Man's inhumanity to man

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The phrase "Man's inhumanity to man" is first documented in the Robert Burns poem called Man was made to mourn: A Dirge in 1784. It is possible that Burns reworded a similar quote from Samuel von Pufendorf who in 1673 wrote, "More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature's causes."

Robert Burns[edit]

Man was made to mourn: A Dirge[1]

Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

Phrase defined[edit]

The phrase 'Man's inhumanity to man' is defined by its component parts.

The word "Man" followed by a " 's " ... ’s- /s, z before a voiced consonant/ · prefix archaic (used chiefly in oaths or declarations) God’s or Man's. – ORIGIN shortened form.[2]

inhumanity · n. (pl. inhumanities) cruel and brutal behavior.[2]

to · prep. 1 expressing direction or position in relation to a particular location, point, or condition.[2]

man · n. (pl. men) 1 an adult human male. 2 a male member of a workforce, team, etc. 3 a husband or lover: man and wife. 4 a person. Ø human beings in general; the human race. – USAGE The generic use of man to refer to ‘human beings in general’ has become problematic in modern use; it is now widely regarded as old-fashioned or sexist. Alternative terms such as the human race or humankind may be used in some contexts, but elsewhere there are no established alternatives, for example for the term manpower or the verb man. [2] Or as in "man's inhumanity to man."

Notable uses of the phrase[edit]

In reference to man[edit]

"More inhumanity (to man) has been done by man himself than any other of nature's causes." Samuel von Pufendorf, 1673.[3]

"Man's inhumanity (towards man) comes from within, due to the lack of cardinal virtues." An unknown Catholic priest, date unknown.[4]

"There is only one way in which one can endure man's inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one's own life, to exemplify man's humanity to man." Alan Paton.[5]

"The inhumanity of man toward man is our greatest sin." Ellen G. White, 1895.[6]

"Man's inhumanity to man is equaled only by man's inhumanity to himself." Edmund Bergler, 1949.[7]

"Man's inhumanity to man crosses continents and decades." Anthony Venutolo, 2009.[8]

"Why do we hunt and persecute each other? Why is our world so full of man's infamous inhumanity to man – and to woman?" Riane Eisler, 1987[9]

Emma Goldman, circa 1911

In reference to women[edit]

"Woman's Inhumanity to Man," a lecture topic by Emma Goldman, April 1912.[10]

""Man's inhumanity to man"—the phrase is all too familiar ... a profound silence prevailed about woman's inhumanity to woman. Women's aggression may not take the same form as men's, but girls and women are indeed aggressive, often indirectly and mainly toward one another." Phyllis Chesler, May 2009.[11]

"Man's inhumanity to woman – War has shattered many ... women's lives." Marty Logan, 2006[12]

"Man's inhumanity to man begins with man's inhumanity to woman." Marilyn Stasio, 2008[13]

In reference to religion[edit]

"More of man's inhumanity to man has been done in the name of religion than any other cause." Author unknown, circa 1929.[14]

In reference to African-Americans[edit]

"This is the most tragic picture of man's inhumanity to man. I've been to Mississippi and Alabama and I can tell you that the hatred and hostility in Chicago are really deeper than in Alabama and Mississippi." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1966[15]

"For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system." Barack Obama, 2008[16]

In reference to George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four[edit]

"Behind Nineteen Eighty-Four, there is a sense of injustice, a tormented sense of the way political systems suppress individual thought. Man's inhumanity to man." Jean Eloi, 2002[17]

Edward Bellamy, socialist, circa 1889

In reference to the cities of Europe[edit]

"It was in the great cities of Europe and among the hovels of the peasantry that my eyes were first fully opened to the extent and consequences of man's inhumanity to man." Edward Bellamy in support of socialism.[18]

In reference to the trust and labor union[edit]

"When man's inhumanity to man shall cease from the earth, and justice and equity reign supreme, we may well be rid of both the trust and the labor union, each, in its way, a positive detriment to society." George Frazier Miller, 1910[19]

In reference to states[edit]

"The State, therefore, is the most flagrant, the most cynical, and the most complete negation of humanity. It shatters the universal solidarity of all men on the earth, and brings some of them into association only for the purpose of destroying, conquering, and enslaving all the rest. It protects its own citizens only; it recognizes human rights, humanity, civilization within its own confines alone. Since it recognizes no rights outside itself, it logically arrogates to itself the right to exercise the most ferocious inhumanity toward all foreign populations, which it can plunder, exterminate, or enslave at will." Mikhail Bakunin, September 1867[20]

In reference to health care[edit]

"The real US healthcare issue: moral deficiency…man's inhumanity to man" Title of MSNBC article on healthcare, 27 December 2009 [21]

In reference to crises[edit]

"All over the world we read of economic crises, social crises, ethnic conflicts and crises, national conflicts and crises, crises in family life, crises of poverty, crises of exploitation, crises of homelessness, crises of governmental oppression, crises of man's inhumanity to man and so on. The fundamental crisis is the turning away of men and women from spiritual and moral values." L. J. Mark Cooray, 1993[22]

Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008)

"Throughout all of human history, from the first murder to the present crises [the rise of socialism in America] and catastrophes, we have faced famine, depression, wars and rumors of wars, [and] countless examples of man's inhumanity to man." Gail B. Leatherwood, May 2009[23]

In reference to the ancient world[edit]

"All of them covered in the darkness of man's inhumanity to man: Revolutions, expansionism ..." ESermons, 2009?[24]

In reference to the 20th century[edit]

"It has been the worst of all centuries, with more of war, more of man's inhumanity to man, more of conflict and trouble than any other century in the history of the world." Gordon B. Hinckley, 1999.[25]

