Originally broadcast on Bayshore Broadcasting network, Sept. 3, 2011.
Canadians seem to be of two minds when it comes to the death of Jack Layton.
Some of us say he was a great man who offered something rare to people: a politician with a heart.
Others look at all the out-pouring of condolence and think, this is way over the top. Jack was no ‘great man’ – he didn’t die for his country, he died from a nasty disease as millions do every day. He left no large legacy, as Trudeau did or John Diefenbaker who deserved their state funerals.
Myself, I think that the public expression of grief is as much about what Canadians don’t see in their politicians these days. But today, I’m wondering what it is that makes a man great. What makes a great woman is, I think, I hope, another question.
Is it just a matter of being prominent, of being famous? Movies stars are famous, but is George Clooney a great man? How about Bono? He does a lot of world-class charity work.
Or does it have something to do with timing? Being the right man in the right place at the right time – like Lord Nelson at Waterloo or Winston Churchill at the beginning of World War 2. Or Ted Rogers when the broadcasting revolution began in Canada. Or Bill Gates and Steve Jobs at the start of the computer age.
Does the acquisition of power—financial, political or military—make a man great? If so, does it matter if it is acquired at the expense of others? Every President of the United States has wielded great power, but are they all great men? Was George W Bush? Is Barak Obama?
Or is it all these things: prominence, luck, power. Maybe, but a lot of men have those whom we agree aren’t great. There must be something else …
I don’t have an answer to what it is that makes someone great. But if you do, I’d sure like to hear it.
So leave a comment, please.
© David McLaren
August 30, 2011
Yes Magazine (the website) has a good musing on “The hazards of manhood” … toughness isn’t everything; it’s not even the only thing.