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Here are the opening remarks of Lyndon LaRouche to the East Coast Cadre School on Aug. 14, 2004.
All right. As advertised, there are three essential topics today, and they are of international moment, but especially addressed to the needs of younger people, younger adults, who have to carry the burden on this. But, my main point, is to get you to understand, what life is all about, and to give you, from my personal experience, that is, aspect of my experience which are of international, historical importance today, what it is like to be a human being, and how to shape your motivations, for dealing with serious problems of society in general, that is, problems of a principled nature, as opposed to personal discomfort, in the short term.
All right, so, the three subjects are: First of all, how I changed history—all three of them—one, how I changed history from 1971 on; number two, how I changed world history, including causing the opportunity, which occurred in Germany, in Saxony, in 1989, which I caused in the period between 1977 and 1983.
So, I made history. You don’t understand, what’s happening in Saxony, today, in terms of what happened in Saxony in 1989, in the death of the D.D.R. [East Germany] unless you understand the combined effect of what I personally did, to change history in such a way, that these events have happened, in the way they’ve happened.
My point is, to get you to understand, how you can look at your life, and how you should look at your motives, for the kinds of effects you’re going to produce by your actions, individually and as a layer of the population, with a certain kind of patience, of concentrating on the long-term effects of what you do, as much more important, more significant, than the short-term effects. Many people make the mistake—and most people, most foolish people—judge the consequences of their action for good or bad, based on their personal feedback experience, in the short term, of reactions to what they’ve done. And ignore what are the more important reactions, which are over the long term—if they are important at all.
And, finally, in addition to the question of what happened in 1971, to change your life today, that I did, what happened between 1977 and 1983 to change your life, and to cause the opportunity that happened in Saxony, in 1989 and today; and thirdly, what is the method by which we must understand historical processes, which most people, including leading political figures—history professors, political science professors, and so forth—absolutely do not understand. And, of course, the President doesn’t. So, most of the things they say about history, are foolish, because they don’t understand history. They only understand how it “feels,” to get the feedback, that they get in the very short term, as reaction to what they do.
They have no sense of what it is to be really a human being.
Okay, and you, in the time we’re entering now, if you’re going to provide leadership, or personal actions which are significant for humanity, which make you significant to humanity, you’re going to have to understand these things. So, I’ll give you the two examples first, and then the explanations of how these things work, third.
All right. What happened, is this: A long time ago, back in the 1950s, I defined, in my work as a management consultant, doing as an executive for a consulting firm, did a study which showed me clearly, how the recovery, which had been organized by Roosevelt, and continued into the post-war period, was now in serious jeopardy, in the long term. This is in late 1956, early 1957.
So, on that basis, I recognized that the United States was about to head into the most serious of the post-war recessions. And that this recession represented more, than simply a recession. It revealed a long-term underlying development, which, if continued, would lead to the collapse of the existing world monetary system, the so-called Bretton Woods system.
In the early 1960s, at the end of the 1950s-early ’60s, I committed myself, in a forecast of limited circulation—both as an economist and otherwise—to the warning, that if the tendencies associated with people like Arthur Burns’ policy, under the Eisenhower Administration, were to be continued into the middle of the 1960s, then the second half of the 1960s would see the eruptions of a series of monetary crises within the Bretton Woods system; that, unless policies were changed to remove this factor, this series of monetary crises would lead into a breakdown, or actions which would be a breakdown, of the Bretton Woods system.
Now, that’s exactly what happened in August of 1971: That, during the second half of the 1960s, we had a series of monetary crises, beginning with the 1967 crisis of the British pound-sterling, caused by this kind of change in British policy; and a second change, caused by the U.S. reaction, under the Johnson Administration, in January to early March of 1968, to the effects of the collapse of the Brititsh pound-sterling, on the international system.
