On Greatness

You approach the crowd and take a seat on a nearby rock. Nobody notices your approach, or if they do they don't give any indication of it. Everyone is watching the two speakers, who seem to be arguing about some ethical issue.

: ...and if they can get you to fear something, you will obey them. Those who instill the sense of fear will also explain how you ought to avoid it. It is a variation on the good-cop bad-cop routine.

So like I said, fear is the chief factor that stops a man from achieving his greatness. Writ large, a fearful society values safety and avoids risk and conflict. Without a willingness to roll the dice, without the confidence to assert their will, how can anyone, or any nation, hope to be great?

That is your answer.

The other man struts forward and gives his response...

: A nice speech, but fear is only part of the puzzle; you fail to see the forest for the trees. You might convince me that man has an inherent sense of fear that can be preyed on, but how does a nation have a sense of fear? In your example the nation has leaders, who presumably inspired the fear in the commons. The leaders would not feel constrained by whatever threat they promoted; if anything they would feel emboldened by the increased control over their flock. So fear is only a partial explanation at best.

Listen to my speech if you want to know the truth of the matter:

Greatness is defined by its context. If a man's world consists of his immediate family and iron rice bowl, then how would he define greatness as anything other than preserving the peace in his home and consistently performing a minor professional function? If the nation regards itself as only concerned with maintaining the status quo, what ambition would it have beyond maintaining friendly diplomatic relations and avoiding internal change or strife?

If you want something more significant, you must broaden the context. The individual must add new dimensions to his world view - a sense of morality and culture that he can use to develop himself beyond his immediate practical functions. These new ideals will lead him to change the world to conform with his vision of the ideal order. His new perspective will impact his decision making, and will impact what it is he fears and how he responds to any such fear.

For the nation it is much the same. Externally, the nation will seek to bring about an international order that will promote its culture and values. It will seek to create an ideal citizenry that can embody the national values and give rise to a state of lasting eunomia.

To flourish, one's considerations must go beyond reproduction and a manual trade. Only when one is seriously concerned with honouring the philosophical, cultural, and multi-generational, can one achieve any significant measure of greatness. Without that, one is a natural born helot and whether he is afraid will be irrelevant - the spiritual helot will always work the field and give the true citizenry their cut.

To flourish, the nation's considerations must go beyond maintaining the status quo. Its culture and values will define its greatness. It will elevate its citizenry so the people resemble that which they love; it will be a hegemon, it will ensure that the international environment is one that naturally accommodates its national vision.

So there you have it. The thing that stops us from achieving true greatness is the breadth of our thought.

There are other speakers lined up, but it seems they have decided to take a brief recess before continuing. You take the opportunity to stretch your legs.

Continue:

Return to the patio...