When I was young, I was planning on being great. I mean world-changing great.
I have given that fantasy up bit by bit over the years as waves of self-knowledge have swept over me. I also give it up in small steps when I walk through ancient churches here and stop by at the tombs of the Great and the Good. Most often Greatness seems to fade into anonymity.
But yesterday I read about Gene Sharp. Today he is an emeritus professor of political science in Boston, and the author of From Dictatorship to Democracy, a handbook of 198 non-violent “weapons” to unseat dictators. It has been translated into 30 languages and the influence of his techniques have been felt across Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. In Russia book stores selling it have mysteriously burned down and the publishers run out of business.
Today it is a handbook for protesters in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia.
Not many people know the name Gene Sharp, though he has paid the price for living by his principles. And maybe a century from now, even fewer people will recognize his influence.
But that does not matter. What matters is that it is hard to think that the world is not a better place for his living in it.