This, followed by the continuation of the same mistaken policies, in a radical way, by the Nixon Administration, led to the Nixon decision—made in 1971, first, and then at the Azores Conference of 1972—which destroyed the present world monetary system, or the existing world monetary system; and set into motion the floating-exchange system, which is the cause, or the principle cause, of most of the crises of today.
And also, this led toward a political crisis, which would pose, again—that is, the continuation of the floating-exchange-rate system—would pose the question, of fascism, again, unless we dealt with these problems. As the question of fascism is put clearly on the table, by such examples as the policy of the Bush Administration, under the control of people such as Vice President Cheney—otherwise known as the key advisor to “Bubblenezzar”—today.
Now, my intervention was first this: That, in 1971, I reacted to the fact that I had been vindicated, in my long-range forecast, by what happened under Nixon, and the actions which followed—that is, what happened under Nixon in August of 1971, was the first step in the collapse of the monetary system, that is, the Bretton Woods monetary system. The reaction by the Nixon Administration—and by others, but especially the Nixon Administration—to that action, that Nixon had taken, was to introduce Schachtian methods of so-called “fiscal austerity” against the U.S. population.
I denounced these as Schachtian, and at that time, I stated publicly, with my associates—all over New York City and elsewhere—that the so-called “great economists” teaching at universities and similar locations, were a bunch of “quackademics.” Because, not only had all of them failed, to foresee what, for me, was obvious, that this kind of crash would occur; but, they had said, that the existing system, with its “built-in stabilizers,” would prevent that from occurring ever again. And, many people in Economics 101 were brainwashed into that doctrine, and similar kinds of doctrines.
So, I challenged them. I said, “You guys are quackademics! You’re committing a fraud upon your students, and upon society, by what you’re teaching. And the present event has just proven that. I was right, and you quackademics were wrong.” Well, that stuck. And they got very upset about that, because we had that story all over the place. We were organizing about it, at that time when my associates at that time were a youth movement, before they became old fogies, like today.
So, we organized. And the academics and others said, “We’ve got to do something about this. This guy has challenged our honor. We’ve got to pick a champion, to demolish this guy in debate.” So, they picked a leading Keynesian of the time, who was then teaching as the “super-honorary professor” with special fees, and special honors, and trumpets, and whatnot, at Queens College, one of the major city universities in New York City: Abba Lerner.
So Abba Lerner and I entered into a debate. And, there was a row of academic and related celebrities in the front line, and behind them, masses of students and other onlookers. This went on. Well, at the beginning, I challenged Lerner, saying, “Your policies, as typified by your recommended policies for Brazil, are policies of Hjalmar Schacht. These are fascist policies. This is the direction this county is going to go in, if your kind of policies continue. And these are the policies which are being accepted, by much of the economic profession, today. This is quackery.” That was my argument.
And we went all around. He kept ducking the issue and so forth. And finally, as the debate drew to a close, in the course of the back and forth, he emitted the following statement: He said, “Yes. But, if the German trade unions had accepted the policies of Hjalmar Schacht, then, Hitler would not have been necessary.”
There was a gasp throughout the audience. Lerner had settled the debate: I was right. He was wrong. And he came out obviously wrong.
So, a group of people, who were a dominant group in the New York area and elsewhere, associated with the Congress for Sexual Freedom—or, whatever, Cultural Freedom—said, this guy is a menace. We can never allow him to appear on a public platform again! He has got to be a non-person. We’re going to eliminate him, because he’s a menace. He’s going to be blocked out. Nobody’s going to pay any attention to him. We’re going to organize things that way. And that’s what they tried to do.
But, what they did, but the steps that were taken, in the U.S. and elsewhere, at the Azores Conference, first of all; where George Shultz officiated that, which set up the floating-exchange-rate system, which led to an absolute disaster. Then, you had the second part of the 1970s: deregulation, wild-eyed deregulation, under Zbigniew Brzezinski. And also, a threat of going into nuclear war, which came from a section of Brzezinski’s gang, associated with James Rodney Schlesinger—the Committee on the Present Danger. This was a revival of the Truman-era Committee on the Present Danger, which had proposed a progress toward nuclear war, against the Soviet Union.
