February 13, 2011

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”


THE ORIGIN OF THE FAMOUS MISQUOTE:

“On resiste a l’invasion des armees; on ne resiste pas a l’invasion des idees.”
       Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
       French novelist, poet, playwright and historian
       The French sentence above is from the final chapter of Hugo’s book Histoire d’un Crime (“The History of a Crime”), his account of the French coup d’état of 1851 that brought Napoleon III to power. It’s the origin of the famous quotation that is commonly, but erroneously attributed to Hugo: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” (Also cited as “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”) In reality, the literal English translation of the sentence from Hugo’s Histoire d’un Crime is: “One can resist the invasion of armies; one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.” The oft-cited English paraphrase versions were never spoken or written by Hugo.


EGYPT’S RECENT PROOF OF THE CONCEPT:

“Victor Hugo once wrote: ‘No one can resist an idea whose time has come’...The times when Arab rulers could treat their people like naughty children are over.”
       Ismail Serageldin
       Director of The Library of Alexandria in Egypt and one of the country’s leading intellectuals
       Quoted
in a news story about the Egyptian people’s revolt on Speigel Online International, February, 2011


AN MLK SCHOLAR’S COMMENT ON EGYPT:

“In Egypt we are witnessing the 24/7 validation of Victor Hugo's observation in the 1800s that ‘more powerful than the March of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.’ More importantly, we are witnessing the universal power of the legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. – their commitment to non-violent civil disobedience as an instrument to successfully effect fundamental political change to peacefully achieve participatory democracy.”
       Clarence B. Jones
       Scholar in Residence, Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, Stanford University
       In an opinion piece
on The Huffington Post, February 8, 2011


MLK’S OWN OBSERVATION:

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
       Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
       American civil rights leader and clergyman
       In his book Strength to Love (1963)


ALAIN’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when you have only one idea.”
       Alain (pen name of Emile Auguste Chartier; 1868-1951)
       French philosopher, journalist, and pacifist  
       In his book Propos sur la religion (“Remarks on Religion,” 1938)


THE SERVICEMAN’S COUNTERQUOTE:

“There is something more powerful than an idea whose time has come – the willingness to voluntarily risk your life for something beyond your self, a self-sacrifice that gives others freedoms to do things like sit around and freely express their thoughts about this and that.”
       Blogger Brian Thomas
       In a post about men and women who serve in the military, on his blog
La Sensual Political, November 24, 2010


OSCAR WILDE’S OPINION:

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”
       Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
       Irish writer, poet and wit
       In his book The Critic as Artist (1891)
       Later used by Elbert Hubbard in his magazine The Philistine


THE PRECONCEPTIONS PRINCIPLE:

“There is something more powerful than an idea whose time has come, to wit, an idea which reinforces one’s preconceptions.”
       Blogger Tom Maguire
       On his blog
Just One Minute, September 10, 2007


THE CAMPY MOVIE CRAP PRINCIPLE:

“Teaching tolerance through broad humor and outrageous camp isn’t an idea whose time has come; it’s an idea whose time has passed.”
       Stephanie Zacharek
       Salon.com movie critic
       In
her review of the movie But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)


WALLY’S CORPORATE BOSS PRINCIPLE:

“Nothing is more dangerous than a boss with a spreadsheet.”
       Wally 
       Corporate cube dweller and philosopher
       In Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon strip (1998)

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Further reading: books about great ideas…

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