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Author Topic: Historical figures - your opinions  (Read 385 times)

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Offline BeorningTopic starter

Historical figures - your opinions
« on: November 06, 2019, 05:32:15 PM »
I've been reading on various figures from recent history today and now I'm wondering: what do people think of them?

So... I thought I'd ask :)

What's your opinion on the following people?

1. Richard Nixon

2. Jimmy Carter

3. Ronald Reagan

4. Winston Churchill

5. Gandhi

As I said - just curious...

Offline Skynet

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2019, 05:46:43 PM »
Each of these figures deserve a post of their own, but for now I can be brief.

1. A petty man whose petty worldview cost him the highest rank of office in the land.

2. A great human being. This made him a terrible politician.

3. Terrible human being and terrible politician.

4. He helped fight fascism but also contributed to mass famine in colonized territories. And I'm not just talking about Stalin.

5. I don't know enough about Indian history to give a brief view besides the fact that his voice helped earn Indian independence. And in light of the events of #4 I can't blame them.

Offline stormwyrm

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Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2019, 06:34:10 PM »
Churchill, while providing able leadership during the war years when it was most needed also at the same time did some awful things in the colonies, notably the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 which basically killed at least three million people. He's almost as bad as Stalin when you remember that. "If food is so scarce, why hasn't Gandhi died yet?" he was said to have quipped. You rarely ever hear about that incident associated with Churchill, when you hear a lot about the Holodomor famine in the Ukraine with Stalin, which body count was of similar magnitude. There's also his postwar efforts to maintain the Empire, conspiring with Eisenhower to overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, and helping to restore French colonial rule in Indochina (despite Charles de Gaulle being in favour of giving them autonomy) with British troops. Yep, he helped make the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Vietnam War happen.

Offline Humble Scribe

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2019, 11:18:42 PM »
OK, I am no fan of Churchill, and consider him one of the most overrated of British statesmen, but I can't let this go unchallenged.

Churchill, while providing able leadership during the war years when it was most needed

You let this one go rather too lightly in my opinion. He did lots of stupid things, but when it came to the most important question of his career, he did exactly the right thing. It's worth remembering that the successor to Chamberlain was very nearly Lord Halifax, an arch appeaser who would probably have cut a deal with Hitler after the fall of France. I don't think it's hyperbole to suggest that the fact that Britain stayed fighting in 1940 was largely down to Churchill, and without that who knows where the world might have ended up.
I like to contrast him with Blair, who made lots of good decisions but one colossally bad one. Churchill made lots of bad decisions, but one critically importantly good one.

also at the same time did some awful things in the colonies, notably the Great Bengal Famine of 1943 which basically killed at least three million people. He's almost as bad as Stalin when you remember that.

No. He really isn't. This is the worst of false equivalences. Stalin instituted a reign of terror. People were spied on, dragged from their beds at night, tortured and shot. There were show trials. Purges. The massacre at Kaytn. The forced collectivisation of Soviet agriculture killed 7-14 million. Entire populations were forced to move from one place to another. The Holodomor killed 3-8 million Ukrainians. Around 40%of Kazakhs died. Millions more were exiled to labour camps in Siberia, where another 1.7 million died. These were all deliberate policies. British incompetence and neglect in India was truly awful and unforgivable, even if we discount the fact that Britain was itself starving and fighting a war of national survival at the time, but it was not a deliberate policy of starving Indians to death.

There's also his postwar efforts to maintain the Empire, conspiring with Eisenhower to overthrow Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran

That one I'll grant you.

(despite Charles de Gaulle being in favour of giving them autonomy)

Citation needed. DeGaulle was a colonialist himself, and definitely started (though he didn't finish) the war in Indo-China. He certainly fought pretty hard to keep Algeria. British involvement in Vietnam was minimal. We helped the French get back into the country, but thereafter withdrew and left them to it. There were no British troops after 1946. The decision to stay and fight was French (with US support once it realised the Vietminh were communists).

By the way, if we're on Churchill's failures, you could also mention Gallipoli, the General Strike, gassing Iraqi Kurds in 1919, and the use of the 'Black and Tans' in Ireland. But like I say, a life of generally being wrong and awful, at least largely redeemed by being very much in the right when it counted most.

Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2019, 02:00:51 PM »
Thank you for your opinions... do go on, please :)

BTW. One more person I'd like to ask about: Margaret Thatcher...

Online Mechelle

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2019, 02:02:02 PM »
Humble Scribe has taken the words out of my mouth, but far more eloquently than I could. I like the contrast with Tony Blair who is remembered for the one bad thing he did, too.

Wasn't there something about Gandhi expressing racist views when he lived in South Africa? I do think it's unfair, though, to compare past figures to accepted behaviour today. Like Churchill, he was a man of his upbringing and time.

Finally, I expect I am the only person on E whose home has been visited by Winston Churchill; not the Prime Minister we are discussing, however, but his grandson of the same now, who is now dead himself, but was my MP for several years. I find this surprises Americans!

Offline Callie Del Noire

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2019, 02:48:17 PM »
Humble Scribe has taken the words out of my mouth, but far more eloquently than I could. I like the contrast with Tony Blair who is remembered for the one bad thing he did, too.

