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April 25, 2010

“If not now, when?” – Origin, uses and abuses


FAMOUS PHILOSOPHICAL QUOTE:

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” 
      Hillel the Elder (c. 60 BC-10 AD) 
      Jewish scholar and religious leader 
      In the Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”). The meaning of this bit of ancient wisdom has been translated in various ways and is still debated, but it seems to encourage rational self-interest, compassion for others and social activism.


PRO-HEALTH CARE VERSION:

“Now, since we took this issue on a year ago, there have been plenty of folks in Washington who’ve said that the politics is just too hard...Don’t do it now. My question to them is: When is the right time? If not now, when? If not us, who?” 
      President Barack Obama 
      Commenting on his health care reform legislation 
      Speech in Glenside, Pennsylvania, March 8, 2010


ANTI-OBAMA COUNTERQUOTE:

“With the passage of ‘ObamaCare’ coming on the heels of government takeover of industries and taxpayer-funded bailouts of the irresponsible, many are wondering how we can turn the socialist tide...It is time for the few remaining pockets of traditionalism to take control of their culture and destiny. If not now, when?”
      Selwyn Duke 
      Tennis player and Conservative political pundit
      Post on his blog, April 8, 2010


INTERNATIONAL RIGHTS VERSION:

“Someone must step forward. If not us, who will extend, promote, defend, protect, and enforce human rights?” 
      Robert L. Maddex 
      American attorney specializing in international law  
      International Encyclopedia Of Human Rights (2000)


INSCRUTABLE CHINESE VERSION:

“If not now, Wen?”
      Jim Jubak
      Investment and stock-picking guru
      Headline of his post commenting on the reluctance of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (shown at left) to change China’s monetary policy. On the Jubak Picks site, March 8, 2010.

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Recommended collection of philosophy quotes...

A Dictionary of Philosophical Quotations

by Alfred J. Ayer and Jane O'Grady

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