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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Man on a White Horse

There are a couple of competing theories of history. There’s the man on a white horse theory. It’s named after all those statures of people like George Washington and Napoleon, mounted on a white horse. The theory basically states that certain people make history. They bend the course of history with their actions.

Another theory is that individuals don’t really matter. It’s historical forces that shape the day: economics, population pressures, environment, climate, psychology, disease and so on.

I think they are both right, depending on the circumstances. Some people have vision, will and the ability to get things done, but the conditions have to be right. George Washington would not have founded a new nation if everyone had been happy with the old English rule. Napoleon seized the day, but after a period of turmoil where people were ready for a strong leader. Hitler would most likely have not come to power if the German economy had been doing well.

Looking at the world right now, I see plenty of historical forces in play. It is really tempting to wish for that man on a white horse to come riding in to save the day. However, looking at the likely leaders, I fear we are more likely to get a Hitler than a Washington. That type does really well when everyone is fearful.

There are circumstances where it doesn’t matter much who’s in charge. If the boat is already going over the falls, changing captains isn’t going to help much. It didn’t matter who was leading Pompeii. When the volcano erupted, everyone got buried.

The grand sweep of history is interesting and all, but what’s a person in the middle of it supposed to do? For most of us, our best bet is to keep an eye on the volcano. Never mind what everyone else says about the volcano. If it starts to rumble, get the heck out of the way. The best thing the average Joe can do about historical forces, or “great men” is to not let them run him over.



  1. Shit happens look at the The Supreme Leader of Iran

  2. Morning Amigo. All those white horse guys in history certainly had their influence on the happenings. No getting around it.

    Maybe every year there ought to be a celebration, an awards ceremony for a white horseman of the past, him coming up to the microphone handed a small statue, taking a shot at an humble 'thank you'.

    "Thank you. Thank you. I'm honored. Tonight I'd just like to thank all the little people who made it happen. The ones I left scattered across the battlefields and filling the ground outside the hospital tents with arms and legs. The mothers, wives and families back home who struggled and suffered and starved because their husbands and sons and brothers were away or dead because they believed in me, or because I had the power to make it happen, to press them into my army and make them fight for what I believed in.

    "Let's have a big hand for all those little people."

  3. When I took my last trip that lasted three weeks, I never once turned on the TV or listened to any news on the radio. It was a really peaceful three weeks. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. . . and some times it can kill you.

  4. People always disappoint people no matter where in the spectrum of beliefs, doctrines, persuasions they are.

    That said, I've never thought it wise to look up to "wise men", "leaders" or "appointees." No matter their original intentions, somewhere along the way they're corrupted.

    People with power or in power are there because they're willing to trample others. And along the way they end up owing others for their sublime status.

    Not a system I care to support, vote for or believe in. I do my best to care for me and mine and listen or watch policians when I want a good laugh or an excuse to kick something.