All that is necessary for the triumph of evil...
February 16, 2016 9:01 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to compile all the quotes similar in meaning to Edmund Burke's All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing and need the hive mind to help me find as many as possible.

So far, I've got:

John Stuart Mill Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

Thomas Jefferson All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for men of good conscience to remain silent.

Wole Soyinka The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.

There's also the famous one from Pastor Niemöller When they came for the Communists
posted by Kwadeng to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Here are two from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right."

posted by argonauta at 9:06 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer (anti-Nazi dissident)
posted by sively at 9:15 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
― Elie Wiesel
posted by Postroad at 9:23 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is basically the inverse of your quote, but expressing the same sort of idea:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead
posted by decathecting at 9:23 AM on February 16, 2016

(I am slightly hesitant because sometimes quotes are not attributed correctly!)
But I have this one on my list:
“The world is a dangerous place. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein
posted by Glinn at 9:46 AM on February 16, 2016

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
The Life of the Mind (1978), "Thinking" Hannah Arendt
posted by crush-onastick at 9:51 AM on February 16, 2016

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
Action is "the miracle that saves the world from its normal, 'natural' ruin".
both from hannah arendt oh, snap
posted by andrewcooke at 9:55 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by fritley at 10:44 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

fictional and a bit of a reach, but:

Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory. - Albus Dumbledore Harry Potter J.K. Rowling
posted by edbles at 10:48 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fictional, but only a slight variant of the OP's quote:

Yuri Orlov: [Narrating] They say, "Evil prevails when good men fail to act." What they ought to say is, "Evil prevails."
Nick Cage in Lord of War (2005)
posted by jpolchlopek at 10:50 AM on February 16, 2016

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions" or, alternatively, "hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works."

“The world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people.” - Napoleon Bonaparte

“Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.” - Baltasar Gracián, The Art of Worldly Wisdom

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

“Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.” - Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” - Martin Luther King Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Unless a man becomes the enemy of an evil, he will not even become its slave but rather its champion.” - G.K. Chesterton

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing." - Teddy Roosevelt

(most of these are from the GoodReads quote database under the tag "evil.")
posted by melissasaurus at 11:35 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

Attributed to a long list of people, so "source unknown".
posted by SemiSalt at 11:46 AM on February 16, 2016

"They accept evil not because they say yes, but because they don't say no."
~ Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards! [Lord Vetinari]
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2016

Response by poster: You guys are brilliant! Keep them coming.

I'm almost positive that there's also one from Mandela, but I can't find it.
posted by Kwadeng at 2:57 PM on February 16, 2016

We may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings.

Helen Keller

It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.

Helen Keller
posted by Michele in California at 3:31 PM on February 16, 2016

Best answer: I went looking for Plato's (I thought) "The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men" only to discover it's a misquotation, and so, apparently, is the one attributed to Edmund Burke. Double bummer. The originals are similar-ish but not as snappy.
posted by leeloo minai at 4:01 PM on February 16, 2016

"The standard you walk past is the standard you accept." Lieutenant General David Morrison
posted by geek anachronism at 5:50 PM on February 16, 2016

Also: the OP's quote isn't from Burke.
posted by Fukiyama at 8:26 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
― Haile Selassie I
posted by alaaarm at 1:03 PM on February 17, 2016

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
-Desmond Tutu
posted by Devika at 3:36 AM on February 18, 2016

Martin Porter's Study of a web quotation and follow-up essay don't answer your question, but might interest you or future readers.
posted by wonton endangerment at 9:42 AM on May 29, 2016

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