Sunday, December 11, 2011

What force moves people?

I have been reading War and Peace by Tolstoy. He is just amazing. He sees through every human action and exposes each frailty, ego, fear, irrationality, hubris. No one escapes. The action of the novel takes place between 1805 and 1820 – the Napoleonic wars. Wikipedia cites the death toll at 1.8 million people. You should look at the big version of a very famous map of the army, which shows how many people set out (beige) and how many dribbled back (black).

As I've been reading, I keep thinking about current wars, and non-wars (climate change and Durban), and returning to Tolstoy’s key question that we – entrepreneurs, marketers, politicians – seek to understand:

What force moves peoples?

In Chapter 1 of the Epilogue Tolstoy goes on a rant. There were so many delicious bits, I had to pick them out for you. But read the whole book. Absolutely wonderful.

….the goal of the good of all human civilization, usually understood as the people occupying the small northwest corner of a large continent….

..the historian knows the goal towards which mankind is being led (for one this goal is the greatness of the Roman, Spanish, or French state; for another it is freedom, equality, a certain kind of civilization in a small corner of the world known as Europe.)

...During this twenty-year period of time an enormous number of fields go unplowed; houses are burned; trade changes direction; millions of people become poor, become rich, migrate; and millions of Christians, who profess the law of love of their neighbor, kill each other.

…At the end of the eighteenth century, some two dozen men got together in Paris and started talking about all men being equal and free. That led people all over France to start slaughtering and drowning each other.”

….At the same time there was in France a man of genius – Napolean. He defeated everybody everywhere – that is, he killed a lot of people – because he was a great genius. And he went off for some reason to kill Africans, and he killed them so well, and was so cunning and clever, that, on coming back to France, he ordered everybody to obey him. And everbody obeyed him. Having become emperor, he again went to kill people in Italy, Austria, And Prussia. And there he killed a lot….

Read more!