bear such authority command things which exceed the competence of such authority; as, for example, when a master demands payment from a servant which the latter is not bound to make, and other similar cases. In this instance the subject is free to obey or disobey.
Added on 9-Jun-20 | Last updated 9-Jun-20
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If everyone were clothed with integrity,
If every heart were just, frank, kindly,
The other virtues would be well-nigh useless,
Since their chief purpose is to make us bear with patience
The injustice of our fellows.

Si de probité tout était revêtu,
Si tous les cœurs était francs, justes et dociles,
La plupart des vertus nous seraient inutiles,
Puisqu’on en met l’usage à pouvoir sans ennui
Supporter dans nos droits l’injustice d’autrui.

Molière (1622-1673) French playwright, actor [stage name for Jean-Baptiste Poquelin]
Le Misanthrope, Act 5, sc. 1, l. 1564 (1666) [tr. Wormeley (1894)]
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Original French.

Alt. trans. [Page (1913)]
If everything were clothed in probity,
If all men's hearts were open, just, gentle,
Most of our virtues would be wholly useless,
Since we employ them now, in cheerfully
Enduring wrong, with right on our side.
Added on 23-May-20 | Last updated 23-May-20
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Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.

Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Amos 5:11-14
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Alt trans.:
  • [NRSV] "Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins -- you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said."
  • [GNT] "You have oppressed the poor and robbed them of their grain. And so you will not live in the fine stone houses you build or drink wine from the beautiful vineyards you plant. I know how terrible your sins are and how many crimes you have committed. You persecute good people, take bribes, and prevent the poor from getting justice in the courts. And so, keeping quiet in such evil times is the smart thing to do! Make it your aim to do what is right, not what is evil, so that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty really will be with you, as you claim he is."
  • [TJB] "Well then, since you have trampled on the poor man, extorting levies on his wheat -- those houses you have built of dressed stone, you will never live in them; and those precious vineyards you have planted, you will never drink their wine. For I know that your crimes are many, and your sins enormous: persecutors of the virtuous, blackmailers, turning away the needy at the city gate. No wonder the prudent man keeps silent, the times are so evil. Seek good and not evil so that you may live, and that Yahweh, God of Sabaoth, may really be with you as you claim he is."
Added on 18-Feb-20 | Last updated 18-Feb-20
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Acquitting the guilty convicts the judge.

[Iudex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur.]

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sentences [Sententiae], #296
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Motto of the Edinburgh Review. Alt. trans.:
  • "When the guilty man is let off, the judge stands condemned."
  • "The judge is condemned when the criminal is acquitted." [tr. Lyman (1856), #868]
There were multiple collections made of Publilius Syrus' Sententiae in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. This appears in all of them, but often with different line/sentence numbers, incl. #256 and #257.
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So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age — the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing children by physical and spiritual night — are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) French writer
Les Misérables, Preface (1862)
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Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, and does not give them their wages; who says, “I will build myself a spacious house with large upper rooms,” and who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar, and painting it with vermilion.

Are you a king because you compete in cedar?

Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him.

He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.

Is not this to know me? says the Lord.

But your eyes and heart are only on your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Jeremiah 22:13-17 (NRSV)
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Alt. trans.
  • KJV: "Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is cieled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him? He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord. But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it."
  • GNT: "Doomed is the one who builds his house by injustice and enlarges it by dishonesty; who makes his people work for nothing and does not pay their wages. Doomed is the one who says, 'I will build myself a mansion with spacious rooms upstairs.' So he puts windows in his house, panels it with cedar, and paints it red. Does it make you a better king if you build houses of cedar, finer than those of others? Your father enjoyed a full life. He was always just and fair, and he prospered in everything he did. He gave the poor a fair trial, and all went well with him. That is what it means to know the Lord. But you can only see your selfish interests; you kill the innocent and violently oppress your people. The Lord has spoken."
Added on 26-Oct-18 | Last updated 26-Oct-18
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There are three possible ways in which the church can act toward the state: in the first place, as has been said, it can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character as state, i.e., it can throw the state back on its responsibilities. Secondly, it can aid the victims of state action. The church has an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society, even if they do not belong to the Christian community. “Do good to all men.” In both these course of action, the church serves the free state in its free way, and at times when laws are changed the church may in no way withdraw itself from these two tasks.

