Quotations about   passivity

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I was waiting for
something extraordinary to
happen

but as the years wasted on
nothing ever did unless I
caused it

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
“two kinds of hell” (c. 1990)
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While this sounds motivational, in the context of the poem, the "extraordinary" things (bar fights, dalliances) always end up poorly.

First published in Third Lung Review, #8 (1992); collected in an edited version in The People Look Like Flowers at Last (2007).
Added on 13-Oct-21 | Last updated 13-Oct-21
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In the face of evil, detachment is a dubious virtue.

Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison (1934-2002) American journalist, essayist, memoirist
“Budapest, Winter 1989,” The Astonishing World (1992)
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Added on 3-Aug-21 | Last updated 3-Aug-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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A man may hear a thousand lectures, and read a thousand volumes, and be at the end of the process very much where he was, as regards knowledge. Something more than merely admitting it in a negative way into the mind is necessary, if it is to remain there. It must not be passively received, but actually and actively entered into, embraced, mastered. The mind must go half-way to meet what comes to it from without.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) English prelate, Catholic Cardinal, theologian
The Idea of a University, Lecture 9 “Discipline of Mind,” sec. 4 (1852)
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Added on 16-Jun-20 | Last updated 16-Jun-20
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A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) Lebanese-American poet, writer, painter [Gibran Khalil Gibran]
The Voice of the Master, Part 2, ch. 8 (1960)
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See Pope.
Added on 2-Oct-17 | Last updated 6-Oct-20
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I don’t think.
I don’t know.
I don’t care.
I am too busy.
I leave well enough alone.
I have no time to read and find out.
I am not interested.

William J. H. Boetcker (1873-1962) German-American religious leader, author, public speaker [William John Henry Boetcker]
“Seven National Crimes”
Added on 28-Mar-17 | Last updated 28-Mar-17
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Reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“What Life Means to Einstein,” Interview with G. Viereck, Saturday Evening Post (26 Oct 1929)
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Reprinted in George Sylvester Viereck, Glimpses of the Great (1930).
Added on 28-Jul-16 | Last updated 24-Feb-21
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I know that we will be the sufferers if we let great wrongs occur without exerting ourselves to correct them.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
“My Day” (13 Aug 1943)
Added on 14-Jan-15 | Last updated 14-Jan-15
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He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian artist, engineer, scientist
Note-books (1508-1518)
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It is always easier to hear an insult and not retaliate than have the courage to fight back against someone stronger than yourself; we can always say we’re not hurt by the stones others throw at us, and it’s only at night — when we’re alone and our wife or our husband or our school friend is asleep — that we can silently grieve over our own cowardice.

Paulo Coelho (b. 1947) Brazilian spiritual writer
The Devil and Miss Prym (2000)
Added on 14-Mar-13 | Last updated 3-Feb-20
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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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Added on 6-Dec-11 | Last updated 4-Jul-17
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Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference,
indifference between life and death.

Wiesel - indifference - wist_info quote

Elie Wiesel (b. 1928) Romanian-American novelist, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate.
“One Must Not Forget,” interview by Alvin P. Sanoff, US News & World Report (27 Oct 1986)

See also Nietzsche.
Added on 30-Jul-09 | Last updated 16-Sep-20
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No one man can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.

Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) American journalist
See It Now (7 Mar 1954)
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Comment to the production team before the episode on Senator Joseph R McCarthy’s Communist witch hunt.
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