Thursday, May 28, 2009

Born Great

I spend a fair amount of time cruising various internet fora, one of which is devoted to Star Trek.

I'm a huge Trek fan, with DS9 and TOS being my favorites and I also love the new JJ Abrams movie.

In this movie, we see Kirk take a meteoric rise through the ranks. He starts as a cadet who shouldn't even BE on the Enterprise.

About 15 mintues later, Pike names him acting first officer.

About an hour later, he has relieved Spock of command and is sitting in the Captain's chair.

At the end of the movie, he is confirmed as permanent captain of the Enterprise at 25, after 3 total years in Starfleet.

A lot of people have a *real* problem with this.

They talk about chain of command, tenure, resentment by officers Kirk has leapfrogged, etc etc.

In the course of these conversations, and the way the same points keep being raised again and again about tenure and how older, more seasoned officers would react to Kirk, it occurs to me that modern society in many ways WORSHIPS age and experience over talent.

Is this just a product of our aging society?

Perhaps, or maybe something deeper is at work here. Most people are ordinary. Most people NEED experience.

But some people, some people are just born great.

This is a concept very much a part of the ancient world where divine origin was often used as the reason. But being born great still happens.

And people resent the hell out of it. They hate it. HATE. IT.

In thinking about this subject, I've come up with a Born Great Hall of Fame.

Here's my picks (these are in no particular order- they are all awesome):

1. Mozart.

Child prodigy, one of the greatest composers who ever lived, was a touring musician by age 7. Dead by 35.

2. Alexander the Great.

While serving as regent for his father, who was on campaign, Alexander crushed a revolt at the age of 16. Four years later he was king and 12 years after that, around age 33, he had conquered most of the known world.

3. Bill Gates

Just two years out of high school, Gates had dropped out of Harvard and started a software company. I think it's safe to say the company he founded, Microsoft, has changed the entire world and made Gates fabulously wealthy.

4. Caesar Augustus

Posthumously named the heir of Julius Caesar, he was one of three rulers of Rome at the age of 19, along with Lepidus and Marc Anthony. Even at this age he was outmaneuvering his co-triumvirs politically, maneuvering Marc Anthony out of any compromise with the Senate.

Soon, he would maneuver them out of the picture completely and by age 36 he was sole ruler of the Roman Empire.

His adopted father famously wept because Alexander had accomplished so much more, so much earlier than him. Augustus on the other hand probably felt he measured up to Alexander. And unlike Alexander, Augustus lived a good long time.

5. Scipio Africanus

At the age of 24 his father and uncle were killed in battle against Hannibal's brother, Hasdrubal in Spain. Scipio offered to take command, despite being too young to legally do so and the Roman Senate agreed (mostly because no one else wanted the job).

Eventually Scipio would conquer Spain, then take the war to North Africa and defeat Hannibal himself.

6. Horatio Nelson

Passed his Lieutenant's exam in April at the age of 19. By December he had been promoted to Master and Commander. By June the following year, at the age of 20, he had been promoted to Post Captain.

I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting equally worthy of my hall of fame but I think I've shown that what Kirk does in Star Trek isn't 100% bunk. Especially not for the big damn hero (TM) of a space opera.


mikelaff said...

that reminds me -- DC is coming out with a Doc Savage comic sometime soon...

On a tangential note, if we look at the _other_ big SF franchine, wouldn't all Jedi pretty much fall into the "born great" category?

Chuck said...

Yeah, but that's magic.

I think people are more ok with the Merlin motif than the Arthur motif.

People tend to "excuse" someone given great power, like Merlin or Superman.

And really, people in the real world have the same issues.

Mozart was hated, and it has been said that Scipio was the nightmare of anyone the least bit interested in the status quo.

And Bll Gates, well, we know first hand the extent to which he is despised and his accomplishments belittled whenever possible.

Even when he is PRAISED. To paraphrase Newsweek "Bill Gates is a modern combination of Thomas Edison and Walt Disney who likes to spit on judges".

See how that works?

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