The third possibility is not just to bandage the victims under the wheel, but to put a spoke in the wheel itself. Such action would be direct political action, and is only possible and required when the church sees the state fail in its function of creating law and order, i.e., when it sees the state unrestrainedly bring about too much or too little law and order.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) German Lutheran pastor, theologian, martyr
“The Church and the Jewish Question” (1933)
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On the need for Christian clergy to actively oppose the Nazi regime's persecution of Jews.
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Government was intended to suppress injustice, but it offers new occasions and temptations for the commission of it.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, “Summary of Principles” 2.4 (1793)
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People never move towards revolution; they are pushed towards it by intolerable injustices in the economic and social order under which they live.

Suzanne La Follette (1893-1983) American journalist, author, feminist
(Attributed)
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There is only one question which really matters: why do bad things happen to good people?

Harold S. Kushner (b. 1935) American author, rabbi
When Bad Things Happen to Good People, ch. 1 (1981)
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When once a social order is well established, no matter what injustice it involves, those who occupy a position of advantage are not long in coming to believe that it is the only possible and reasonable order.

Suzanne La Follette (1893-1983) American journalist, author, feminist
(Attributed)
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I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.

jones-stolen-a-railroad-wist_info-quote

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1860-1930) American labor leader [a.k.a. Mother Jones]
Speech (1903), in The Autobiography of Mother Jones, ch. 10 (1925)
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The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true desserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damnfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy. If these villains could be put down, he holds, he would at once become rich, powerful and eminent. Nine politicians out of every ten, of whatever party, live and have their being by promising to perform
this putting down. In brief, they are knaves who maintain themselves by preying on the idiotic vanities and pathetic hopes of half-wits.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (15 Jun 1936)
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Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
Speech on West India Emancipation (4 Aug 1857)
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At the bottom of every social problem we will find a social wrong.

Henry George (1839-1897) American economist
Social Problems, ch. 1 (1883)
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Wherever a Knave is not punished, an honest Man is laugh’d at.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Punishment,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (1750)
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We live in an age of Wrath. It is to be found in the terrorist, the kidnapper, the hijacker, the looter, and in the clenched fist of the demonstrator. […] When we ask what is their justification, they hardly have to give an answer, because our age finds it for them. They are angry. That is apparently enough. We justify their Wrath, so we justify their violence. If someone thinks that he has cause to be angry, he may act from his Anger as destructively as he sees fit. In fact, we have come close to the point of giving to Wrath an incontestable license to terrorize our society, just as an angry man may terrorize his family, but whereas we do not excuse the husband or the father, we extend our sympathy and understanding to the terrorist.

Henry Fairlie (1924-1990) British journalist and social critic
The Seven Deadly Sins Today (1978)
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Still, I do not mean to find fault with the accumulation of property, provided it hurts nobody, but unjust acquisition of it is always to be avoided.

