The meaning of, and background to, the well-known expression "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

Well-Known Expressions

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem


If you don't take direct action to make things better you're an obstacle to change.


This saying originates in the USA in the 1960s and is generally attributed to Eldridge Cleaver.

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver (1935-1998) was a writer and political activist, and early leader of the Black Panther Party. In his teens he was involved in petty crime and spent time in detention centers. At eighteen years old he was in prison on felony drug charges. Aged 23 he was convicted of rape and assault with intent to murder. While Wikipedia describes him as a "reformed serial rapist and racist", it goes on to say that in his 1968 book Soul on Ice he states that he "initially raped black women in the ghetto 'for practice' and then embarked on the serial rape of white women. He described these crimes as politically inspired, motivated by a genuine conviction that the rape of white women was 'an insurrectionary act'. When he began writing Soul on Ice, he unequivocally renounced rape and all his previous reasoning about it. However, he refused to show any remorse for his career as a rapist, or acknowledge any debt to society, claiming in Soul on Ice that 'the blood of Vietnamese peasants has paid off all my debts'."

After spending seven years in exile in Cuba, Algeria, and France, Cleaver returned to the USA in 1975, and became involved with various Christian groups. By the early 1980s, he was disillusioned with mainstream evangelical Christianity and dabbled briefly with alternatives including leading a short-lived hybrid Islam/Christian ministry of his own which he called "Christlam". In 1983 he became a Mormon and remained in good standing with the church until his death.

Also in the 1980s he became a conservative Republican. He ran for election to the Berkeley city council in 1984, and in a Republican Party primary for the Senate in 1986. He lost both.

In 1988 he was placed on probation for burglary, and jailed for possession of cocaine. He was arrested for possession again in 1992 and 1994. His health declining he moved to Southern California in 1994, where he died in 1998.

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