So, I ran a campaign, in 1975-76, especially the ’76 phase of the campaign, on these issues: Number one, the 1971 crisis. The incompetence of economic policy and austerity. Number two, the issue of period ahead, where we were going, including an emphasis on the developing countries: the destruction of the developing countries, the violation of the promise of Roosevelt to free the former colonies, and free them from the kind of conditions associated with colonial treatment. Then, thirdly, this Committee on the President Danger revival, under Schlesinger, which I recognized.
So, I ran a Presidential campaign, under the sobriquet of the Labor Party, U.S. Labor Party, as a revival of the Whig political current in the United States. The main feature of that, was to denounce Brzezinski’s policy, as a commitment to a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. We bought one half-hour television spot, and a shorter, five-minute spot, on national television, in which this issue, of the Committee on the Present Danger’s threat, that the incoming administration would go to the threshold of nuclear war, was the major feature.
As a result of that campaign, the effective of that campaign, we stopped the Committee on the Present Danger, at that time. They backed off, because of the exposure I’d given. It made me much more hated than before, as a result.
At a later point, when I was running as a Democrat, and I ran into Ronald Reagan, we had an amiable exchange, which led to some other exchanges with his people, during the transition period between his election and his inauguration.
And, these discussions led to a discussion of my agenda: What was my agenda for the 1980s? The Reagan Administration wished to know. And among the things that attracted the President’s attention, or the attention of his key advisors at that time, was my proposal, which I had already developed, for developing an alternative to the policy of thermonuclear confrontation, that is, the so-called MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction. But, using the technologies, which we were in the process of developing, which could do two things: It could lead to a system of strategic weaponry, which would be able to deal, to a large degree, with the threat of a thermonuclear ballistic missile attack, in the coming period. If we could get the superpowers and others to agree to that, to that development perspective, away from MAD, away from the idea of Doomsday, Mutually Assured Destruction, we could then proceed to economic development, of the planet, on the basis of using the very technologies, or the technological breakthroughs, which development of these alternative systems would mean.
The President liked that, eventually. But, in the meantime, I was in the middle of conducting a back-channel discussion on behalf of the Reagan White House, with the Soviet government. This went on, actually actively, from February of 1982, through and slightly beyond February of 1983. My last meeting with the Soviet representative channel, was February 1983.
In February 1983, before the March 23, 1983, international television broadcast by President Reagan, the report-back from Moscow had been, to me, that the Soviet government would reject the offer which I had proposed, if the President of the United States were to make it. And, the qualification was, that, what I said, about technology, was accepted by the Soviet government, that this would work. But: They were persuaded that the United States would beat the Soviet Union economically, in such a partnership. So, they were going to reject it.
But, furthermore, they would develop their own, alternative approach, to a confrontation, a strategic confrontation, and indicated the general direction that was going in. I replied at that time, I said, “You must tell them to reverse this policy. Because, if the Soviet Union were to adopt the posture, which you report to me, then, tell your government, that their economy would collapse within about five years.”
Then, later, the President, of course, was informed of this discussion I had with the Soviet representatives, but decided to go ahead anyway; and, at the conclusion of a televised address, which was broadcast internationally, actually, at that time, the last five-minute segment included the famous proposal of Reagan, to the Soviet government, for cooperation in developing systems to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, revenge weapons, as a policy.
Now, this made me extremely hated, and feared, by a certain faction in the United States, and by the Soviet government. The second of a major series of attempts to either have me killed, or imprisoned, was launched in late 1983, and actually was put on the table in the course of 1984. All of the major legal problems, and security problems we had, from the U.S., from the Soviet government, and in a certain degree Europe, during that period, were the result of the adverse reaction by a certain faction, in both the Republican and Democratic Party, to this proposal, what became known as the Strategic Defense Initiative; and, the reaction, of course, by the Soviet Union.
