Quotations about:
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Perhaps people with my point of view are in a minority today. But the fact of being in a minority does not, in itself, trouble me, nor do I see anything un-American about being in a minority position. Quite the contrary. The minority views of one day are frequently the majority views of another, and in the possibility of this being so rests all our potentiality for progress.

Jane Jacobs
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) American-Canadian journalist, author, urban theorist, activist
“No Virtue in Meek Conformity” (1952)
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Foreword to her response to a State Department Loyalty Security Board interrogatory (1952-03-25). Reprinted in Vital Little Plans (2016).
 
Added on 29-Jan-24 | Last updated 29-Jan-24
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When the whole world is running towards a cliff, he who is running in the opposite direction appears to have lost his mind.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer, literary scholar, lay theologian [Clive Staples Lewis]
(Spurious)

Popularly attributed to Lewis, but no citation is ever given, and it is not found in searches of his written works.
 
Added on 6-Nov-23 | Last updated 6-Nov-23
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Today, as in ages past, we are not without tragic proof that the exalted power of some governments to punish manufactured crime dictatorially is the handmaid of tyranny. Under our constitutional system, courts stand against any winds that blow as havens of refuge for those who might otherwise suffer because they are helpless, weak, outnumbered, or because they are non-conforming victims of prejudice and public excitement. Due process of law, preserved for all by our Constitution, commands that no such practice as that disclosed by this record shall send any accused to his death. No higher duty, no more solemn responsibility, rests upon this Court, than that of translating into living law and maintaining this constitutional shield deliberately planned and inscribed for the benefit of every human being subject to our Constitution — of whatever race, creed or persuasion.

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227, 241 (1940) [majority opinion]
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Finding coerced confessions that led to the death penalty conviction of four Black men in Florida were a violation of the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment.
 
Added on 29-Sep-22 | Last updated 29-Sep-22
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Do nine tenants in a residential building have the right to place the dumpsters in front of the tenth tenant’s door? Seemingly, they enjoy a clear majority. But the role of democracy is not only to assure the governance of the majority, but to protect the rights of the minority.

Yoel Esteron
Yoel Esteron (b. 1956) Israeli journalist, publisher
“Who’s for destroying democracy?” Ynetnews (14 Feb 2016)
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Added on 1-Feb-22 | Last updated 11-Feb-22
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Many of our moral and political policies are designed to preempt what we know to be the worst features of human nature. The checks and balances in a democracy, for instance, were invented in explicit recognition of the fact that human leaders will always be tempted to arrogate power to themselves. Likewise, our sensitivity to racism comes from an awareness that groups of humans, left to their own devices, are apt to discriminate and oppress other groups, often in ugly ways. History also tells us that a desire to enforce dogma and suppress heretics is a recurring human weakness, one that has led to recurring waves of gruesome oppression and violence. A recognition that there is a bit of Torquemada in everyone should make us wary of any attempt to enforce a consensus or demonize those who challenge it.

Steven Pinker (b. 1954) Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, author
Introduction to John Brockman (ed.), What is Your Dangerous Idea? (2007)
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Added on 11-Nov-21 | Last updated 11-Nov-21
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Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
(Spurious)

Frequently attributed to Franklin, but not found in his writing (and the word "lunch" dates only back to the 1820s). The phrase is only found in sources dating back to the early 1990s, e.g.,

  • "Democracy is like two wolves and a lamb deciding on what they want for dinner." [Shelby Foote in Ken Burns, Civil War (1990)]
  • "Democracy has been described as four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch." [Los Angeles Times (25 Nov 1990)]
  • "Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote." [Marvin Simkin, Los Angeles Times (1992)]
  • "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." [James Bovard, Lost Rights, "Conclusion" (1994)]
 
Added on 14-Sep-21 | Last updated 14-Sep-21
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By the theory of our Government majorities rule, but this right is not an arbitrary or unlimited one. It is a right to be exercised in subordination to the Constitution and in conformity to it. One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights. Minorities have a right to appeal to the Constitution as a shield against such oppression.

