The Great Man was Once a Very Little Man – You differ from a great man in only one respect


  1. “You differ from a great man in only one respect: the great man was once a very little man, but he developed one important quality: he recognized the smallness and narrowness of his thoughts and actions. Under the pressure of some task that meant a great deal to him, he learned to see how his smallness, his pettiness endangered his happiness. In other words, a great man knows when and in what way he is a little man. A little man does not know he is little and is afraid to know. He hides his pettiness and narrowness behind illusions of strength and greatness, someone else’s strength and greatness. He’s proud of his great generals but not of himself. He admires an idea he has not had, not one he has had. The less he understands something, the more firmly he believes in it. And the better he understands an idea, the less he believes in it.” Wilhelm Reich, Listen, Little Man! (1945)
  2. “If anybody should ask you what the average John Doe is like, you couldn’t tell him because he’s a million and one things. He’s Mr. Big and Mr. Small. He’s simple and he’s wise. He’s inherently honest, but he’s got a streak of larceny in his heart. He seldom walks up to a public telephone without shoving his finger into the slot to see if somebody left a nickel there.
    He’s the man the ads are written for. He’s the fella everybody sells things to. He’s Joe Doakes, the world’s greatest stooge and the world’s greatest strength.
    Yes, sir — Yes, sir, we’re a great family, the John Does. We are the meek who are — who are supposed to inherit the earth. You’ll find us everywhere. We raise the crops; we dig the mines, work the factories, keep the books, fly the planes and drive the busses. And when a cop yells: “Stand back there, you!” He means us, the John Does!
    We have existed since time began. We built the pyramids. We saw Christ crucified, pulled the oars for Roman emperors, sailed the boats for Columbus, retreated from Moscow with Napoleon and froze with Washington at Valley Forge.
    Yes, sir. We’ve been in there dodging left hooks since before history began to walk. In our struggle for freedom we’ve hit the canvas many a time, but we always bounced back! Because we’re the people — and we’re tough.
    They’ve started a lot of talk about free people going soft — that we can’t take it. That’s a lot of hooey! A free people can beat the world at anything, from war to tiddle-de-winks, if we all pull in the same direction.
    I know a lot of you are saying “What can I do? I’m just a little punk. I don’t count.” Well, you’re dead wrong! The little punks have always counted because in the long run the character of a country is the sum total of the character of its little punks.
    But, we’ve all got to get in there and pitch. We can’t win the old ballgame unless we have teamwork. And that’s where every John Doe comes in. It’s up to him to get together with his teammates. And your teammate, my friend, is the guy next door to you. Your neighbor — he’s a terribly important guy that guy next door. You’re gonna need him and he’s gonna need you, so look him up. If he’s sick, call on him. If he’s hungry, feed him. If he’s out of a job, find him one.
    To most of you, your neighbor is a stranger, a guy with a barkin’ dog and high fence around him. Now, you can’t be a stranger to any guy that’s on your own team. So tear down the fence that separates you. Tear down the fence and you’ll tear down a lot of hates and prejudices. Tear down all the fences in the country and you’ll really have teamwork.
    I know a lot of you are saying to yourselves, “He’s askin’ for a miracle to happen. He’s expectin’ people to change all of a sudden.” Well, you’re wrong. It’s no miracle. It’s no miracle because I see it happen once every year. And and so do you — at Christmas time. There’s somethin’ swell about the spirit of Christmas, to see what it does to people, all kinds of people.
    Now, why can’t that spirit, that same, warm Christmas spirit last the whole year around? Gosh, if it ever did, if each and every John Doe would make that spirit last 365 days out of the year, we’d develop such strength, we’d create such a tidal wave of good will that no human force could stand against it. Yes sir, my friends, the meek can only inherit the earth when the John Doe’s start lovin’ their neighbors.
    You better start right now. Don’t wait till the game is called on account of darkness.
    Wake up, John Doe. You’re the hope of the world.” Speech by Gary Cooper’s character calling for people to get involved and engage each other, Meet John Doe (1941)

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