I have come across this very famous proverb many times that blames people who don't take a stand for bad things that happen in the world.

As far as I remember, it had something to do with the world ending and the people who had not taken a stand were to blame. However, I cannot remember the exact wording, nor can I find it anywhere on the internet.

I am open to other suggestions as well...

  • Your question is likely off-topic if there is only one such phrase that will satisfy.
    – lbf
    Feb 7, 2019 at 14:18
  • There may be many which satisfy but I am looking for a very specific one. I am not sure if this is the correct forum to ask such a question but I couldn't think of a better place. Please suggest if you have any alternatives. Feb 7, 2019 at 16:02
  • 1
    If you have indeed heard it many times than you should be able to give us more to go on with. Guessing games i.e. I am thinking of a word/phrase/etc --what is it? do not go over well here. Feb 7, 2019 at 17:35
  • There's also Yeats's The Second Coming: "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold ...The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate Intensity." poetryfoundation.org/poems/43290/the-second-coming
    – remarkl
    Feb 8, 2019 at 5:54
  • @Chappo.. Done. Moreover one of the answers fits my use case so already selected it as correct. Thanks for the suggestion Feb 12, 2019 at 7:56

3 Answers 3


“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke (in a letter addressed to Thomas Mercer).

  • This does fit my use case to a certain extent however I am looking for a very specific proverb / quote that's been causing an itch in my brain. Will wait for sometime and, if I don't get the correct answer, will accept yours. Feb 7, 2019 at 16:11

I don't know about a proverb, but just in case we've a problem with naming conventions, you may be thinking of "First they came ..." a poem written by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). Further details on Wikipedia

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • Broken reeds, he proclaimed, damning the people who did not take a stand!.

  • an unreliable or undependable person. (metaphor of a useless, broken reed in an instrument.) You can't rely on Jim's support. He's a broken reed. Mr. Smith is a broken reed. His deputy has to make all the decisions.

This expression refers to Isaiah 36:6, in which the Assyrian general taunts King Hezekiah of Jerusalem about the latter's supposed ally, the Egyptian pharaoh: ‘Lo, thou trusteth in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt’.

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