Is it always necessary to be a criminal to become a great man? To understand this, we need to see the formation of greatness in an individual through historical perspective. The word great is described as “high status, qualities, and skills in any field or good physical state of being”. Though its definition may vary from culture to culture, society to society, discipline to discipline and geography to geography, the term ‘great’ is mainly used to interpret different situations, purposes and activities based on one’s social role. The evidence of greatness can be traced from human history, with historical references; it can be agreed or opposed that a great man must have a criminal background.
Mario Puzo, a renowned American novelist says, “Great men are not born great, they grew great“. Such people are called “great” because of their services they render for the betterment of their respective societies. In this connection, the backgrounds of the great figures of the world can be used to solve the riddle. “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing,” said Socrates, the great Greek philosopher who is considered the father of Western philosophy. He grew up in humble origins and died after drinking a hemlock of poison after he refused to compromise on his principles.
Plato, another monumental figure in the history of Western philosophy and a renowned literary theorist grew up in a war zone at a time when there was political turmoil all around. Soon after the Peloponnesian war ended in 405, Plato, disappointedly, left politics to start his new life as a writer. He produced his magnum opus “The Republic,” a famous treatise that would be known as a giant in literature.
Aristotle, another towering figure in Western philosophy and literary theory was a protégé of Plato. He divided knowledge into different disciplines and sub-disciplines as physics, chemistry, zoology, botany, psychology, politics, logic etc. Aristotle was born in Stagira in Northern Greece which then was ruled by the Macedonians. Aristotle was educated at Plato’s Academy and had the prestige of being Plato’s best student. After Plato’s death, Aristotle travelled to Asia and Lesbos Island. Aristotle practiced scientific research and after years of travelling, he wrote his famous treatise “Poetics”.
In this regard, another reference from the modern-day political world is former President of the United States Abraham Lincoln. He was born in 1809 in Kentucky (USA) in a poor family. His schooling lasted no longer than a year and he was largely a self-taught man. He used to work in different places before finally becoming a lawyer. At that time, slavery was legal in the United States. White people kept the Blacks as slaves in their farms and private properties and treated them like animals. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the President of the United States and he was the person who ultimately abolished slavery from the US.
Karl Marx, another great man in modern history, was born in Germany. He was a renowned political scientist, often called the father of Marxism, who brought revolutionary ideas and shaped the 19th and 20th centuries. “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” said Marx.
“If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.” This was stated by great South African leader and an anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela. This great man stood against the apartheid and was also imprisoned several times but he never gave up on his dream. In 1994, South Africa had its first fully representative democratic election wherein Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) emerged as a clear winner with 65% vote. Nelson Mandela became the first President of new South Africa.
Former US President, Barack H. Obama, once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones, we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”. Obama’s father was a Kenyan while his mother belonged to Kansans. At the young age, Obama’s father abandoned the family, leaving young Obama alone to face difficulties of life. However, Obama did not lose hope. He studied law and later worked as a civil rights lawyer in Chicago. He emerged on the political scene in 1996 when he started serving in Illinois state senate. In 2004, he was elected to the US senate and in 2008 Obama, finally, became president of the USA and ruled the superpower for two consecutive terms.
There are countless other examples but the most prominent names among them are: William Henry Gates III (Bill Gates) – currently the richest man in the world possessing assets worth 56 billion US dollars, Christopher Columbus – an explorer and navigator who discovered America, Earnest Hemingway – a Nobel Laureate in Literature for his most famous novel “The Old Man and the Sea” and Johan Gutenberg – a German Blacksmith, goldsmith, printer and publisher who invented the first printing press (Gutenberg’s printing press).
All these great people started from humble beginnings and reached the zenith of excellence with their indomitable will and an unflagging resolve to public service. Moreover, to achieve a prominent place in the world history, these people did not have any illegal or criminal background.
By: M. Nawaz Malik