Thoreau, perhaps alluding to 1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
wrote in the first chapter of Walden
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve.
According to self-help author Tony Robbins
There’s a story I love to tell of a fellow standing on the banks of a river. Suddenly, he sees someone caught in the raging current, bounced about on the jagged rocks, and hears him calling for help. He leaps in, pulls the drowing man to safety, gives him mouth-to-mouth resucitation, attends to the man’s wounds, and calls for medical help. As he’s still catching his breath, he hears two more screams emanating from the river. Again, he jumps in and makes another daring rescue, this time of two women. Before he even has a chance to think, he hears four more people calling for help.
Pretty soon the man is exhausted, having rescued victim after victim, and yet the screams continue. If only he had taken the time to travel a short distance upriver, he could have discovered who was throwing all those people in the water in the first place!
According to Martin Luther King, Jr.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
Why are we usually engaged in “Trivial Pursuit” instead of asking and answering fundamental questions, instead of “striking at the root”? Why do we avert our eyes?
Recall what Dr. Zaius in Planet of the Apes advises Col. Taylor before he rides off down the beach with his rifle and his lover. Taylor says, “There’s got to be an answer.” and Zaius replies
Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.
Aside: According to this
According to Walter Harding’s The Days of Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson once noted that most of the branches of learning were taught at Harvard, to which Thoreau replied: “Yes, indeed, all the branches and none of the roots”.