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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:00 PM   #1

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Why do great men appear at the same time in history, while other periods lack such me


I've often wondered this. For example I've been studying the founding fathers late me and have been struck by the massive amount of brilliant and capable men in this time period, and was wondering why so many came about at the same time. At first my answer to this was that because it was such a great time, great men were needed. However, reflecting on this I saw that the holes in this argument are infinite. Let's take WW1 and WWII for example. At the time both of these were the greatest wars in history, a great time indeed. However, WWI is noted for it's considerable lack of great men, while WWII has an abundance of them. So why do large groups of great men appear at the same time, while other times have a drought of these men? Why does a single great man appear sometimes, when there are no other great men around?
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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:09 PM   #2

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If you consider two baseball teams. One has a lot of good players and one has a lot of bad players. You have the choice of joining one of the two teams. If you join the team with a lot of good players, you stand a better chance of winning games, but you won't be a first stringer. If you join the team with a lot of bad players, you may be their best and lead the team, but you won't win a lot of games. Surprisingly, many people might want to join the team with bad players, because this can make them star players, but another problem arises. They don't learn much from their teammates. On the other hand, those who choose to join the team with the good players end up learning a great deal more, because all their teammates have a lot to teach.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that strong competition encourages improvement and results in better individuals all around. When there are great men around, others become better.
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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:17 PM   #3

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Originally Posted by Apachewarlord View Post
I've often wondered this. For example I've been studying the founding fathers late me and have been struck by the massive amount of brilliant and capable men in this time period, and was wondering why so many came about at the same time. At first my answer to this was that because it was such a great time, great men were needed. However, reflecting on this I saw that the holes in this argument are infinite. Let's take WW1 and WWII for example. At the time both of these were the greatest wars in history, a great time indeed. However, WWI is noted for it's considerable lack of great men, while WWII has an abundance of them. So why do large groups of great men appear at the same time, while other times have a drought of these men? Why does a single great man appear sometimes, when there are no other great men around?
World War one a lack of great men? Oh you are very much mistaken there!
A quick look around on Wikipedia would certainly change your mind because World War one is full of great men. My personal favourite is georges clemenceau

I think you have to consider the way in which people can rise trough the ranks in wartime. Men could go from being a NCO to a high ranking officer in a few years. Same goes for politics, politicians get punished for big mistakes and other more competent men take their place.
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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:18 PM   #4
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Great men don't appear when needed, they appear when allowed to appear. A major problem in WW1 was the antiquated military system, officer positions were supposed to go to the aristocracy, hence you had a somewhat dry pool to draw from.

Washington, Napoleon, Caesar, Hitler...all of these men appeared in revolutions or times of great upheaval. WW1 was just a "routine war" that grew a little bigger than anticipated. For sure there existed great men in this war as well, but they were not allowed to reach higher positions as easily.

Great men are risky, domineering, revolutionary. The establishment will never allow them to rise unless times are desperate (or sheer luck, like a royal heir turning out to be a great man, like Alex). This I think is why you see so few great men these days. Our society is rich, stable. There's no need for them.
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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:19 PM   #5

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Do great men appear or do ordinary men do extra ordinary things?
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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:22 PM   #6
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I, personally, am highly skeptical of the "great men" concept, in any context. Great men are often the result of great self-marketing.

But anyway, "great" leaders and the like are more likely to arise and be seen as such in periods where their nation is really imperiled and good leadership is badly needed, and overlooked in times when everything is running smoothly. To be great and influential a leader needs circumstances that allow them to be great and influential.
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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:32 PM   #7

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I, personally, am highly skeptical of the "great men" concept, in any context. Great men are often the result of great self-marketing.

But anyway, "great" leaders and the like are more likely to arise and be seen as such in periods where their nation is really imperiled and good leadership is badly needed, and overlooked in times when everything is running smoothly. To be great and influential a leader needs circumstances that allow them to be great and influential.
And that's what I've always thought but we can look through history and see this to be false. Where were the great men when Rome fell? Why were there few great men when France was conquered by the Germans?
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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:34 PM   #8

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Originally Posted by herrnimrod View Post
Great men don't appear when needed, they appear when allowed to appear. A major problem in WW1 was the antiquated military system, officer positions were supposed to go to the aristocracy, hence you had a somewhat dry pool to draw from.

Washington, Napoleon, Caesar, Hitler...all of these men appeared in revolutions or times of great upheaval. WW1 was just a "routine war" that grew a little bigger than anticipated. For sure there existed great men in this war as well, but they were not allowed to reach higher positions as easily.

Great men are risky, domineering, revolutionary. The establishment will never allow them to rise unless times are desperate (or sheer luck, like a royal heir turning out to be a great man, like Alex). This I think is why you see so few great men these days. Our society is rich, stable. There's no need for them.
Hmmm, this is a good point.
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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:48 PM   #9

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And that's what I've always thought but we can look through history and see this to be false. Where were the great men when Rome fell? Why were there few great men when France was conquered by the Germans?
Not in France.

I take it by "great", you're talking about military "greatness" here?
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Old January 16th, 2014, 03:59 PM   #10
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Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were from adjacent counties in Illinois. I think there's little doubt that Lincoln compared himself to Douglas throughout his adult life (Douglas had courted Mary Todd to some extent), and that in the 1850s Lincoln was able to"elevate his game" precisely because he was familiar with Douglas and knew what sort of effort it would take to best him.

Edit: Addition because I was unaware of the apparent new rule requiring the mention of kangaroos in every thread.

Last edited by RoryOMore; January 16th, 2014 at 04:08 PM.
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