Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit.The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread.But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought.
It was no wonder that people were so horrible when they started life as children.
Cruelty is easy, and it breeds only misery. Kindness is harder, and you have to be brave to give it. To be cruel, you can stay closed off from everyone, wear a mask, but to be kind, in essence, to show love, you have to make yourself vulnerable, show your true self to someone and open yourself up to rejection.
—L.H. Cosway in The Nature of Cruelty
If one person is unkind to an animal, it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.
As one reads history . . . one is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted; and a community is infinitely more brutalized by the habitual employment of punishment than it is by the occasional occurrence of crime.
Such is the common process of marriage. A youth and maiden meeting by chance, or brought together by artifice, exchange glances, reciprocate civilities, go home, and dream of one another. Having little to divert attention, or diversify thought, they find themselves uneasy when they are apart, and therefore conclude that they shall be happy together. They marry, and discover what nothing but voluntary blindness had before concealed; they wear out life in altercations, and charge nature with cruelty.
—Samuel Johnson in The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia