Listeria

11 Jul

I was at the pharmacy buying legal drugs and had to wait the required 20 minutes for them to fill my prescription. There were five druggists and one customer, so I’m not sure why it should take that long. Maybe, they were sampling their merchandise. Anyway, I entertained myself by looking at greeting cards; checking out the new wave of condoms; and, in the end, heading over to the magazine stand. There, in the middle of the too-much-about-celebrities and the too-little-about-sports, I found TIME: The 100 Most Influential People of All Time.

I know what these “list” magazines are. They are a way for magazines to make some extra money and maybe get new subscribers. They are pointless because the lists are totally subjective, and there is no way of knowing how they came up with the names. Besides, what makes 100 so special anyway? It’s just a round number. Despite all of that, I am a sucker for these types of things. I even bought Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and made sure I had all of the songs on my iPod. This, despite the fact that “Like a ROLLING STONE” by Bob Dylan was ranked Numero Uno, and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The ROLLING STONES came in second. Talk about subjective lists with self-promotion.

As you can probably imagine, I bought the history list, too. I am a historian who likes lists. What can I say? Now, I’m not going to go through the entire list, but a few things stood put to me.

1. There are a few people on the list who are subject to speculation in their actual existence. There’s Abraham, Jesus Christ, Confucius. Heck, some people even doubt the reality of William Shakespeare. Yet, they are on the list. Let me set this straight. I am not saying that they did not exist. They, or the inspiration for them, probably did. Also, there is no doubt of the impact that they and their followers have had on the world. I only think it is interesting that the list includes people who may not have actually been people.

2. There are four U.S. presidents on the list – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. I have already written about what I think of our presidents, so I won’t go into great detail. However, this brings some thoughts to mind. First, these four did a great job and left an impact on the world. Second, the other forty haven’t done much. I mean, these guys are always called “the leader of the free world” and are said to hold “the most powerful office in the world”. If that’s true, then why are there not more on the list?

I’ll tell you why. None of that is really true. There are a lot of leaders of “the free world”, and the presidency is not even supposed to be “the most powerful office” in the United States. The three branches – executive, legislative and judicial – are equal. It’s a team effort, and the president is supposed to run the day-to-day operations. Obviously, this job description has been skewed through the years by the people in office (definitely by the four on the list), but the fact remains that the presidency is supposed be no more powerful or influential than the other areas of government.

3. One of the presidents, Roosevelt is on the list along with Winston Churchill. Undoubtedly, they made it because of their efforts against Adolph Hitler (who is also on the list) during World War II. In my opinion, all three of those people deserve their listing. I’m sure a lot of people object to Hitler’s presence, but the list is about influence, not humanity. He started a war that shaped the rest of the 20th Century – from technology to the Cold War.

Mentioning the Cold War leads me to the issue with this grouping. Where is Joseph Stalin? He was one of the Big Three who fought against Nazi Germany. In fact his nation was actually invaded by German troops. Want to know an interesting statistic? More Soviet women died in combat than American men. On top of that, his policies shaped the 20th Century as well.

4. I also find it interesting that my area of historical study, the American West, is also included. I just can’t figure out why. Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea make the list for their journey through the Louisiana Territory. It’s important for the United States, but I am not sure about its influence on the world. First, someone had already made the trek through Canada. Second, most of their travels went through lands already ventured into by Europeans. Third, Native Americans had been there for a long time.

Speaking – actually, writing – of Native Americans. Sitting Bull is on the list. This is one of my favorite people from history, and I will visit the Battle of Little Big Horn, the site of his greatest victory, in a few weeks. However, I don’t see how the killing of George Custer makes him one of the top 100. Sitting Bull didn’t even lead forces into battle because he was recovering from the Sun Dance. He is tattoo worthy, though.

As written earlier, I will not go through the entire list, but I will mention my favorites from each category.

In “Beacon of Spirits”, I like the inclusion of Socrates and Plato.

“Explorers and Visionaries” has Charles Darwin and Alexander Graham Bell, with whom I share a last name. Unfortunately, we are not related.

Queen Elizabeth I and Simon Bolivar are listed under “Leaders of the People”.

“Architects of Culture” includes Michelangelo and Louis Armstrong.

That’s it. If you were on the committee, then who would you put on the list?

13 Responses to “Listeria”

  1. Madame Weebles July 11, 2012 at 23:12 #

    I always find Time’s lists a little peculiar. I see your point about Sitting Bull but he was still cool. I’d hope to see Geronimo in there, and/or Crazy Horse.

    Also, since I haven’t read the article yet, when they say “influential” did they mean in a good way or in general? Because obviously there are plenty of people who have had a terrible but sweeping influence on the world. Hitler being one of the obvious examples, but Stalin’s up there too, along with Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc.

    I’d also want to add Louis Pasteur, Edward Jenner, and Wilhelm Roentgen if they aren’t in there already. Probably because history of science and medicine is one of my areas.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles July 12, 2012 at 00:57 #

      They meant in general. Louis Pasteur is on the list under the “Explorers and Visionaries” section. The history of science and medicine sounds interesting. The prostitutes I study needed a lot of that.

  2. sj July 12, 2012 at 00:21 #

    Wow, given some of the others that were included, I’m really surprised Stalin wasn’t on the list.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles July 12, 2012 at 00:58 #

      I suppose there was only so much room for dictators.

  3. Andrew Petcher July 12, 2012 at 04:43 #

    In 2002 in the UK the BBC conducted a nationwide poll to identify who the public thought was the Greatest Briton. This was a bit pointless and the result was a foregone conclusion and Winston Churchill topped the poll with 28% of the votes. The BBC project first identified the top one hundred candidates and the final vote was between the top ten. Second in the poll was the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel who received nearly 25% of the votes.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles July 12, 2012 at 19:16 #

      That’s an interesting person to come in second.

      • Andrew Petcher July 12, 2012 at 20:07 #

        We have a fascination with IKB in the UK! Even more surprising (for me) was that Princess Diana came third!

  4. Love & Lunchmeat July 13, 2012 at 13:09 #

    I’m glad that Elizabeth I was on the list. I’m assuming Napoleon, Caesar, Thomas Edison, Alexander the Great, Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher on the list. And were Karl Marx and Lenin on the list? I’m not advocating for communism, but for better or worse, they altered millions of people’s lives. Oh, and you didn’t say if Jenner was on the list?

    I’m also curious which writers, philosophers, and philanthropists were on the list… I’m definitely going to need to go buy the magazine, but if Thomas Aquinas didn’t make the list, I will be crabby… The study of modern law technically begins with him.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles July 13, 2012 at 17:38 #

      All of the people you mention are on the list, except for Jenner and Thomas Aquinas. The only Caesar on the list is Augustus. That’s the thing about lists. So many people get left out.

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