„There are no "human" oppressors. Oppressors have lost their humanity.“

"Man – and Woman" in Vermont Freeman (Mid-February 1972)
1970s
Context: There are no "human" oppressors. Oppressors have lost their humanity. On one hand "slavishness," on the other hand "pigness." Six of one, half dozen of the other. Who wins?
Many women seem to be walking a tightrope now. Their qualities of love, openness, and gentleness were too deeply enmeshed with qualities of dependency, subservience, and masochism. How do you love — without being subservient? How do you maintain a relationship without giving up your identity and without getting strung out? How do you reach out and give your heart to your lover, but maintain the soul which is you?

Last update Nov. 21, 2020. History
Bernie Sanders photo
Bernie Sanders123
American politician, senator for Vermont 1941

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Simone Weil photo

„Human history is simply the history of the servitude which makes men — oppressed and oppressors alike — the plaything of the instruments of domination they themselves have manufactured, and thus reduces living humanity to being the chattel of inanimate chattels.“

—  Simone Weil French philosopher, Christian mystic, and social activist 1909 - 1943

Source: Analysis of Oppression (1955), p. 141
Context: The common run of moralists complain that man is moved by his private self-interest: would to heaven it were so! Private interest is a self-centered principle of action, but at the same time restricted, reasonable and incapable of giving rise to unlimited evils. Whereas, on the other hand, the law of all activities governing social life, except in the case of primitive communities, is that here one sacrifices human life — in himself and in others — to things which are only means to a better way of living. This sacrifice takes on various forms, but it all comes back to the question of power. Power, by definition, is only a means; or to put it better, to possess a power is simply to possess means of action which exceed the very limited force that a single individual has at his disposal. But power-seeking, owing to its essential incapacity to seize hold of its object, rules out all consideration of an end, and finally comes, through an inevitable reversal, to take the place of all ends. It is this reversal of the relationship between means and end, it is this fundamental folly that accounts for all that is senseless and bloody right through history. Human history is simply the history of the servitude which makes men — oppressed and oppressors alike — the plaything of the instruments of domination they themselves have manufactured, and thus reduces living humanity to being the chattel of inanimate chattels.

Steve Biko photo

„The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.
So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.“

—  Steve Biko anti-apartheid activist in South Africa 1946 - 1977

Statement quoted in the Boston Globe (25 October 1977)
Context: Even today, we are still accused of racism. This is a mistake. We know that all interracial groups in South Africa are relationships in which whites are superior, blacks inferior. So as a prelude whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior.

Albert Camus photo

„Every revolutionary ends as an oppressor or a heretic.“

—  Albert Camus, book The Rebel

Variant translation: Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic.
The Rebel (1951)

Noam Chomsky photo

„Mass non-violent protest is predicated on the humanity of the oppressor. Quite often it doesn't work. Sometimes it does, in unexpected ways. But judgements about that would have to be based on intimate knowledge of the society and its various strands.“

—  Noam Chomsky american linguist, philosopher and activist 1928

'Resonant and unwavering', Interview with Stuart Alan Becker, Bangkok Post http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/20080714.htm.
Quotes 2000s, 2007-09

Malcolm X photo
Huey P. Newton photo
Anne Lamott photo

„Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people.“

—  Anne Lamott Novelist, essayist, memoirist, activist 1954

Source: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Paulo Freire photo

„The oppressed find in the oppressors their model of 'manhood.“

—  Paulo Freire educator and philosopher 1921 - 1997

Pedagogia do oprimido (Pedagogy of the Oppressed) (1968, English trans. 1970)

Robert A. Heinlein photo

„Imperialism degrades both oppressor and oppressed.“

—  Robert A. Heinlein, book Solution Unsatisfactory

Solution Unsatisfactory (p. 98)
Short fiction, Off the Main Sequence (2005)

Desmond Tutu photo

„If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.“

—  Desmond Tutu South African churchman, politician, archbishop, Nobel Prize winner 1931

As quoted in Unexpected News : Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (1984) by Robert McAfee Brown, p. 19
Context: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Martin Luther King, Jr. photo

„Nonviolent resistance is not aimed against oppressors, but against oppression.“

—  Martin Luther King, Jr. American clergyman, activist, and leader in the American Civil Rights Movement 1929 - 1968

1950s, Three Ways of Meeting Oppression (1958)

Marek Edelman photo

„To be a Jew means always being with the oppressed and never the oppressors.“

—  Marek Edelman Jewish resistance member 1922 - 2009

A True Mensch - Obituary to Marek Edelman by David Rosenberg http://thethirdestate.net/2009/10/a-true-mensch/

Steve Biko photo

„The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.“

—  Steve Biko anti-apartheid activist in South Africa 1946 - 1977

White Racism and Black Consciousness
I Write What I Like (1978)
Variant: The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

Paulo Freire photo

„The oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressors.“

—  Paulo Freire educator and philosopher 1921 - 1997

Pedagogia do oprimido (Pedagogy of the Oppressed) (1968, English trans. 1970)

Howard Zinn photo
Gene Roddenberry photo

„Matter of internal security - the age-old cry of the oppressor.
Picard“

—  Gene Roddenberry American television screenwriter and producer 1921 - 1991

James Russell Lowell photo
Elie Wiesel photo

„What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.“

—  Elie Wiesel, book Night

In an interview with Carol Rittner and Sandra Meyers in Courage To Care - Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, NYU Press, 1986, p. 2. Also quoted by Yad Vashem http://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/about-the-program.html and Nicholas Kristoff in The Silence of the Bystanders https://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/19/opinion/the-silence-of-bystanders.html, New York Times (March 19, 2006).
Source: Night

Carter G. Woodson photo

„The oppressor has always indoctrinated the weak with this interpretation of the crimes of the strong.“

—  Carter G. Woodson, book The Mis-Education of the Negro

Source: The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933), Chapter XVIII: The Study of the Negro<!-- p. 131 -->
Context: The chief reason why so many give such a little attention to the background of the Negro is the belief that this study is unimportant. They consider as history only such deeds as those of Mussolini who after building up an efficient war machine with the aid of other Europeans would now use it to murder unarmed and defenseless Africans who have restricted themselves exclusively to attending to their own business. If Mussolini succeeds in crushing Abyssinia he will be recorded in "history" among the Caesars, and volumes written in praise of the conqueror will find their way to the homes and libraries of thousands of miseducated Negroes. The oppressor has always indoctrinated the weak with this interpretation of the crimes of the strong.

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