Do you remember taking history classes? Me too. Do you remember ALL the names of ALL the people in ALL your books and lectures? Me neither. There are just too many people who have done too many amazing and/or horrific things for us to remember each and every one. Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China (or just, you know, modern China) once said, “The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history.”
Ironically, Zedong went on to become the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China and one of the “greatest” and most influential men of all time whose actions are still felt over 60 years later. The world is filled with over seven billion people, each of whom have the capacity and potential to rise and become legendary figures. They also have the ability to simply stay another nameless face in a crowd. There are instances in which the population has come together and created progressive change. However, even then it because of a few great men that progress occurs. It is all too often that a few people, traditionally white, rich, educated men, pull the strings of such revolutions and control the way the history books are written.
While I would love to go all V for Vendetta and tell you “governments should be afraid of their people,” I feel that all too often it is these few human beings who end up driving the other 7 billion or so of us in specific directions. Look at figures like both Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt, Lenin, Mandela, Gandhi, most any Pope or ruler, Jay Z, and so on and so on.
A perfect example is the American Revolution. Yes, you could make the argument that the colonists banded together to fight off the British and claim this fine country as “their own.” But I would contest that had it not been for the founding fathers, none of this would have ever been successful. Still remembered men such as Sam Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine instigated most of the events leading up to the actual revolution. Think about it; the colonists (who even ended up fighting for the to-be America) were primarily farmers or craftsmen who were too busy attempting to settle the land rather than train in military combat. The British, on the other hand, had career soldiers trained with rifles and other means of combat. That’s why the Americans so desperately needed guerilla tactics to fight. But even with those tactics and the war eventually won, it is thanks to the members of the Continental Congress that we even have America as we know it today. Let’s keep in mind that all the men were white, most were rich, about half had been officers in the military, and over half were college educated in a time when virtually no one went to college. Still, these were great men whose actions led to the formation of what is today’s arguably greatest and most powerful country. It was these few men who pulled the strings of everything, thankfully, towards a brighter future.
Now that’s an example of a time when things were really right for those few people controlling history. I’ll give a time it went really, incredibly wrong. It’s this little thing called World War II. WWII was brought about by many factors but one of the biggest was the economy decimating reparations that were imposed on Germany by the Allies leaders that sky rocketed inflation and devalued German currency quicker than you read this last sentence. Strangely enough, the German high command didn’t really catch that much flack, rather this seething hatred became directed towards Communists, Socialists, and, of course, the Jewish population. It also allowed for the Nazi party to become so powerful that it became the dominant party. The result? Just this little Fuehrer named Adolf Hitler. If you don’t think Hitler and his closest advisors, such as Goebbels, have shaped world history, then I don’t know why you’re still reading.
Yes, people as a collective body have the ability to create massive change in this world. But here’s what I believe (and this will shoot my future political career in the foot), people are stupid but a person can be brilliant. People cannot simply co-exist; it’s not in our nature. We live collectively and move towards a common goal, but there is always an alpha, always a leader. I firmly believe in the idea that if you want to change the rules, you have to win the game first. Does this make me sound arrogant? I suppose, but even after the dust settles from the revolution, a leader(s) is still needed and the game begins again. Anyone can be that leader and I encourage everyone to try and become that next Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but history is written by and about the victorious leaders, not the masses. All I ask is that when you, or me, or whoever has that power and that opportunity, use it to better the lives of the population at large and promote a world of love and compassion. Because our lives aren’t about you and me, they’re about the generations to come. Give those children a world worth living in. Like Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”