"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil
to one who is striking at the root."
Henry David Thoreau
(1817-1862) American author, poet, philosopher, polymath, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and transcendentalist
Walden (1854)
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Reader comments about this quote:
Why are we terrified at hacking at the roots (truth). As one wiseman said (more or less) "When honest men do nothing, evil prospers."
 -- John-Douglas, Nassau
Well, duhh! In a society obsessed with appearance the cosmetic is valued over the substantive every time. Ask Carl Rove.
 -- Terry Berg, Occidental, CA
Thoreau never, EVER fails to expound pure, effectively masterful truth!!!!!!!! This fact is as essential as the most basic mathematical law!!!!!!
 -- Odette
So let's start hacking at the root!
 -- E Archer, NYC
Thoreau as usual is correct.
 -- Elce, Chicago
I like it.
 -- Mike, Norwalk
I like it.
 -- Mike, Norwalk
Give me the thousand hacking at the branches and I'll show them the roots - yes Terry, Carl Rove is an expert at showing us the branches most of which he planted - its amazing, this government creates the roots and and gets the media to show us the brances.
 -- RobertSRQ
I'll use Mike's stars
 -- RobertSRQ
The question shifts then to "what is the root?"
 -- Greg, Chichester
The root is (I believe) a government that is in bed with corporations, a kleptocracy that threw us all overboard 30 years ago. Theft through inflation and taxation is keeping us all very much under control. But they put on a hell of a show don't they?
 -- J Carlton, Calgary
The root is an abstraction; the branch a concrete. It takes only eyes to see the concrete but an active mind to trace the concrete to the root - that is why so few are working on the root! To get at the root takes more work of a certain kind, abstract thought.
 -- Peter, Port Huron
Many that hack at branches do so to look busy and to fool the masses that evil is being attacked. They also will attack those that hack at the roots.
 -- warren, olathe
Very well put Warren.
 -- J Carlton, Calgary
Warren, right on!
 -- Robert Edwards
The question raised is "What is the root?" I submit it is 'sincerity' where one taps into his deepest sense. Do we not know that truth is better than scheming? That justice is better than advantage? Principle is better than selling out? Openness (corrigibility) is better than dogmatism? Systematic better than arbitrary? Character than status? Survival than surrender? Resistance than appeasement? Good than evil? Deep down, each of us know what ought to be for himself. From the root springs the fruit.
 -- Allen Weingarten, Monroe Township, NJ
Here’s a root of evil: American users of illegal drugs. It is reported they spend $40 billion a year on their addiction. These billions finance the drug cartels in Latin and South America which dominate those governments and are currently taking over Mexico because they have more and better fire power than the local or federal governments. These ruthless people kill judges, news reporters and political candidates who campaign against them and corrupt law enforcers on both sides of the boarder; the leaves from these branches of evil are now blowing across our entire border with Mexico, and no fence or patrol will stop them because the cartels know what their American customer wants and will find a way to deliver the goods. Attack the root (the drug user’s addiction) and the leaves will wither.
 -- Jerry Johnson, Shandon, Ohio
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