- It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. For there is a reserve of latent power in the masses which, if it is called into play, the minority can seldom resist.
- John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, in The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1877)
- We must not conclude merely upon a man's haranguing upon liberty, and using the charming sound, that he is fit to be trusted with the liberties of his country. It is not unfrequent to hear men declaim loudly upon liberty, who, if we may judge by the whole tenor of their actions, mean nothing else by it but their own liberty, — to oppress without control or the restraint of laws all who are poorer or weaker than themselves. It is not, I say, unfrequent to see such instances, though at the same time I esteem it a justice due to my country to say that it is not without shining examples of the contrary kind; — examples of men of a distinguished attachment to this same liberty I have been describing; whom no hopes could draw, no terrors could drive, from steadily pursuing, in their sphere, the true interests of their country; whose fidelity has been tried in the nicest and tenderest manner, and has been ever firm and unshaken.
The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy this gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people.
- Samuel Adams, in Essay published in The Advertiser (1748) and later reprinted in The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams (1865), Volume 1, by William Vincent Wells
- The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.
- Steve Biko, No Fears Expressed (1987), p. 21
- The God whom we know in the Bible is a liberating God, a God who destroys myths and alienations, a God who intervenes in history in order to break down the structures of injustice and who raises up prophets in order to point out the way of justice and mercy. He is the God who liberates slaves (Exodus), who causes empires to fall and raises up the oppressed (Magnificat, Luke 1:52).
- Manifesto of the Bolivian Methodist Church (1970), in The Cry of My People, p. 104
- Stand up, all victims of oppression,
For the tyrants fear your might!
Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
For you have nothing if you have no rights!
Let racist ignorance be ended,
For respect makes the empires fall!
Freedom is merely privilege extended,
Unless enjoyed by one and all.
- Billy Bragg, The Internationale
- The more we are oppressed by the cross, the fuller will be our spiritual joy.
- John Calvin pg. 66 Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life
- Oppressed and oppressors cannot possibly mean the same thing when they speak of God. The God of the oppressed is a God of revolution who breaks the chains of slavery. The oppressors' God is a God of slavery and must be destroyed along with the oppressors.
- James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), p. 61
- The rebirth of feminism coincided with the use of the term "oppression." The ruling ideology, i.e. common sense, daily speech, does not speak about oppression but about a "feminine condition." It refers back to a naturalist explanation: to a constraint of nature, exterior reality out of reach and not modifiable by human action. The term "oppression," on the contrary, refers back to a choice, an explanation, a situation that is political. "Oppression" and "social oppression" are therefore synonyms or rather social oppression is a redundance: the notion of a political origin, i.e. social, is an integral part of the concept of oppression.
- The Quran urges people who feel vulnerable before oppressors to rid themselves of the influence of the bluffing and false appearances of these oppressors and to compare themselves realistically to the latter in order to realize that they have no hidden or different power that normal people do not have. ... The Quran endeavors to make the weak and the oppressed feel the necessity of daring to defy their oppressors, to resist them and deprive them of their power.
- It is doubtful if the oppressed ever fight for freedom. They fight for pride and power — power to oppress others. The oppressed want above all to imitate their oppressors; they want to retaliate.
- Eric Hoffer, as quoted in War and Conflict Quotations: A Worldwide Dictionary of Pronouncements from Military Leaders, Politicians, Philosophers, Writers and Others (1997) by Michael C. Thomsett and Jean F. Thomsett
- Paraphrased variant: "I doubt if the oppressed ever fight for freedom..."
- The new order contradicts reason so fundamentally that reason does not dare to doubt it. Even the consciousness of oppression fades. The more incommensurate become the concentration of power and the helplessness of the individual, the more difficult for him to penetrate the human origin of his misery.
- Max Horkheimer, “The End of Reason,” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (1982), p. 44
- The poor were wise, who, by the rich oppressed,
- No oppressed, people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters.
- If you aren't careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.
- Malcolm X, in a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem (13 December 1964), later published in Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements (1965), edited by George Breitman, p. 93
- Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression.
- Malcolm X, in Malcolm X Speaks : Selected Speeches and Statements (1965) edited by George Breitman
- Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need anything else.
- Malcolm X, in Malcolm X Speaks : Selected Speeches and Statements (1965) edited by George Breitman
- You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
- The war of the poor against the rich is the only way from oppression to deliverance.
- Johann Most, The Beast of Property (1884)
- It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else's freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.
When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.
- The oppressor must be harassed until his doom. He must have no peace by day or by night. The slaves have always outnumbered the slavemasters. The power of the oppressor rests upon the submission of the people.
- I say to my people’s masters: Beware
Beware of the thing that is coming, beware of the risen people
Who shall take what ye would not give.
Did ye think to conquer the people, or that law is stronger than life,
And than men’s desire to be free?
We will try it out with you ye that have harried and held,
Ye that have bullied and bribed.
Tyrants… hypocrites… liars!
- You are now fixed at the mercy of no governor that comes to make his fortune great; you shall be governed by laws of your own making and live a free, and if you will, a sober and industrious life. I shall not usurp the right of any, or oppress his person. God has furnished me with a better resolution and has given me his grace to keep it.
- William Penn, in Letter to those already residing in Pennsylvania (1681)
- Let there be no hostility
Except to those
Who practice oppression.
- The Quran, S. II V.193
On the one hand, there is the type of sinner whom, in present-day language, we would call ‘oppressor.’ Their basic sin consists in oppressing, placing intolerable burdens on others, acting unjustly and so on. On the other hand, there are those who sin ‘from weakness’ or those ‘legally considered sinners’ according to the dominant religious view.
Jesus takes a very different approach to each group. He offers salvation to all, and makes demands of all, but in a very different way. He directly demands a radical conversion of the first group, an active cessation from oppressing. For these, the coming of the Kingdom is above all a radical need to stop being oppressors.
- Jon Sobrino, Jesus the Liberator (1991), pp. 96-97
- 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.
- Desmond Tutu as quoted in Unexpected News : Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (1984) by Robert McAfee Brown, p. 19
- The powerful, if they carry oppression beyond a certain point, necessarily end by making themselves adored by their slaves. For the thought of being under absolute compulsion, the plaything of another, is unendurable for a human being. Hence, if every way of escape from the constraint is taken from him, there is nothing left for him to do but to persuade himself that he does the things he is forced to do willingly, that is to say, to substitute devotion for obedience. ... It is by this twist that slavery debases the soul: this devotion is in fact based on a lie, since the reasons for it cannot bear investigation. ... Moreover, the master is deceived too by the fallacy of devotion.
- Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (1972), pp. 142-143
- Revolt, if it does not immediately pass into definite and effective action, is always changed into its opposite through the feeling of utter impotence which results from it. In other words the chief support of the oppressor lies precisely in the unavailing revolt of the oppressed.
- Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace (1972), p. 143