So far outside the box you can't even see the box from here.
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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.
I live in an area of NH known as the Great North Woods. I'm in my dome-i-cile out in the county with my lovely wife and a varying number of family and friends
-part red neck, part hippie but all country. Experimenting and enjoying the adventure of life.