Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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

Ever heard this quote? I have. Many times. And I've always admired its sentiment--that feeling I get in my gut that makes me want to be the "good" person who battles evil and brings about change. Well, this week I couldn't resist--I had to spend some time investigating the quote's source and consider the implications of that origin. I'll come back to those in a bit. For the time being, let's talk about what I want to talk about. =)

In general, we aren't all that good at advocacy. It's inconvenient. We aren't good at confrontation. It's uncomfortable. We aren't good at investigating truths. It takes too much time. Primarily, we cultivate friendships with people who think exactly like we do. It's easier.

There ARE those who work, work, work--addressing the moral inconsistencies in our world. They rub shoulders with those they disagree with. They listen. More importantly, they HEAR. They re-think, process, reconsider, and grow. Convenience, comfort, and time aren't obstacles for them. The "easy road" doesn't even appear on their maps. They express compassion to all, but still advocate for meaningful change.

I've heard quoted that 80% of the work of any group is done by 20% of the people. Though I've never seen the studies that produce this statistic, I've seen it in my own circles at work, church, through friendships and among the neighborhood. It's utterly shocking to see this phenomenon at work all over the world.

Are you in the hypothetical 80% or the 20%? Where do you WANT to be? Is there something "evil" happening in your neck of the woods? Maybe something you're not even yet aware of? Is there something that is bothering you that could still be set right? Have you looked at all aspects of the dilemma to understand all sides? If so, then jump in--be aggressive--give to the greater cause. It's worth it. It's SO worth it. Life is too short to stand by and do nothing.

Now, back to my first paragraph. While I was investigating this quote, I came across this somewhat humorous link. The pseudo-quote has many variations and the author enjoys picking each one apart to decipher the effect of the change of a word here or there. The author of the page, Martin Porter, concludes that this quote is:

...without authenticity or meaning, and is just another of those political slogans which are used not as an assistance to, but as a substitute for real thought. It is not a deep truth, although it is constantly treated as one.

He also later shares in the follow-up essay that many website use the quote:

...but it is presented as a kind of banner, usually at the top or bottom of the page. In other words it is out of context, and we cannot tell what meaning the quoter thinks it has.

Does this mean the quote has no meaning simply because it didn't come from Burke? Or that if we apply a different meaning to a quote other than its original intention, then we're incorrect or misguided? In other words, is legitimate meaning determined only by infamous origin? I'll need to think on that one a bit because in many instances I can agree--a quote, or other information, taken out of context can be twisted and turned in numerous directions (i.e. Biblical quotes, legal outcomes, statistical data). When using a quote as an authoritative truth, without context it loses all original meaning. Yet I also think we can find meaning in quotes that may not have been intended by the original author. Take poetry and songs, for example: many artists choose NOT to give information on their own personal meaning of a poem or song because they believe the listener or reader can discover multiple meanings. Can we not?

Take some time to investigate it when you can. It's an enjoyable read and Porter makes a decent case from his tedious research. Maybe he's right--maybe we should each come up with some "real thought" rather than rely on simple quotations and proverbs to think for us. Do YOU agree that it's not a deep truth?

0 ♥ thoughtful comments ♥:

Related Posts with Thumbnails