Quotations about   mutuality

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Why weren’t these problems obvious to the Maya kings, who could surely see their forests vanishing and their hills becoming eroded? Part of the reason was that the kings were able to insulate themselves from problems afflicting the rest of society. By extracting wealth from commoners, they could remain well fed while everyone else was slowly starving. What’s more, the kings were occupied with their own power struggles. They had to concentrate on fighting one another and keeping up their images through ostentatious displays of wealth. By insulating themselves in the short run from the problems of society, the elite merely bought themselves the privilege of being among the last to starve.

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond (b. 1937) American geographer, historian, ornithologist, author
“The Ends of the World as We Know Them,” New York Times (1 Jan 2005)
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Added on 21-Jun-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-22
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For that is an absurd position which is taken by some people, who say that they will not rob a parent or a brother for their own gain, but that their relation to the rest of their fellow-citizens is quite another thing. Such people contend in essence that they are bound to their fellow-citizens by no mutual obligations, social ties, or common interests. This attitude demolishes the whole structure of civil society.

[Nam illud quidem absurdum est, quod quidam dicunt, parenti se aut fratri nihil detracturos sui commodi causa, aliam rationem esse civium reliquorum. Hi sibi nihil iuris, nullam societatem communis utilitatis causa statuunt esse cum civibus, quae sententia omnem societatem distrahit civitatis.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 3, ch. 6 / sec. 28 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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(Source (Latin)). Alternate translation:

For as to what is usually said by some men, that they would not take anything away from a father or brother for their own advantage, but that there is not the same reason for their ordinary citizens, it is foolish and absurd: for they thrust themselves out from partaking of any privileges, and from joining in common with the rest of their citizens, for the public good; an opinion that strikes at the very root and foundation of all civil societies.
[tr. Cockman (1699)]

That indeed is absurd, which some men avow, that for their own advantage they would take nothing from a parent or a brother; but that the case of other citizens is different. These men, stablish with their fellow-citizens no common right, no society for common advantage; an opinion that unhinges the whole internal intercourse of a state.
[tr. McCartney (1798)]

For that which some say, that they would take nothing wrongfully, for the sake of their own advantage, from a parent or brother, but that the case is different with other citizens, is indeed absurd. These establish the principle that they have nothing in the way of right, no society with their fellow citizens, for the sake fo the common interest -- an option which tears asunder the whole social compact.
[tr. Edmonds (1865)]

For this is absurd indeed which some say, that they would take nothing from a parent or a brother for their own benefit, but that it is quite another thing with persons outside of one’s own family. These men disclaim all mutual right and partnership with their fellow-citizens for the common benefit, -- a state of feeling which dismembers the fellowship of the community.
[tr. Peabody (1883)]

It is absurd for people to say that they will not despoil a father or a brother for their own advantage but that fellow-citizens stand on quite a different footing. That is practically to assert that they are bound to their fellow-citizens neither by mutual obligations, social ties, nor common interests. But such a theory tears in pieces the whole fabric of civil society.
[tr. Gardiner (1899)]

The contention that some people advance is absurd, of course: they argue that they would not deprive a parent or brother of anything for their own advantage but that there is another standard applicable to all other citizens. These people do not submit themselves to any law or to any obligation to cooperate with fellow citizens for the common benefit. Their attitude destroys any cooperation within the city.
[tr. Edinger (1974)]

Added on 10-Mar-22 | Last updated 10-Mar-22
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Little friends may prove great friends.

Aesop (620?-560? BC) Legendary Greek storyteller
Fables [Aesopica], “The Lion and the Mouse” (6th C BC) [tr. Jacobs (1894)]
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Alternate translations:

  • "There is no creature so much below another but that he may have it in his power to return a good office." [tr. James (1848)]
  • "It is possible for even a Mouse to confer benefits on a Lion" [tr. Townsend (1887)]
Added on 23-Sep-21 | Last updated 23-Sep-21
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By virtue of exchange, one man’s prosperity is beneficial to all others.

Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) French philosopher, economist, politician
Harmonies of Political Economy, ch. 4, para. 110 (1850)
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Alternate translation: "In consequence of Exchange, the gain of each is the gain of all." [tr. Stirling]
Added on 1-Jul-21 | Last updated 1-Jul-21
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There is no such thing as a self-made man. Every businessman has used the vast American infrastructure, which the taxpayers paid for, to make his money. He did not make his money alone.

George Lakoff (b. 1941) American cognitive linguist and philosopher
Don’t Think of an Elephant! (2004)
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Added on 5-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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Love is the word used to label the sexual excitement of the young, the habituation of the middle-aged, and the mutual dependence of the old.

John Ciardi (1916-1986) American poet, writer, critic
(Attributed)
Added on 3-Jun-20 | Last updated 3-Jun-20
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What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee.

[Τὸ τῷ σμήνει μὴ συμφέρον οὐδὲ τῇ μελίσσῃ συμφέρει.]

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) Roman emperor (161-180), Stoic philosopher
Meditations, Book 6, #54 (2nd C AD)

Original here. Alt. trans.:
  • "That which is not good for the beehive, cannot be good for the bee." [tr. Casaubon (1634); numbered 49]
  • "What does not benefit the hive is no benefit to the bee." [tr. Farquharson (1944)]
  • "That which is not for the interest of the whole swarm is not for the interest of the bee." [tr. Collier]
  • "What injures the hive injures the bee." [tr. Hays (2002)]
  • "What is not good for the hive is not good for the bee."
Added on 17-Apr-20 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Loving Your Enemies,” sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery (17 Nov 1957)
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Added on 30-Sep-16 | Last updated 30-Sep-16
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He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means “I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve”. It’s easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
I, Asimov: A Memoir (1994)
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No man is born unto himself alone;
Who lives unto himself, he lives to none.

Francis Quarles (1592-1644) English poet
Esther, Sec. 1, Meditation 1 (1621)
Added on 16-May-16 | Last updated 16-May-16
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Great men are rarely isolated mountain peaks; they are the summits of ranges.

Higginson - great men - wist_info

Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) American minister, author, abolitionist, soldier
“A Plea for Culture,” Atlantic Essays (1871)
Added on 28-Oct-15 | Last updated 28-Oct-15
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We believe we must be the family of America, recognizing that at the heart of the matter we are bound one to another, that the problems of a retired school teacher in Duluth are our problems; that the future of the child in Buffalo is our future; that the struggle of a disabled man in Boston to survive and live decently is our struggle; that the hunger of a woman in Little Rock is our hunger; that the failure anywhere to provide what reasonably we might, to avoid pain, is our failure.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention (16 Jul 1984)
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We believe in a single fundamental idea that describes better than most textbooks and any speech that I could write what a proper government should be: the idea of family, mutuality, the sharing of benefits and burdens for the good of all, feeling one another’s pain, sharing one another’s blessings — reasonably, honestly, fairly, without respect to race, or sex, or geography, or political affiliation.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
Commencement Address, Iona College (3 Jun 1984)
Added on 22-Jun-15 | Last updated 22-Jun-15
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If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands, but a continent that joins to them.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Goodness, and Goodness of Nature,” Essays, No. 13 (1625)
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Added on 13-May-09 | Last updated 25-Mar-22
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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).
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Mar-20
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