Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Any Excuse Will Serve A Tyrant

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 18, 2011

On September 12, 2010, Tisaranee¬†Gunasekara, journalist for the Asian Tribune — published in Bangkok by World Institute For Asian Studies — wrote an article entitled, “Our Rajapakse Future.” The article dealt with police punishing family members of alleged wrongdoers just prior to the passage of the 18th Amendment in Sri Lanka. The quote highlighted for the article was:

Any excuse will serve a tyrant.

It’s a phrase that’s not oftentimes used, however, when it is used, it’s meaning is straightforward and clear. An interesting entry was published on February 21, 1980 in the “Wallop Reports to Wyoming” column of the Sundance Times, the official newspaper for Crook County, City of Sundance and the U.S. Land Office. It began with:

During childhood we are told many stories designed to teach a lesson about life. Some learn their lesson the first time; others must be reminded.

The column ended thusly:

There is another fable whose moral is: Any excuse will serve a tyrant. It is time we quit giving the Russians excuses and began teaching them the lesson they so bitterly deserve. But to do that we must show national resolve. We can no longer hesitate or equivocate.

And even the Los Angeles Times, back on March 15, 1967, used the phrase in an article about communist China:

Maxims even those that are rewritten, as most of Mao’s are, can be useful. The Red Chinese should heed one written by Aesop which says: Any excuse will serve a tyrant. ¬†It could prepare them for anything the little red book might say.

Although rarely quoted, this forthright, candid saying does indeed come from Aesop’s fable, The Wolf and The Lamb.

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One Response to “Any Excuse Will Serve A Tyrant”

  1. Excellent little piece. It’s interesting to me that this phrase is misquoted in a children’s storybook about Aesop’s Fables, although I don’t ascribe any malice. The original has a certain ‘ring’ to it.

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