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quotations about oppression

Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.


Hitherto, every form of society has been based ... on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes.

KARL MARX, The Communist Manifesto

I sit on a man's back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means -- except by getting off his back.

LEO TOLSTOY, What Then Must We Do?

The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him, they crush those beneath them.

EMILY BRONTE, Wuthering Heights

The more you try to suppress us, the larger we get.

ICE-T, Freedom of Speech

If I were going to set out to oppress other people, I would surely prefer to select for my victims persons whose first response is forgiveness rather than persons whose first response is revenge.


Death is preferable -- it is a milder fate than tyranny.

AESCHYLUS, Agamemnon

Once slavery in America was not seen as radical. It became, instead, a revolutionary idea that slaves should be freed. When we have lived under a pernicious power long enough, no matter how oppressive, we grow so accustomed to the yoke that its removal seems frightening, even wrong.

GERRY L. SPENCE, From Freedom to Slavery

To answer oppression with appropriate resistance requires knowledge of two kinds: in the first place, self-knowledge by the victim, which means awareness that oppression exists, an awareness that the victim has fallen from a great height of glory or promise into the present depths; secondly, the victim must know who the enemy is. He must know his oppressor's real name, not an alias, a pseudonym, or a nom de plume!

CHINUA ACHEBE, The Education of a British-Protected Child

Oppression cannot prosper where none will submit to be enslaved.


The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.

HOWARD ZINN, A People's History of the United States

Oppression makes a poor country.

WILLIAM PENN, Some Fruits of Solitude

Oppression tries to defend itself by its utility. But we have seen that it is one of the lies of the serious mind to attempt to give the word "useful" an absolute meaning; nothing is useful if it is not useful to man; nothing is useful to man if the latter is not in a position to define his own ends and values, if he is not free.

SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR, The Ethics of Ambiguity

The oppressed always learned from and copied the oppressor. When the tables were turned, the stage was set for another round of revenge and violence -- roles reversed. And reversed and reversed ad nauseam.

FRANK HERBERT, Chapterhouse: Dune

All the gang of those who rule us
Hope our quarrels never stop
Helping them to split and fool us
So they can remain on top.

BERTOLT BRECHT, "Solidarity Song"

To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., Stride Toward Freedom

In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.

HOWARD ZINN, A People's History of the United States

There is only one thing which gathers people into seditious commotion, and that is oppression.

JOHN LOCKE, A Letter Concerning Toleration

The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.

KARL MARX, The Communist Manifesto


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