James K. Polk (1795-1849) American lawyer, politician, US President (1845-1849)
Inaugural Address (4 Mar 1845)
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Added on 21-Oct-20 | Last updated 28-Oct-20
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No honest, clear-headed man, however great a lover of popular government, can deny that the unbridled expression of the majority of a community converted hastily into law or action would sometimes make a government tyrannical and cruel. Constitutions are checks upon the hasty action of the majority. They are the self-imposed restraints of a whole people upon a majority of them to secure sober action and a respect for the rights of the minority.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) US President (1909-13) and Chief Justice (1921-1930)
Veto Statement for the Arizona Enabling Act (15 Aug 1911)
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Taft vetoed the admission of Arizona to the US with a state constitution that allowed popular recall of judges.
 
Added on 30-Mar-20 | Last updated 30-Mar-20
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We must not seek to use our emerging freedom and our growing power to do the same thing to the white minority that has been done to us for so many centuries. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man. We must not become victimized with a philosophy of black supremacy. God is not interested merely in freeing black men and brown men and yellow men, but God is interested in freeing the whole human race.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“Give Us the Ballot,” Speech, Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, Washington, DC (1957)
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Added on 16-Jun-17 | Last updated 16-Jun-17
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The truth is always in the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because as a rule the minority is made up of those who actually have an opinion, while the strength of the majority is illusory, formed of that crowd which has no opinion — and which therefore the next moment (when it becomes clear that the minority is the stronger) adopts the latter’s opinion, which now is in the majority, i.e., becomes rubbish by having the whole retinue and numerousness on its side, while the truth is again in a new minority.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Journal (1850)
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Added on 8-Feb-17 | Last updated 8-Feb-17
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“Terrorism” is what we call the violence of the weak, and we condemn it; “war” is what we call the violence of the strong, and we glorify it.

harris-violence-of-the-weak-strong-wist_info-quote

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
“Nations Should Submit to the Rule of Law,” Clearing the Ground (1986)
 
Added on 19-Dec-16 | Last updated 19-Dec-16
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I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows it. The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don’t dare to assert themselves. Think of it! One kind-hearted creature spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally helps in iniquities which revolt both of them. Speaking as an expert, I know that ninety-nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the killing of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago. And I know that even to-day, after ages of transmitted prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches and wants them killed. Some day a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise — perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do it — and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Mysterious Stranger, ch. 9 (1916)
 
Added on 5-May-16 | Last updated 5-May-16
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There’s a brave fellow! There’s a man of pluck!
A man who’s not afraid to say his say,
Though a whole town’s against him.

Longfellow - brave pluck - wist_info quote

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
John Endicott, Act 2, sc. 2 (1868)
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Added on 8-Jan-16 | Last updated 8-Jan-16
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A necessary quality for the attainment of individuality is the ability to tolerate some degree of loneliness in the sense of independent adherence to values that those around you will not support.

D. W. Harding (1906-1993) British psychologist and literary critic [Denys Clement Wyatt Harding]
Social Psychology and Individual Values (1953)
 
Added on 13-Oct-15 | Last updated 13-Oct-15
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True liberty shows itself to best advantage in protecting the rights of others, and especially of minorities.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) American politician, statesman, conservationist, writer, US President (1901-1909)
“Biological Analogies in History,” Romanes Lecture, Oxford University (7 Jun 1910)
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Added on 19-Aug-15 | Last updated 19-Aug-15
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It is difficult for a majority to see, let alone sympathize with, a practice that discriminates against a minority. It’s not unlike trying to get a fish to understand the concept of water! It is simply the medium in which the fish resides, requiring no cognition of the water that supports it. Discrimination — not just individual, but systemic — is the “water” in which the majority swims, and unless something happens to bring that discrimination into the view and consciousness of the majority, nothing will change, because the majority hardly, if ever, notices it.

Gene Robinson (b. 1947) American Episcopal bishop
God Believes in Love (2012)
 
Added on 11-Dec-14 | Last updated 11-Dec-14
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I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.

Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) American boxer, activist [b. Cassius Clay]
Quoted in New York Times (21 Nov 1965)
 
Added on 28-Oct-14 | Last updated 28-Oct-14
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Personally I think that being a minority is actually a strength. We have to be a leavening of life and love and the leavening is infinitely smaller than the mass of fruits, flowers and trees that are born out of it.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
“How the Church Will Change,” interview with Eugenio Scalfari, La Repubblica (1 Oct 2013) [tr. K Wallace]
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Added on 22-Oct-14 | Last updated 22-Oct-14
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About one-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.

Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968) American politician
Speech, University of Pennsylvania (6 May 1964)
 
Added on 29-Sep-14 | Last updated 29-Sep-14
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All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Inaugural Address (1801-03-14)
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Added on 4-Apr-13 | Last updated 1-Jul-24
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Under our constitutional system, courts stand against any winds that blow as havens of refuge for those who might otherwise suffer because they are helpless, weak, outnumbered, or because they are nonconforming victims of prejudice and public excitement. Due process of law, preserved for all by our Constitution, commands that no such practice as that disclosed by this record shall send any accused to his death. No higher duty, no more solemn responsibility, rests upon this Court than that of translating into living law and maintaining this constitutional shield deliberately planned and inscribed for the benefit of every human being subject to our Constitution — of whatever race, creed or persuasion.

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
Chambers v. Florida, 309 U.S. 227, 241 (1940) [majority opinion]
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Overturning a state murder conviction obtained through a coerced confession.
 
Added on 8-Aug-12 | Last updated 20-Oct-22
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Power is always gradually stealing away from the many to the few because the few are more vigilant and consistent.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Adventurer, # 45 (10 Apr 1753)
 
Added on 21-May-12 | Last updated 2-May-14
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The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
Strength to Love, ch. 2 “Transformed Nonconformist,” sec. 3 (1963)
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Added on 24-Jan-12 | Last updated 16-Jan-23
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Heresy is what the minority believe; it is the name given by the powerful to the doctrine of the weak.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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Added on 22-Oct-10 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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If all mankind, minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) English philosopher and economist
On Liberty, ch. 2 “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion” (1859)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Oct-23
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Since freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure, it is important that the government should have the approval of the great majority of the population and should deal with discontented minorities, wherever possible, in a manner calculated to allay their discontent. A government must possess force, but cannot be a satisfactory government unless force is seldom necessary.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Freedom and Government,” in Ruth Nanda Anshen, ed., Freedom: Its Meaning (1940)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Apr-24
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Candy smiled at me a little. “Look,” she said. “You’re a good guy. I know you care about me, but you’re a white male, you can’t understand a minority situation. It’s not your fault.”

[…] When the beer came, I drank about a quarter of it and said to Candy, “Extend that logic, and we eventually have to decide that no one can understand anyone. Maybe the matter of understanding has been overrated. Maybe I don’t have to understand your situation to sympathize with it, to help you alter it, to be on your side. I’ve never experienced starvation either, but I’m opposed to it. When I encounter it, I try to alleviate it. I sympathize with its victims. The question of whether I understand it doesn’t arise.”

She shook her head. “That’s different,” she said.

“Maybe it isn’t. Maybe civilization is possible, if at all, only because people can care about conditions they haven’t experienced. Maybe you need understanding like a fish needs a bicycle.”

“You’re quite thoughtful,” she said, “for a man your size.”

“You’ve never been my size,” I said. “You wouldn’t understand.”

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
A Savage Place, ch. 12 (1981)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Nov-20
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Let’s never forget that we ALL have aspects about us which could cause us to find ourselves on the sharp-edged side of the razorwired fence should the winds of mass hysteria, whipped up from public opinion by demagogues, shift.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Bruce Little, Belief-L
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 13-Apr-14
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My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965) American diplomat, statesman
Speech, Detroit (7 Oct 1952)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Jul-20
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