Time Magazine: Man of the Millennium

Craig Burley burley at tweedledumb.cygnus.com
Wed Sep 23 11:43:16 EST 1998


mawarkus at t-online.de (Matthias Warkus) writes:

> Andy Ylikoski schrieb:
> > 
> > My suggestion is the head of the American Revolution, George
> > Washington.  He is the man who did the most for the benefit of the
> > human race.
> 
> Or are you implying that George Washington's leading of the American
> Revolution had some other benefit than just creating the first "modern"
> (this can be argued) democracy in the world?
> If yes, are you suggesting that the American hegemony has done us any
> good?

Well, thinking in terms of what he actually *said*, "benefit of the
human race", I think it's fair to at least consider that it might have
been the unique contribution of George Washington that he laid down
the foundations of a government, based not on powerful personal rule
but the rule of the individual citizen (via democratic republic) and
his private morality, and that this government, in basically the same
form, a century later, struck the most definitive worldwide blow
against the widespread practice of slavery.

That is, many (presumably) preceded Washington who ruled and refused
to allow slavery, and many *could* have followed.

But, if a personal-power-based government outlaws slavery in the
one instance, it can reinstate it in the next...and even if it
doesn't, other such governments need take no notice.  Hence the
patchwork prevalence of slavery throughout the world for millenia,
and the likelihood of its continuing, ebbing and flowing in overall
predominance, throughout the centuries.

What Washington established, and Lincoln actually oversaw, was the
phenomenon of hundreds of thousands of free, relatively wealthy
*citizens* (not subjects) of a nation laying down their lives to
ensure that the freedoms they enjoyed would be enjoyed throughout their
nation, rather than being deprived of millions of those of a (generally)
different race via the legal mechanism of secession.

My impression is that *that* collective act got the world's attention
in a way that no single personal ruler could possibly have done.

And it seems to have been a lasting lesson, at least so far, temporary,
ludicrous definitions of "slavery" to which we're nowadays subjected
notwithstanding.

Other people I think are worth at least considering for putting on
a (long) list of "greatly influenced this millenium" are:

  Hildegard von Bingen (a rather interesting life, scientifically as
    well as religiously and musically speaking)
  Nelson Mandela (hopefully the man of the next century or millenium)
  Mary Baker Eddy (kinda like Mandela, though: a recent figure)
  Whoever that King of England was who gave up the Battle of Hastings
    circa 1066 (though maybe the guy who started the invasion should
    really get the credit)
  Charles Babbage (sp?)

-- 

"Practice random senselessness and act kind of beautiful."
James Craig Burley, Software Craftsperson    burley at gnu.org



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