In reference to socialism in the 20th century[edit]

“The inhumanity of socialism as described by Edward Adams in 1913 has proven, that more inhumanity to man, since 1918, has been done in the name of socialism than any other cause. Dick Carpenter” [26]


  1. ^ Robert Burns (2005). "Burns Country". 'Man was made to mourn: A Dirge'. Retrieved 13 November 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Pearsall, Judy (2001). "Man was made to mourn: A Dirge". Concise Oxford Dictionary (10th ed.). Oxford University Press. NOTE: Rather than being a direct revision of the ninth edition, it was based on the larger New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998), which Pearsall had edited. Its compilation had involved a re-analysis of much of the core vocabulary using the British National Corpus. The tenth edition was also issued as an electronic resource, as a computer optical disc.
  3. ^ von Pufendorf, Samuel (2003). "The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of Nature". The Whole Duty of Man. Liberty Fund, Inc. Retrieved 13 November 2009.[full citation needed] Note: Translated by Andrew Tooke, editor, Ian Hunter and David Saunders, with Two Discourses and a Commentary by Jean Barbeyrac, translated by David Saunders (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
  4. ^ Rickaby, John (1908). "Cardinal Virtues". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 13 November 2009. Note: A possible conjoined phrase from an unknown priest referencing Plato's scheme of man's inhumanity and St. Thomas Aquinas four Cardinal virtues.
  5. ^ Paton, Alan (2009). "The Alan Paton Centre & Struggle Archives". University of Kwazulu-Natal. Archived from the original on 30 August 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2009.
  6. ^ Ellen G. White (1915). "MR No. 1374—Bear Witness to Christ Before the World; How to Conduct the Christian Warfare". Manuscript Releases Volume 19, 1895. Review and Herald Publishing Association.
  7. ^ Edmund Bergler, Principles of Self-Damage, International Universities Press, Inc., Madison, CT. 1992. p. xxxv. (First published by Philosophical Library, Inc. 1959.)
  8. ^ Venutolo, Anthony (2009). "Man's inhumanity to man crosses continents and decades in 'The Investigation'". The Star Ledger and (Arts, N.J. Stage), February 6, 2009. New Jersey On-Line LLC. The Star Ledger. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  9. ^ Eisler, Riane (1994). The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future. New York: Harper Collins & Peter Smith Publisher. ISBN 978-0844667348. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  10. ^ Falk, Candace (1995). "EMMA GOLDMAN". EMMA GOLDMAN: A GUIDE TO HER LIFE AND DOCUMENTARY SOURCES. University of Berkeley, Sunsite. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  11. ^ Chesler, Phyllis (2009). "Woman's Inhumanity to Woman". Woman's Inhumanity to Woman – reviews. Lawrence Hill Books,The Phyllis Chesler Organization. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  12. ^ Logan, Marty (2006). "Man's inhumanity to woman". Nepali Times, January 2006. Himalmedia Private Limited. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  13. ^ Stasio, Marilyn (9 October 2008). "Blasted". Variety, October 9, 2008. RBI, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  14. ^ Bratten, Frances C. (1955). "A letter from Germany". Dickinson Newspaper. Dickinson News. Retrieved 13 December 2009. Note: From a newspaper clipping quoting Sgt. Richard L. Carpenter's letter home from Germany to his mother. Carpenter is citing a quote from 1929. Date is not on clipping but letter written home "... in January 1955."
    Note: The Dickinson Press took over Dickinson News.
  15. ^ Ralph, James (1993). Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-62687-7.
  16. ^ Obama, Barack Hussein (10 January 2008). "Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: The Great Need of the Hour". Obama's Socialism – In His Own Words. Sweetness & Light. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  17. ^ Eloi, Jean (2002). "Message of 1984". Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  18. ^ Edward Bellamy Abroad, by Sylvia E. Bowman.
  19. ^ Miller, George Frazier (1910). "Socialism and its Ethical Basis" (PDF). Hannibal Forum. online archive: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  20. ^ Bakunin, Mikhail (September 1867). "Rousseau's Theory of the State". Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism. Retrieved 9 January 2010. Note: Mikhail Bakunin Reference Archive cites: The Memory Hole Archived 19 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ MSNBC rapwrites (27 December 2009). "The real US healthcare issue: moral deficiency…man's inhumanity to man". Newsvine, Inc., property of MSNBC. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  22. ^ Cooray, L.J.M. (1993). "The Crisis of our times". The Life And Character of Sir James Peiris (1856–1930). Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  23. ^ Leatherwood, Gail B.. (9 May 2009). ""Myth of Socialism"–A Democrat Responds". Hernando Today Edition. Tampa Tribune. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  24. ^ ChristianGlobe Network (c. 2009). "Sermon for John 3:14–21 – Something Good Can Happen in Nazareth". ESermons. part of Retrieved 9 January 2010.
  25. ^ Hinckley, Gordon B. (May 1999). "Thanks to the Lord for His Blessings". Ensign.
  26. ^ Direct quote from the ‘’’San Diego Evening Tribune’’’, Readers Comments section, 14 July 1969. San Diego Evening Tribune from Newsbank (1895 - 1940, excluding 1937).
    Apparently this “The inhumanity of” comment is in reference to a 5 Dec 1913 paper entitled “THE INHUMANITY OF SOCIALISM” By Edward Francis Adams. See:
    In turn the 1913 paper references a 1907 work which was reprinted on 10 Sept 2010.
    A Plain Analysis Of Socialism by Lewis Franklin Eccles (1907)
    Paperback: 196 pages
    Publisher: Kessinger Publishing, LLC (September 10, 2010)
    Language: English
    ISBN 978-1165267699