[Nec vero rei familiaris amplificatio nemini nocens vituperanda est, sed fugienda semper iniuria est.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 8 / sec. 25 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Alt. trans.:
  • "Not but that a moderate desire of riches, and bettering a man's estate, so long as it abstains from oppressing of others, is allow enough; but a very great care ought alwys to be taken that we be not drawn to any injustice by it." [tr. Cockman (1699)]
  • "The enlargement of fortune is blameless, while no man suffers by its increase; but injury is forever to be avoided" [tr. McCartney (1798)]
  • "Nor indeed is the mere desire to improve one's private fortune, without injury to another, deserving of blame; but injustice must ever be avoided." [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
  • "Nor, indeed, is the increase of property, without harm to any one, to be blamed; but wrong-doing for the sake of gain is never to be tolerated." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 27-Sep-12 | Last updated 26-Oct-20
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What is blasphemy? I will give you a definition; I will give you my thought upon this subject. What is real blasphemy?
To live on the unpaid labor of other men — that is blasphemy.
To enslave your fellow-man, to put chains upon his body — that is blasphemy.
To enslave the minds of men, to put manacles upon the brain, padlocks upon the lips — that is blasphemy.
To deny what you believe to be true, to admit to be true what you believe to be a lie — that is blasphemy.
To strike the weak and unprotected, in order that you may gain the applause of the ignorant and superstitious mob — that is blasphemy.
To persecute the intelligent few, at the command of the ignorant many — that is blasphemy.
To forge chains, to build dungeons, for your honest fellow-men — that is blasphemy.
To pollute the souls of children with the dogma of eternal pain — that is blasphemy.
To violate your conscience — that is blasphemy.
The jury that gives an unjust verdict, and the judge who pronounces an unjust sentence, are blasphemers.
The man who bows to public opinion against his better judgment and against his honest conviction, is a blasphemer.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Trial of C.B. Reynolds for blasphemy (May 1887)
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To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. The oppressed must never allow the conscience of the oppressor to slumber. Religion reminds every man that he is his brother’s keeper. To accept injustice or segregation passively is to say to the oppressor that his actions are morally right. It is a way of allowing his conscience to fall asleep. At this moment the oppressed fails to be his brother’s keeper. So acquiescence — while often the easier way — is not the moral way. It is the way of the coward.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Stride Toward Freedom, ch. 11 “Three Ways of Meeting Oppression” (1958)
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More quotes by King, Martin Luther

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Desmond Tutu (1931-2021) South African cleric, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Nobel Laureate
(Attributed)
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Justice without might is helpless; might without justice is tyrannical.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) French scientist and philosopher
Pensées, #298 (1670) [tr. Trotter (1931)]
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Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of reckoning,
when disaster comes from afar?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your riches?

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Isaiah 10:1-3 (NIV)

Alt. trans:
  • GNB: "You are doomed! You make unjust laws that oppress my people. That is how you keep the poor from having their rights and from getting justice. That is how you take the property that belongs to widows and orphans. What will you do when God punishes you? What will you do when he brings disaster on you from a distant country? Where will you run to find help? Where will you hide your wealth?"
  • KJV: "Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless! And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far? to whom will ye flee for help? and where will ye leave your glory?"
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There is but one blasphemy, and that is injustice.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Lecture, Chicago (20 Sep 1880)
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To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) English philosopher
Leviathan, Part 1, ch. 13 (1651)
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Extreme law is often extreme injustice.

[Ius summum saepe summa malitia est.]

Terence (186?-159 BC) African-Roman dramatist [Publius Terentius Afer]
Heauton Timoroumenos [The Self-Tormentor], Act 4, sc. 5, l. 48 (l. 796)

Alternate translations:
  • "The highest law is often the greatest wrong."
  • "Extreme justice is often extreme malice."
  • "Rigorous law is often rigorous injustice."
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Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963)
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Added on 19-Jun-09 | Last updated 19-Jan-15
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There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot.

Derek Bok (b. 1930) American lawyer, educator
Report to Harvard Board of Overseers (21 Apr 1983)
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Injustice in this world is not something comparative; the wrong is deep, clear, and absolute in each private fate.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, vol. 2 “Reason in Society,” ch. 4 “The Aristocratic Ideal” (1905-06)
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Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
“Reflections on the Revolution in France” (1790)
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“Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature — that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance — and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.”
“No, I wouldn’t consent,” said Alyosha softly.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) Russian novelist
The Brothers Karamazov, Part 2, book 5, ch. 4 [Ivan] (1880) [tr. Garnett (1912)]
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Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963)
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Another phrase King used on repeated occasions, e.g., "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Therefore, no American can afford to be apathetic about the problem of racial justice. It is a problem that meets every man at his front door" -- "The Rising Tide of Racial Consciousness," Speech, National Urban League, New York (6 Sep 1960).
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In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Letter from Birmingham Jail (16 Apr 1963)
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I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) American military leader, US President (1869-77)
Inaugural Address
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Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
Letter (23 Jan 1861)
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