The great thieves lead away the little thief.

What did Diogenes mean by:

The great thieves lead away the little thief.


“The great thieves lead away the little thief” is a profound statement that speaks to the influence and power dynamics in society. In essence, it suggests that those in positions of power or influence, who are corrupt or dishonest, guide or inspire the actions of those beneath them, who may be minor offenders in comparison. The ‘great thieves’ can be seen as individuals or institutions that perpetuate systemic corruption, while the ‘little thief’ represents individuals who commit lesser wrongs, often influenced or driven by the actions of the ‘great thieves’.

In today’s world, this quote can be applied to different aspects of society. For example, in politics or business, where those in power might engage in unethical practices, creating a culture where such behavior becomes normalized, leading others to mimic these actions. It could also be seen in the context of social inequality, where the ‘great thieves’ are those who hoard wealth and resources, leaving the ‘little thieves’ to resort to petty crimes for survival.

In terms of personal development, this quote serves as a reminder to be mindful of who we let influence our actions and decisions. It encourages us to question authority, to not blindly follow those in power, and to ensure our actions are guided by our own moral compass, not by the example set by potentially corrupt ‘great thieves’. It also suggests that we should strive to be leaders who set positive examples, rather than becoming ‘great thieves’ ourselves.

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