Thursday, December 09, 2010
FORCEFUL PERSONALITIES---A BLESSING OR A CURSE?
A NIGHT WITH GENERAL PATTON. His Museum is just ahead---located very near his desert training headquarters--from which he guided vast armies of trainees preparing for warfare in north Africa. Thousands of square miles stretching East to Quartzsite and South to Yuma, Az--constituted the largest training area in history. I'll go through the museum again to warm up my brain to address the big question posed in the title. 30 miles east of Indio, Ca --just off Interstate 10. (how do you pronounce that word?)
I spent the night right here---the famous general just outside my window---I was alone in the parking lot--just me and the "general" and his strange looking dog.
Sunrise and soon the museum opens----lots of tanks outside for the viewing.
Me and the general. Surely one of history's more forceful personalities. Subordinates feared and revered him. His style of warfare was super agressive. Speeches on the wall advocate unrelenting attack---contempt for passive--positional--defensive strategies. He believed this to be the "cheapest"--in terms of lives lost--way to end the war. German Generals considered him the most dangerous---and were incredulous when he was removed from command for merely striking a soldier.
I travel 8 miles and call it a day at the edge of Joshua tree National Park.
I'll just sit here and think awhile about the General and other forceful personalities in history---How do I judge them -- generally? As barrier--breaking--red tape cutting--log jam anniliating--heroes----- or egomaniacal, frenzied bulls in civilizations china shop. ( Incidentally, I'm parked only a few feet from the Colorado Aqueduct---its buried under those bushes this side of the road)
While I'm pondering--who should surprise me but an old friend---enroute to the infamous SLABS. She camps with me for the night.
RANDY HILOSOPHIZES: OK---I've had time to think. We need charismatic leaders (people with personal magnetism) for the same reason we need salesmen---to bring us to decision and action. Humans naturally drift, dawdle, delay---collectively we are even worse than we are individually---And the tendency of social and personal drift is downward. Societies and nations idle away their time doing nothing of significance. I believe there is important work to be done --defeating the forces of entropy and building progress (progress is the increase of options) ---We need powerful personalities--like Thomas Paine to stir us to action---Personalities like Voltaire--Andrew Jackson--Theodore Roosevelt---and yes--General George Patton who possess personal magnetism. Yes I know Hitler was charismatic too--and led millions down a rathole. As did Napoleon etc. The trick is to use such personalities for the stimulus they provide but not let them use us---exactly like Eisenhower used Patton. Like fire, they make a great servant but a bad master.