Now, in the process, we had developed a big support for what became known as the SDI, throughout much of Europe and elsewhere. Large sections of the German military, and related establishment, were on board, in cooperating with us. Key parts of the Italian security establishment, were cooperating with me, with us. Key sections of the French military establishment were cooperating, and in other nations, as well.
In the German view, among the German strategists associated with us, in this effort—this was during this period—the view was, that I had changed the situation for Europe, had given the Europeans a strategic option, which did not previously exist. They could begin to discuss real strategy, instead of just the Doomsday routine, that had been stuck on them through NATO at that time. So there was a wave of optimism, in German, in France, and in Italy, based upon the impact of their knowledge of what I was doing with the Reagan Administration, and what my policies were.
But, in the process, the governments of Europe changed, the parties changed. The Italian political parties were destroyed in the early 1990s.
In the meantime, I was sent to prison. I was sent to prison, because the decision was made in 1986, either to kill me, or to put me in prison. Get me out of the way. In other words, if I didn’t go to prison, I would be killed. That was the decision. That was the discussion, in the establishment in the United States and elsewhere: Either you convict him, and put him away, in prison—or, we kill him! And, that’s the way things are done, often, in these kinds of matters. So, I was put into prison.
But, in the meantime, before I went to prison, in 1988, on Oct. 12, 1988, knowing what was coming down, Helga and I went to Berlin—which was then West Berlin. And we visited Helga’s favorite place, the Charlottenburger Schloss [ph], area there, Schloss park, and a few other locations—which I’d never seen West Berlin before. And, then, on the following day, at the Bristol Hotel—which was then a much more modest, British-style hotel, in Berlin—I delivered a message, which was my Berlin, Oct. 12, that is, Columbus Day address. Which was then recorded, and played back, as televised, on national television in the United States.
In that broadcast, I indicated that the Soviet system is in the process of crumbling. I said that, by the middle of the year, we should expect Poland to take the lead, in breaking free of the Soviet security/economic system. We should expect this to spread to other countries, in Eastern Europe. And then, back to the Soviet Union itself. Therefore, I said, we must have a policy of offering cooperation with these countries—not victimize them—but offer cooperation, for development, of economic development, which would be beneficial to us both. And to help them solve their economic problems, from which they’re suffering today.
Now, at that point, Helga took the lead, with a few collaborators, in implementing a two-phase process. The first was called the European Productive Triangle. I defined for them—I said, you take Paris, Berlin, and Vienna. You take that area, which contains the greatest concentration of industrial and related productive power in Europe, and you begin to mobilize all of Europe, around that triangle, as an engine for a revival of the world economy. And use that triangle as the thrust into Eastern Europe, and into the Soviet Union, which was about to go into a crisis.” That was our policy. That’s what we worked on.
They, with some consultation with me, also went further, to develop what became known as the Strategic Triangle. And the Strategic Triangle became our policy as an association, from that time on. This would have included the proposal for a maglev system, a magnetic levitation system of mass transit, from places such as the Atlantic port of France, to China, that is, the Pacific Coast of China, and beyond, as a way of integrating the development of Eurasia.
Now, our policies on this, also continued my policy of the middle of the 1970s: the policy of development for the so-called developing sector. Because Asia is a different part of civilization, even to this day, than European civilization in the main. And therefore, civilization is moving to the point, where the greater part of the human population is concentrated in what are considered developing countries, or Asian countries. And therefore, the question of cooperation between nations, which are predominantly European civilization, as such, and nations which are like the Asian nations, which are not of the European tradition as such: To bring these together for cooperation and development among nation-states, on a global basis, this was the policy. The policies which we had been working on, to the present day.
It was in these circumstances, that what happened in 1989 happened.
