Is it an art or is it something more basal? Are we born with a ‘revolutionary’ gene or is it a matter of destiny? How does history choose its heroes? Why is it that some achieve a mass appeal while others with the same conviction wander off in unknown territories? There are some like Rajiv Gandhi who have greatness thrust upon them and slowly learn to live with it. And then there is Vallabh Bhai Patel who rises from the soil and takes his place in history just like a king rises to power.
I do think that there is a strong component of timing at work in these situations. There are times when times demand for a certain leader. The person chosen by the universe to be the center of this demand, the representative if you will, becomes the revolutionary of those times. But then, it is not as simple as that. I cannot claim to understand what really makes someone great because I haven’t (yet) achieved greatness of any kind. No one looks up to me and wants to be like me. No one feels inspired by my thoughts. There are no thoughts even if one was insane enough to do so. I haven’t yet formed a value system that is resistant to change and adversity. I don’t think it is an easy thing to form. This fact itself gives a bit of a clue to solving the problem I have at hand.
A definite value system does make a big difference. It requires continuity of thought. It also requires the individual to sacrifice a little on the “flexibility” grounds but then, it’s a small price to pay for the greatness that awaits him. This is a state of oneness with your ideology. You cannot envision Rajiv Gandhi shunning technology, Mahatma Gandhi talking about war or Nehru turning into a sage. You become one with your ideology and that’s when you cease to be a person and turn into an idea.
I for one, am opposed to such an idea. I’d rather stay a human and yet bring about whatever small change I can bring to the society. When we give any person a larger-than-life, holier-than-thou image, we snatch away his right to be wrong, his right to question himself and his right to turn back. It all scares me a bit. For example, if I were Gandhi, I’d always wonder how it would feel to just wear a three-piece suit for one day instead of khadi. I’d be tempted to try non-vegetarian food. Not because I want or like those things but because I am too flexible to stick to my own ideology of the world.
I do think that a great thinker would know that there is no conclusion in the social sciences. Every great man is respected not because of his ideas, most of the ideas grow outdated and are replaced by newer, smarter ideas; but for his conviction, the way he dedicates his life to them. I wonder if I can change the world around me without changing myself…