Tuesday, November 24, 2015

According To Experts Evil Wins When Good People Do Nothing

Yesterday I blogged about the fact that Before Facebook I Had No Idea How Scarily Stupid The Racists Are.

Some of the reaction to that blogging got me thinking that while bigoted racists are a vile disgusting sub-set of humanity, those who collaborate with bigoted racists may be even worse.

I think that to be a bigot and a racist you have to be at the low end of the IQ scale.

I have known no intelligent, educated people who were blatantly bigoted and racist.

I have known some intelligent, educated people who collaborate with racist bigots, rationalizing doing so in ways which make no sense to me.

Thinking about this had me thinking of that quote one hears fairly frequently about evil people. To get the quote right I started to enter into the Google search window "For Evil to...."  and then Google filled in the rest.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

That's the quote I was looking for. What I did not know before looking for this quote was its origin and its many variations.

It is the Irish statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke who, in 1770, is credited with first expressing this truism, writing, "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

Edmund Burke's original is more poetic in the way the idea is expressed, than its later permutations.

Almost a century later, in 1867, British political theorist John Stuart Mill gave a speech in which part of what he said was, "Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing."

And then, again almost a century later, in 1961, an American president named John F. Kennedy, in a speech to the Canadian Parliament, credited Edmund Burke for the quotation, but used the modern version, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

As for Albert Einstein, and the version of the Burke quote that particular genius is quoted as uttering above, that is not a version which Einstein is thought to have said. What Einstein is believed to have actually said, in a tribute to Pablo Casals, was, "The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it."

So, what lesson do we glean from this history lesson?


1 comment:

Gar said...

The difficulty is in defining it as evil. After reading your post yesterday and followed by the one today, another quote altogether came into my mind and it is attributed (rather coincidentally) to an old Arab proverb:
He who knows not and knows not he knows not, he is a fool—shun him;
He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is simple—teach him;
He who knows and knows not he knows, he is asleep—wake him;
He who knows and knows he knows, he is wise—follow him!

So we shun the fools and hope that there are no wise bigoted racists.