Now, you can’t take anything away from the people of Saxony, who did the Monday demonstrations, which were crucial in the freedom of Germany, at that time. But, the possibility of this occurring, occurred because of what we had done, in several ways: First of all, the orientation, toward the reunification of Germany, which I had said would happen soon, rather immediately, in my famous remarks of Columbus Day in Berlin in 1988. At which I said, we’re on the verge, of a break-up of the East European bloc, starting with Poland and spreading to other countries; and the prospective reunification of Germany, with Berlin adopted as its future capital once again. This was happening in 1989—just over a year later, a year after my broadcast, this was happening! And, this was what the demonstrations were in Eastern Germany.
Our work, therefore, had created the circumstances, in which this reunification of Germany was possible. And, if you look back, up to Oct. 12, 1988 and beyond, you will find no one was forecasting the reunification of Germany. It was not in the cards, for any German politician at that time—certainly not for the East German politicians. But, it was what we did, combined with the realization of the break-up of the Soviet economic system, or the Warsaw Pact economic system, the Comecon system, which created the opportunity, in which people of courage, such as the Saxony demonstrators, were able to set fire to combustible material. And to bring about the freedom, their freedom, and the unification of Germany—a prospect which was spoiled, by the way the thing was conducted, under various pressures, in the period following.
That’s how history is made. History is made, not by the way people interact in the short term with each other. History is made by those actions, which introduce changes in principle, that is, principle which govern the way decisions are made, in the long term.
So, it’s the way you affect the long-term structure of ideas, not the short-term aspect. All the idiots will tell you that politics is made in the short term. Or, they will tell you also, that you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube: You can’t change current trends.
But, the essence of history, is the sudden reversal of what has seemed to be “current trends”! Therefore, those who say, “Our experience tells us, that this is the trend, and what you’re saying will not work,” that is precisely where they’re wrong! That is precisely the mark of intellectual and moral incompetence, in a politician who says that! Because the essence of history, is change of trends. Sudden changes of trends. Because, a principle, which has ruled society, as if with an iron fist, up to a certain point—the iron crumbles! And a new principle comes into play. A new principle, which was there, the seed had been planted, but it took off. And it’s making those long-term injections of new principles, that great changes, in society, occur—for better, or for worse.
So, the fight over principles, the fight over long-term thinking, not short-term, so-called “practical experience” thinking, is what really makes history. Those who go by practical experience, are the great fools of history. The practical politicians are the greatest of all fools! Because they think they know how to do things. And it’s the very principles on which they think their success is based—which do them in! As you’re seeing now, in Germany: All the parties—all of the political parties of Germany are totally incompetent, in terms of their present policy commitments and present structures. None can do anything good! There may be politicians who break the mold, because they see the need to break the mold, for practical reasons; or because, they proceed from principle.
But, the essential thing, in this case—look at what happened in Saxony: About four-odd weeks ago, Helga launched what became the Monday demonstration process, which is now shaking Germany. A vacuum existed. No party was capable of governing Germany, under those conditions, that is, no long-term perspective. The incumbent government was looking at the axe, the executioner’s axe. But, it was held up mostly, by the fact that no other party, or visible combination of parties, was capable of assuming the responsibilities of government, in a responsible way!
So, into the vacuum Helga moved—with a handful of youth and contacts, and their work. And moved, with a resolution, on a solution, an alternative to the thrust of the crisis—the economic policy—and moved with this proposal to revive the Monday demonstrations in Saxony. And within three weeks of those demonstrations, an explosion occurred in Germany. Just on the impact, of the third successive week, of those Monday demonstrations: Suddenly, the entire political system of Germany was convulsed! As the world will be convulsed. And is still convulsed. Because something had happened, which was not supposed to happen, but did happen.
The long-term effects, of what Helga represented in Germany, as the leading spokesman for our international policy, in Europe—and in Germany, in particular—had suddenly come ripe. The long-term process, going back to 1972, ’73, ’74: That long-term process had now become reality, 30 years later, because of the work, done over that 30-year period. And that’s the way you make history.
