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    truth to power


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We should keep silent about those in power; to speak well of them almost implies flattery; to speak ill of them while they are alive is dangerous, and when they are dead is cowardly.

[L’on doit se taire sur les puissants: il y a presque toujours de la flatterie à en dire du bien; il y a du péril à en dire du mal pendant qu’ils vivent, et de la lâcheté quand ils sont morts.]

Jean de La Bruyere
Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 9 “Of the Great [Des Grands],” § 56 (9.56) (1688) [tr. Stewart (1970)]
    (Source)

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The less we talk of the powerful, the better; what we say good of them, is often flattery: 'Tis dangerous to speak ill of 'em while they live, and villainous when they are dead.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

The less we talk of the Great and Powerful, the better; what good we say of them is often Flattery 'Tis dangerous to speak ill of them while they are alive, and villainous when dead.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

The less we talk of the Great and Powerful, the better; what good we say of them is often Flattery: It is dangerous to speak of of them while living, it is base to insult over them when dead.
[Browne ed. (1752)]

The less we talk of the great and powerful the better; if we say any good of them, it is often almost flattery; it is dangerous to speak ill of them whilst they are alive, and cowardly when they are dead.
[tr. Van Laun (1885)]

 
Added on 2-Jul-24 | Last updated 2-Jul-24
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More quotes by La Bruyere, Jean de

Doom for the man who founds his palace on anything but integrity, his upstairs rooms on anything but honesty, who makes his fellow man work for nothing, without paying him his wages, who says, “I will build myself an imposing palace with spacious rooms upstairs”, who pierces lights in it, panels it with cedar, and paints it vermilion.
Are you more of a king for outrivalling others with cedar?
Your father ate and drank, like you, but he practised honesty and integrity, so all went well for him. He used to examine the cases of poor and needy, then all went well. Is not that what it means to know me? – it is Yahweh who speaks.
You on the other hand have eyes and heart for nothing but your own interests, for shedding innocent blood and perpetrating violence and oppression.

The Bible (The Old Testament) (14th - 2nd C BC) Judeo-Christian sacred scripture [Tanakh, Hebrew Bible], incl. the Apocrypha (Deuterocanonicals)
Jeremiah 22:13-17 [JB (1966)]
    (Source)

Speaking out against Jehoiakim, the King of Judah.

Alternate translations:

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.
[KJV (1611)]

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.
[GNT (1976)]

Disaster for the man who builds his house without uprightness, his upstairs rooms without fair judgement, who makes his fellow-man work for nothing, without paying him his wages, who says, "I shall build myself a spacious palace with airy upstairs rooms," who makes windows in it, panels it with cedar, and paints it vermilion.
Are you more of a king because of your passion for cedar? Did your father go hungry or thirsty? But he did what is just and upright, so all went well for him. He used to examine the cases of poor and needy, then all went well. Is not that what it means to know me? Yahweh demands.
You on the other hand have eyes and heart for nothing but your own interests, for shedding innocent blood and perpetrating violence and oppression.
[NJB (1985)]

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.
[NRSV (1989 ed.)]

Ha! He who builds his house with unfairness
And his upper chambers with injustice,
Who makes his neighbors work without pay
And does not give them their wages,
Who thinks: I will build me a vast palace
With spacious upper chambers,
Provided with windows,
Paneled in cedar,
Painted with vermilion!
Do you think you are more a king
Because you compete in cedar?
Your father ate and drank
And dispensed justice and equity --
Then all went well with him.
He upheld the rights of the poor and needy --
Then all was well.
That is truly heeding Me
-- declares GOD.
But your eyes and your mind are only
On ill-gotten gains,
On shedding the blood of the innocent,
On committing fraud and violence.
[RJPS (2023 ed.)]

 
Added on 26-Oct-18 | Last updated 14-Nov-23
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More quotes by Bible, vol. 1, Old Testament

I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats — any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death — then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer in the circus with his whip, not the prophet who sacrificed himself. But don’t you see, this is just the point — what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but an inward music: the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the powerful attraction of its example.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator
Doctor Zhivago [До́ктор Жива́го], Part 1, ch. 2 “A Girl from a Different World” [Nikolai] (1955) [tr. Hayward & Harari (1958), US ed.]
    (Source)

Alternate translations:

I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats -- any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death -- then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer in the circus with his whip, not the self-sacrificing preacher. But don’t you see, this is just the point -- what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but an inward music: the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the attraction of its example.
[tr. Hayward & Harari (1958), UK ed.]

I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats -- any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death -- then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer in the circus with his whip, not the prophet who sacrificed himself. But this is just the point -- what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel, but an inward music -- the irresistible power of unarmed truth.
[tr. Hayward & Harrai (1958); edited version quoted by Ronald Reagan, Moscow State University (1988-05-31)]

I think that if the beast dormant in man could be stopped by the threat of, whatever, the lockup or requital beyond the grave, the highest emblem of mankind would be a lion tamer with his whip, and not the preacher who sacrifices himself. But the point is precisely this, that for centuries man has been raised above the animals and borne aloft not by the rod, but by music: the irresistibility of the unarmed truth, the attraction of its example.
[tr. Pevear & Volokhonsky (2010), "A Girl from a Different Circle"]

 
Added on 6-Mar-14 | Last updated 23-Apr-24
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There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil.

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) American journalist and author
“Journalism and the Higher Law,” Liberty and the News (1920)
    (Source)

See Rabelais.
 
Added on 6-Apr-11 | Last updated 22-Nov-21
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Speak the truth and shame the Devil.

François Rabelais (1494-1553) French writer, humanist, doctor
Le Quart-Livre des faicts et dicts héroïques du bon Pantagruel, Prolog (1552)
 
Added on 13-Sep-07 | Last updated 19-Apr-18
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If there is one thing upon this earth that mankind love and admire better than another, it is a brave man — it is the man who dares to look the devil in the face and tell him he is a devil.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Quoted in The Phrenological Journal (Dec 1881).
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Nov-20
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