Great Issues in Western Civilization
A great issue can be defined in many ways; one way is how it effects people and how many people it effects. Of course it is based on the fact that it is great; and it wouldn t be great unless people were affected by it. Then the question is what is an issue, and what makes an issue. First of all, every issue has to have more then one side, and each side has their own point of view. This point of view is usually very ethnocentric as well. Secondly, every point of view is seen with a different perspective, which no one else can see. It all depends on who the source is and what makes up their background. Every human has been socialized in some way, and these circumstances factor into the making of a great issue.
What is incredible about nearly every great issue is that one individual can make a world of difference. Luther and the Reformation, Voltaire and the Enlightenment, Marx and Marxism, Darwin and Darwinism, Bolshevism/ Communism and Lenin, Nazism and Hitler, these are all people and movements that are mentioned together. In one way these issues and individuals are inseparable. There is a similarity between all of these famous individuals and the issues that they represent. Each one of them, in one way or another, has influenced today and the lives that we live. Each of these issues has enhanced history and the relevance of its studying. Put them together in a sort of time line, and one will be able to see what makes the world that we live in today. In fact these great issues are the foundation of today s society, and to fully understand the society that we live in today we need to understand the great issues of yesterday.
Man, the influence of man, and the power of man; put these together and one will have a great issue. It is a recurring theme in all of the great issues of history, especially the topics that we have covered this year in class. First, there was Luther and his influence on the church. Luther and his statement of Ninety-Five Theses were a main reason for the Reformation in northern Europe. Luther basically stated that the way to salvation was not through deeds as the traditional Catholic Church had been conveying, but instead through faith. Even though man tries to behave righteously, he is unable to do so because he remains in a state of sin. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, the soul is washed clean and so the only way to salvation is through trust in Him. With the growing support of Luther s beliefs and convictions, the unified Christian Catholic Empire began to crumble. No longer was the pope in control of the nations, but instead individual conscience, religious tolerance, and the awareness of cultural and national differences began to work its way as becoming part of our world today. Luther and his influence directed the transformation of the church that has paved the way for the Enlightenment that was to come.
Then there is writer and philosopher Voltaire, who is commonly known the Father of the Enlightenment. Without Voltaire our society would not be where it is today. He made very difficult issues easy for the public to understand. In doing this he advanced this world to a level that they have never seen before. He advocated old order and brought in a new order based on reason, science, and tolerance. With his rationalism our society was able to advance more quickly then ever before, and it led to a new way of life.
Karl Marx saw the plight of the poor, but he also saw their potential power. Without knowing it, he actually became the founder of sociology. He saw that culture, social structures, and relations of production all are influenced by the economic base that a country has. He basically created great issues. There was also Charles Darwin, which completely changed the face of scientific studies. Charles Darwin s ideas gave good reason for those who wanted to break away from the restraints of society and religion and bring about a more scientific way of society. Darwin thought that a state of higher civilization is produced by the survival of the fittest, physically and mentally. These thoughts dominate the modern world-view that many hold today. Just by looking at today s major events and issues, we know that the ideology of Darwin is still alive and well in the 20th century.
Lenin and Hitler are both great examples of how an individual can be the root of a great issue. Lenin was convinced that a Communist revolution could succeed in Russia only through a small, highly organized, fully independent party of professional revolutionists. These ideas led to a split in the Communist party ranks and the larger group, the Bolsheviks, followed Lenin. The takeover of Russia was the inevitable result. Lenin s legacy was an empire that gave us Stalin, the Cold War, the arms race, and the Iron Curtain. Hitler served in the German army in World War I, and at the end of the war, he became the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party. He then became Chancellor of Germany and started his plan of world domination. He thought Germany and the Nazis were destined to be ruler of all, and that the Jews were the inferiors of all. To make his plan come true he thought he had to eliminate all Jews. Hitler is probably the most hated and despised individual in history. However, he was also one of the most powerful and feared. His life and his control over a Germany is a great example of what the power of man can do to create great issues and change this world forever.
The significance of these men and the impact they have had on western civilization is what makes the great issues that we study today. These are in fact the lives and the legacies left behind by individual people. Without these people, where would our society be? That is a question that we will never know. However, could of someone else created the same result? Is it destiny for certain things to occur? We do not know, but we do know that these individuals have created great issues of history. Great issues are the result of one individual in an event or movement that affects how we live life today. As a modern example, look at the situation in Colorado, that is the work of individuals. The power, influence, and actions of one man to create a great issue can not be overlooked. Not that the results of their actions is either good or bad, but their actions have created great issues, ones that will effect our lives and everyone s to follow.