And that’s how the Monday demonstrations have taken off, in east Germany. Not as some spontaneous development, but as the impact of the collision of forces in motion, over periods of a generation, and longer. This is the way I played the game of history, and you see it works. You see the way Helga played the game of history, in Europe, in particular, and what the options of Europe—and the options of Germany, in particular, are nothing other, than the policies she has represented, in our organization’s work in Europe, over that period. That the 1974 campaign, which she was involved in, in a leading way, the election campaign, was the root of what happened in Saxony so far, in the recent period.
Now, the key thing here, to go back to the fundamental principle: This is why, in the development of the youth movement, I insisted on the use of Gauss, in particular, the 1799 attack on Euler and Lagrange, as the basis for the self-education of a youth movement, taking that example—the Gauss example, and its implications—and using that, as the basis for understanding history.
Because, what are we talking about? We’re talking about what Euler did. Euler was an empiricist, which is actually—an empiricist is actually an Aristotelean, who took the short course. He couldn’t pass the university course, so they sent him to a quick-fix school, where he learned the short- course, which is called empiricism. But, it’s all the diseases of Aristotle, packed into an oversimplified version. Of which the most oversimplified version, is called positivism, or existentialism.
But, what the empiricists said, along with this idiot Newton, was that the universe is composed on the basis of predetermined, Aristotelean presumptions: That there are fixed, self-evident principles, of definitions, axioms, and postulates. And that is the way the universe, as we could possibly know it, is organized. Therefore, science must be limited, to the interpretation of events, as isolated events, in terms of those definitions, axioms, and postulates, as arbitrarily, a priori, so-called self-evident—not proven, but self-evident—principles. And that’s the trap.
So, what Euler and Lagrange were doing—and Euler was a fanatic on this. You think he was mathematician? This guy was a bloody, raving fanatic, on this issue! And he lied! Because he was capable of knowing that he lied. Many professors today, know when they’re lying, but Euler knew he was lying; he had the intelligence and skill to know he was lying.
And Gauss attacked this, as a young man. And he attacked it, by defending a principle which is as old as Plato, and older: The principle of Pythagorean physical geometry, as opposed to arithmetic.
And this goes to the very definition of man. What’s the difference between man and an animal? What’s the difference between a human being and Dick Cheney, for example? Dick Cheney was not born to be an animal, but he behaves like one! He’s a man with no principle. He’s a man, like a piece of flotsam, in a sewer stream. Buffeted by whatever comes down the stream, reacting to it, snarling at it, saying with the famous words he says to whatever passes him by.
But, human beings are capable, as no animal is, of discovering the actual physical principles of the universe, as Gauss emphasizes this, in his 1799 paper, which is on the subject, actually, of the complex domain.
So therefore, the understanding of history, the understanding of science, is based of understanding this notion of powers. That, you can discover principles, which exist as mental objects, exist beyond sense-perception—that is, you can not detect these principles directly, as objects, by sense-perception. Not the way you think you define the objects of sense-perceptions. But, they are mental objects, which you prove they exist, by indirect methods, the indirect methods of hypothesis, and experimental proof. Once you have made the experimental proof of the hypothesis, now it becomes a principle, it becomes a mental object. It’s a mental object, which corresponds to something which existed in the universe, before you discovered it.
But, now that you recognize it and know how to use it, the relation of man to the universe changes. And by changing the relationship of man to the universe, several things happen. First of all, through the transmission of knowledge of these principles and their application, man becomes an immortal species. No animal is immortal. Animal species are semi-immortal, in a biological sense: That is, one generation comes after the other, genetically.
