“Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents”
The History Files
Although written in 1770 by British spokesman, orator and political thinker, Edmund Burke, that title could have come from our headlines today, and certainly reflects my heart and message for this blog.
It is Burke who is credited with one of the most popular quotes of all time, (even though his speech never specifically said the words.)
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
I’ll still take it, wont you? It is so good, JFK used it.
What Burke did say in his writing “Thoughts on the Cause…” was –
When bad men combine – good men must organize.”Edmund Burke
I feel such an urgency for good men (mankind) to speak up, step up, step out, launch out, reach out, take action, refuse the trends, stay the “good” course, and as Burke said, maybe even organize. Why not? It is time!
In the words of President Grover Cleveland, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something.”
I am not running for office, nor are you most likely, but here’s the hitch- what are we standing for? Are we standing up for anything? Or have we allowed our voices to be silenced by fear, complacency, louder voices, cancel culture and censorship?
In the days of Women’s Suffrage there were suffragists and suffragettes. Suffragists believed in peaceful, constitutional campaigns for women’s right to vote. Suffragettes were activists, willing to take direct action into the community. Their motto, “Deeds not words” often led to hunger strikes and handcuffing themselves to the White House fence.
Both believed in the same thing – that women had the right to vote but they took action in different ways. The key though, they took action. The result? The passage of the 19th Amendment allowing women the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony would have been proud, after being arrested and still voting 150 times illegally. She stood up for that right long before others jumped on board and made it legal.
Being a student and lover of American history (I hear a yawn 🙂 ) I can’t help but go to dozens of examples of those who stood up in the face of “discontents”, injustices, and hardships and joined with others of like mind to push through change.
The good people voluntarily organized and took persistent action so that the evils of their day would not triumph in their society.
What would the nation/world be without these who stood up for the cause that gripped their soul, and sacrificed their own self interests for the good of the society and future generations?
Consider the following and their causes:
- Dorthea Dix – mistreatment of the mentally ill
- Horance Mann – education reform
- Frederick Douglass – anti-slavery, civil rights
- William Lloyd Garrison – abolition
- Ida Tarabel – investigative journalism (what’s happened to that?)
- Jane Addams – help for the poor and immigrants
- Booker T. Washington – black education and training (peaceful)
- WEB Dubois – black rights, NAACP (violent if needed)
- Sojourner Truth – abolitionist
- Harriet Tubman – anti-slavery
- Ralph Waldo Emerson – writer, reformer
- Caesar Chavez – farmworkers rights
- Malala Yousafzai – Taliban awareness, women rights
- Florence Nightingale – nursing
- Clara Barton – founder of the Red Cross
- Marie Curie – medicine
- John Muir – wildlife conservation
- Upton Sinclair – meatpacking industry reform
- Jackie Robinson – racial equality
- Sally Ride – space travel
The world is a better and changed place because each of these did something with the passion they felt. They joined with others and got things changed. These good humans pressed through the evil and triumphed over it. “Overcome evil with good”.
Solomon, in Proverbs warned us:
If you do nothing in times of trouble, your strength is small.Proverbs 24:10
So, how’s your strength? These are NOT “do nothing days”. Shame on us if we are “do nothing-ers”.
I conclude my thoughts on the cause of the present discontents.
Cheers to you.