Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Singular or plural?

I’ve been arguing with few friends of mine over many topics, and I remember one we almost got angry at each other. We were talking about history and relativity of it, and although we all agreed that History is written by the victorious ones, we couldn’t agree on who is making the history.

         The first thesis was easy – people tend to be seen as individualistic entities, free from others’ influences. But it’s a myth. There is no single person who can claim that he/she is free from the influence of other people, it’s simply impossible. Human nature is to incorporate alien experiences and ideas into your own blood circle. We learn throughout our lifetime. We abandon something that ceased to fulfill our needs. Simple. And I came across some statements giving as the example kids that have grown up in the jungle (oh yes, big black panther saved them, wolf gave its milk, weird thing no whale-human family in this picture), and supposedly those kids were free from society’s rules. Yes, but they are not entirely free from ANY rules, my dear ladies and gents. Whoever told you that animals don’t have rules was stupid and I challenge this idiot to a duel. They have, wolves are really well organized in a pack, apes as well (don’t know much on apes, cause I hate them), so claiming that a kid has grown up in such environment as tabula rasa is pure nonsense. The kid adapts to the society in which one grows up, be it the human society, animals, or, the ultimate one – fangirls.
And here we are close to the main problem – history. Is history created by individuals or by many?

            Some of us who took part in this rhetoric feud were on the “singular perch”, the others were on “plural perch”, as we called it. History, as we are taught about, is made of famous names, Caesar, Hannibal, Nebuchadnezzar, Henry VIII, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, etc. They made the history, they changed the history, they distorted the history. People who don’t like history say: “Oh it’s only dates and names”. Names of the places, names of the people. True, talented individuals are like the pebble that moves the avalanche. But what is this avalanche? Is it single snowflake? No, billions of them. Only then they can form a deadly weapon of nature.
The same goes for people. Individuals are like stepping stones, brilliant but powerless. They would end up as no one if they didn’t have thousands following them. Those nameless thousands who are so eager to give up their lives for someone else’s wish. Such individuals always appear in the times of darkness and uncertainty. They play the role of a beacon light. They show the way, but the beacon fire is useless when there is no one to guide, no one to lead, and no place to lead to.

            Julius Caesar – his dictatorship was in a crucial times for Rome. If it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be the Empire as we know it. He came just in the right time. And he paved the road for August, Tiberius, Caligula, and others. If it wasn’t for senate in Rome, neither August nor later Tiberius would end up as emperors or at least they would be less powerful. Every time I’m home, I read I, Claudius by Robert Graves. I do like Antiquity, so immersing myself for a day in such book is a nice journey to the times of horror. Great individuals here lost because they didn’t have other people behind their back.

           Hitler grasped the power in a very favorable moment, people were angry, disappointed and easy to be moved. They needed someone to lead them, for better or for worse. And the man came. You know, it’s not like I’m praising this monster, but he got some great influence on people and knew how to move their hearts. And mob doesn’t think with the head but with a heart. The same goes for crowds during the gladiators fights. Mob could force its decision on Caesars! If no one followed Hitler, there wouldn’t be such mass hysteria like that. It would be just failed dream of a man. He had millions supporting him and only those millions got him the victory.
And don’t let me start on Stalin. He’s one of the worst in 20th century. Maybe only Pol-Pot is beating him, but not sure.

     To fully understand history - don't rely on school books only. They have to be concise, and for most of the people they are just names and dates. Read the whole history environment, as I call it. You like caesars' period in Rome? So don't sit on your 3-letters but read Swetonius, Tacitus, Marcus Aurelius, Julius Caesar, modern books on such period. And don't blame history classes. They have to be just names and dates.

So my final words would be like that: Individuals are like head. Head thinks and receives the stimulus. But without arms and legs it can do nothing. Arms don’t think, they crush the stone though.