But, in the human species, the evolution and development of the species, is willful. Because the ideas that we develop, those ideas that correspond to universal principles, as typified by universal physical principles, these ideas, as transmitted as ideas, and for practice, by society, from one generation to the next, distinguishes the human being as absolutely superior to any other species in the universe. We are capable of creating. We use principles which previously exist in the universe. But, by discovering these principles, and using them, we change the universe, to the advantage of our species. And thus, we become—even in our mortal life—when we do that, we become immortal: Because the good we contribute to the discovery of ideas, and the perpetuation of those ideas, to coming generations, is an immortal act. It’s the immortal act of a person, who achieves actual immortality, through living and acting in that way.
And thus, human beings require a different kind of society than we have for animals—or, for empiricists, which are a variety of would-be animals.
Thus, to be human, is to have an understanding of oneself. It’s an understanding, which you better develop while you’re young. Because, if you don’t develop it while you’re young, you’re not likely to develop it when you become older. You become crusty. About the age of 35, a thick layer of crust develops around your mind. It’s difficult to make these new discoveries. When you’re younger, you can discover things more quickly. When you get out of adolescence, which is a special condition of mass insanity, into young adulthood, you have the option of having the energy, the mental power, to make discoveries—if you wish to. And therefore, you can lay the foundations for your implicit immortality, in the work you do, in that period.
And you see, from my own experience, my own experience in discovery goes way back. But, the discoveries I’ve made, in principle, which sometimes have seemed to be odd-ball, not in the mainstream: But it’s precisely those kinds of discoveries, which I’ve made, which enable me, as an individual, to have an exceptional effect, upon the history of this planet, over the long term. Because, my commitment was to act for the discovery and application of principle, rather than trying to learn, dog-like tricks, circus-like tricks, of how to perform from the lessons of experience in the short term.
And that’s how I changed the history of the planet, already. And it will change more. This planet will never forget me. I’m getting older now, but this planet’s never going to forget me, and I haven’t finished doing my work, yet. I’m still working on principle. It’s a habit. It’s a joy, that I have.
And that’s what you have to learn. Not, that I’m saying you should wait 40, 50 years, or 60 years, to realize the importance of your life as an individual, or as a group of people. But, to recognize that what you do, may be significant in the short term—and should be. But, that what is really important about you, is the ideas you represent, which will show their effect over the longer term, of one or two generations to come. If you have a sense of yourself, as that kind of person, kicking against the pricks, doing the things you have to do today, but always governed by a sense, a zeal, a zest, for principles which have long-term effects, you probably can not fail.
If you look back in history, that’s about the case. Take the case of Dante Alighieri: Now, Dante is one of the great, most important people in modern society, but he didn’t live in modern society. He died in the early 14th Century, some decades before the outbreak of the collapse of the ruling banking system of that time, the Lombard banking system. But, in his lifetime, what he did, in defining the role of language, in defining the significance of the nation-state—which was not a new idea with him, but it was one he brought to a certain level, with his De Monarchia. And he educated people through this great Commedia of his, which was the basis for the development of a literate language, in Italy. Literate Italian, as opposed to some crude dialect, is largely a refinement of Italian, centered around Florence, but based on the influence of Dante’s Commedia, in particular.
Then, you had followers like Petrarca, a follower, intellectually, of Dante, who also made contributions. You go back further; you find Abelard of Paris, even though he died under terrible conditions, and was tortured along the way: His impact is embedded, in the achievement of the creation of the modern nation-state. And Charlemagne, in his own way, pioneered in the direction of the modern nation-state. Or, Augustine, Augustinus, who actually reorganized Christianity in the West, and made it a mass movement; which was kicked out of Italy, went to Spain, where it influenced Isadore of Seville; it went north among the Irish, where the Christians were concentrated at that time. And the Irish Christianized the Saxons, until the Normans came in, and de-Christianized them, and made modern England out of that.
But, the long-term impact of ideas, such as the ideas of the pre-Aristotelean, Greek Classic thinkers; or the Egyptians before them, who made the Greeks possible: The long-term role, on behalf of principle, by the individual in history, is the secret of human existence, the secret of history, and the secret of choosing to live a life that is worthwhile.