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Greatest Figure in the History of the World


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I thought it might be a good idea to start a thread on the greatest figure in the history of the world. I started by thinking about what I value most about society. I came up with democracy, freedom of expression, political equality and the welfare state. I then looked at the person who did most to achieve this. I would therefore nominate Tom Paine.

In 1776 Paine published Common Sense, a pamphlet that attacked the British Monarchy and argued for American independence. Over the next few years he wrote articles and pamphlets on the superiority of republican democracy over monarchical government. This not only influenced events in America but also played a role in the French Revolution.

In 1791 he published his most influential work, The Rights of Man. In the book Paine attacked hereditary government and argued for equal political rights. He also urged the introduction of progressive taxation, family allowances, old age pensions, maternity grants and the abolition of the House of Lords.

The Rights of Man was printed in cheap editions so that it could achieve a working class readership. Although the book was banned by the government, during the next two years over 200,000 people in Britain managed to buy a copy. The book inspired a generation of men and women willing to sacrifice life and liberty in order to obtain equal political rights.

Most of the things Paine advocated were not achieved until the 20th century. However, I believe that Paine’s writings played an important role in this. I know my decision has been influenced by the fact that Paine was born in Britain (in fact he lived very close to the place where I am typing these comments). I would be very interested to hear from others who would like to nominate someone from the country where they live.

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It would be interesting to see how many school leavers were familiar with Tom Paine's life and work. When I was at University as an undergraduate I did a (fascinating) course on 'Utopia and Anarchy', focusing on the ideas of radicals and 'outcasts, and the ways in which their ideas had been marginalised, history written by the winners etc. I would also be interested to find out how many school leavers had a reasonable understanding of democracy and 'democratic deficits' in today's political systems. I suspect that beyond 'the right to vote', school history as it is currently constituted would not give young people much idea of the complexity and flawed nature of contemporary democracies. Anyway, Tom Paine would go onto my history curriculum for the 21st century, but not probably as 'top person'.

My suggestions are not particulalry original, but I would make a case for Gandhi and Mandela,and perhaps also, Woodrow Mann. To have so much moral courage, to suffer so much and be surrounded by such evil, hatred and bigotry and yet still to have the vision and drive to make their part of the world 'a better place'. What the world needs now.... The middle east, Ireland, the trampling of social justice and a decent standard of living for all under the heel of market capitalism and globalisation... testimony to the absence of figures of the stature of Gandhi and Mandela.

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I would support Terry in his commendation of Nelson Mandela. My son has recently returned from South Africa, where he visited Robben Island, and he came away mightily impressed by the humanity and vision of Mandela in not being turned into a monster wanting revenge by the conditions suffered there. It must take a great deal of goodness to be able to repeatedly turn the other cheek, and preach reconciliation.

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I thought it might be a good idea to start a thread on the greatest figure  in the history of the world. I started by thinking about what I value most about society. I came up with democracy, freedom of expression, political equality and the welfare state. I then looked at the person who did most to achieve this. I would therefore nominate Tom Paine.

In 1776 Paine published Common Sense, a pamphlet that attacked the British Monarchy and argued for American independence. Over the next few years he wrote articles and pamphlets on the superiority of republican democracy over monarchical government. This not only influenced events in America but also played a role in the French Revolution.

In 1791 he published his most influential work, The Rights of Man. In the book Paine attacked hereditary government and argued for equal political rights. He also urged the introduction of progressive taxation, family allowances, old age pensions, maternity grants and the abolition of the House of Lords.

The Rights of Man was printed in cheap editions so that it could achieve a working class readership. Although the book was banned by the government, during the next two years over 200,000 people in Britain managed to buy a copy. The book inspired a generation of men and women willing to sacrifice life and liberty in order to obtain equal political rights.

Most of the things Paine advocated were not achieved until the 20th century. However, I believe that Paine’s writings played an important role in this. I know my decision has been influenced by the fact that Paine was born in Britain (in fact he lived very close to the place where I am typing these comments). I would be very interested to hear from others who would like to nominate someone from the country where they live.

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Guest Andrew Moore

One could make out a case for the leaders or creators of the great world faiths - but that's perhaps not really a historical judgement.

The answer may depend on whether we think of history as about politics, conquest, scientific advance or cultural achievement; and on whether we look for someone who made a difference individually (like a Leonardo) or as the leader and embodiment of a wider movement (like Attila or Stalin).

As the sponsors of huge movements that built up civilizations, I would offer three nominees - Alexander (who spread a common language and culture), Augustus Caesar (who brought the Pax Romana) or St. Augustine (whose theories would be developed into the dominant thought of the middle ages, and later - and who influences both Catholic and Protestant traditions beyond.) The City of God almost lays down the blueprint for western civilization in the millennium after its appearance.

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Arthur, Dux Bellorum, Cornwall and Wales,

Fifth Century British General.

Boadicca, Welsh Queen,

First Century British General.

Caradoc, Silurian Prince held at Rome,

with Bran and Linus, his Kin, who survived

Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene at Ilchester and Glastonbury.

These who faced the greatest odds with the greatest strength.

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I agree that Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. Should be near the top. Gandhi because of the methods he used to gain power, Mandela because of the way he behaved once in power. Gandhi is important because he influenced that other giant of 20th century politics, Martin Luther King.

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Well I assume John would accept there is a good case for Spartacus. Not because he was a "role model" (I don't believe in them) but because he represents the idea that unless the oppressed liberate themselves nobody else is going to do it for them.

(And the scene in the film where all the slaves beginning with the one most closely compromised with the masters, all insist "I'm Spartacus" always brings tears to my eyes....I appreciate that was more a bitter comment on McCarthyism in Hollywood than an historically accurate representation)

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I would nominate Prometheus or rather his human analog who first gained control over fire. It's what, IMO, brought the human species out of the trees and gave us dominion over all other animals of this world, and started us on the path to civilization. :clapping

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I think here I will give two answers and I will say why.

I am going to give an Irish person as i feel i must but i will also give a world figure if that is ok.

First, Padraig Pearse. He led the Rsing in 1916 and was one of the instigators in the struggle and eventual independece of Ireland from Britain. He was excecuted in May of 1916 a week after the rebellion. He was a great figure in history.

The world figure is somewhat more difficult but I would have to say Martin Luther King Jr because I admire his struggle and drive to to create equality and the fact that he used Gandhi as a role model in this struggle from freedom. I think much can be learned from him today in relation the the state of our world.

Caroline Hall

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There is recency and primacy.

For recency, I would agree with Ghandi and MLK actually leading millions in a peaceful but self-actualizing direction.

For primacy, I would cite the leader of the group who first entered North America, or the various clan/genetic core leaders who first broached any continent .... the ancient pioneers influenced millions over generations, 20th century leaders influened billions all at once...

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I'll extend a vote to Pythagoras. We couldn't have gotten very far in a civilization without that equation of his. He is also said to be the first to measure musical intervals with ratios.

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I'll extend a vote to Pythagoras. We couldn't have gotten very far in a civilization without that equation of his. He is also said to be the first to measure musical intervals with ratios.

________________________________

That's a no brainer for me: Jesus Christ.

(Attorney) Dawn Meredith

12/24/04

"Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel's voices, oh night divine...."

(My favorite Christmas song Oh Holy Night)

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I'll extend a vote to Pythagoras. We couldn't have gotten very far in a civilization without that equation of his. He is also said to be the first to measure musical intervals with ratios.

________________________________

That's a no brainer for me: Jesus Christ.

(Attorney) Dawn Meredith

12/24/04

"Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel's voices, oh night divine...."

(My favorite Christmas song Oh Holy Night)

Clearly.

Attorney Meredith and I participate in the JFK Forum. Almost everyone, whether interested in the JFK case or not, know that he was assassinated on November 22, 1963. On the same day, a famous English writer named C. S. Lewis died. Lewis wrote a treatise defending Christianity called "Mere Christianity". In it, he famously argued that, because Jesus publicly proclaimed Himself the Son of God He was either a xxxx (if he falsely advanced the claim; a lunatic (if He really believed it; or,in fact, the Son of God. Lewis then went on to offer his reasons for believing that Jesus was in fact the Son of God and Saviour of the world (to those who accept His sacrificial atonement and govern their lives accordingly).

If Jesus was in fact the Son of God, He clearly is, as Attorney Meredith states, the most important person in the history of the world.

If any member is not sure whether Jesus was indeed the Son of God, or a xxxx or a lunatic, I would encourage him or her to read "Mere Christianity". Another book I like is "The Cost of Discipleship", by Dietrich Bonhoffer, a German Lutheran minister. Bonhoffer was convinced of the evils of Hitler and he voluntarily returned to German to fight Hitler. He participated in a plot to kill Hitler, for which he was imprisoned and ultimately executed. Bonhoffer was a man demonstrated the cost that one is sometimes required to pay to be a disciple of Christ.

This is indeed a holy night, the night in which Christians throughout the world celebrate God's gift of His Son to the world.

* * * * *

I hate to trivialize the above post, but for members of the Kennedy Forum (I guess for the Christian members) I found it interesting that in the masterful biography of Johnny Rosselli the authors state that shortly before he was murdered, Rosselli went to an old friend who was a Catholic priest and made his confession.

So, if when you get to Heaven and ask the Lord "Who Really Killed JFK?" and the Lord's answer is: "I have a theory about that", look up Johnny Rosselli. I suspect he knows!

Edited by Tim Gratz
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