Wasn't there something about Gandhi expressing racist views when he lived in South Africa? I do think it's unfair, though, to compare past figures to accepted behaviour today. Like Churchill, he was a man of his upbringing and time.

Finally, I expect I am the only person on E whose home has been visited by Winston Churchill; not the Prime Minister we are discussing, however, but his grandson of the same now, who is now dead himself, but was my MP for several years. I find this surprises Americans!

I was going to point out Gandhi but I couldn’t find the site that posted his stuff. Last time I brought it up my very left wing friend, who was pointing out hp lovecraft’s racist behavior as the reason to take his name off a writing prize, an she blew up at me.

Online Mechelle

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2019, 04:02:00 PM »
Thank you for your opinions... do go on, please :)

BTW. One more person I'd like to ask about: Margaret Thatcher...

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister for some of the time when the younger Winston Churchill was my MP.

The great problem with her was she always thought of "us" and "them" - not in a racist sense, but in the way people thought. When there riots in the inner city area of Moss Side in Manchester, she was genuinely sympathetic to the Asian shopkeepers whose property was damaged or stolen, but had no empathy at all for the miners and other people who lost their jobs as a result of her policies. Some people became very rich, while others were destitute, during her rule.
Even now, she is very divisive. The Conservatives still see her (and Churchill) as an icon, although they seem to have abandoned her monetarist and European policies nowadays, but the absence of minutes silences at public events at her death six years ago was telling. (When somebiody famous has died or there has been a large of life through some atrocity or diaster, we usually have a minute of silence, or sometimes applause now, before public events.).

Offline Skynet

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2019, 04:49:43 PM »
Humble Scribe has taken the words out of my mouth, but far more eloquently than I could. I like the contrast with Tony Blair who is remembered for the one bad thing he did, too.

Wasn't there something about Gandhi expressing racist views when he lived in South Africa? I do think it's unfair, though, to compare past figures to accepted behaviour today. Like Churchill, he was a man of his upbringing and time.

Finally, I expect I am the only person on E whose home has been visited by Winston Churchill; not the Prime Minister we are discussing, however, but his grandson of the same now, who is now dead himself, but was my MP for several years. I find this surprises Americans!

This may be applicable were it not for the fact that there were people then and in prior generations who were still progressive and realized that treatment of colonized peoples were still poor. During the American Civil War the British crown refused to support the Confederacy on moral grounds regarding slavery even when a Balkanized America would have been in their interests. Christopher Columbus had many critics in Spain who called him a tyrant for his treatment of both native peoples and settlers in the Caribbean.

Even if the British policies were not intentional in beginning famine initially, the head of state's visible lack of caring in reversing the trends and victim-blaming paints an ill intent later. What's Churchill's excuse in light of the above when there were those who grew up in the same and less enlightened times as well?

Offline Skynet

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2019, 04:56:57 PM »
Double-Post: As for Gandhi, there is in the West (I cannot speak for India) of those who criticize Gandhi's self-selectiveness in regards to his racial views, particularly in regards to South Africa and his claims that non-violent resistance would have worked for the Jews in Nazi Germany. Although I cannot speak to what extent those critical viewpoints are mainstream; Gandhi isn't really talked about a lot in US politics at all beyond some pacifist groups.

Online Mechelle

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2019, 05:51:41 PM »
Getting slightly off topic, but it's ironic that when the Abraham Lincoln was moved into Lincoln Square in central Manchester, the President's words thanking the Lancashire cotton workers for their support in the civil war, which support was not universal in Britain, were amended on the statue as they were deemed sexist in the twentieth century.

As for Churchill, I think he would be incomprehending if asked for an excuse why he did. His main motive through his career was to preserve the British Empire, I think, although he sowed the seeds for the loss of that in the course of his greatest triumph in fighting Hitler.


http://revealinghistories.org.uk/the-american-civil-war-and-the-lancashire-cotton-famine/places/statue-of-abraham-lincoln-lincoln-square-manchester.html
 

Offline Skynet

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2019, 04:03:35 AM »
It was a metaphorical question. Political, religious, and business leaders should be held to high standards for where they went wrong, even if they did commendable things. My earlier posts were in regards to how saying that people being 'of their times' makes it seem like their sentiments were unquestioned or had no contemporary resistance, although that may be worthy of its own thread before it becomes a tangent.

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Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2019, 05:13:15 AM »
Getting slightly off topic, but it's ironic that when the Abraham Lincoln was moved into Lincoln Square in central Manchester, the President's words thanking the Lancashire cotton workers for their support in the civil war, which support was not universal in Britain, were amended on the statue as they were deemed sexist in the twentieth century.

As for Churchill, I think he would be incomprehending if asked for an excuse why he did. His main motive through his career was to preserve the British Empire, I think, although he sowed the seeds for the loss of that in the course of his greatest triumph in fighting Hitler.


http://revealinghistories.org.uk/the-american-civil-war-and-the-lancashire-cotton-famine/places/statue-of-abraham-lincoln-lincoln-square-manchester.html

Many people still see and read WW2 the way Churchill and people close to him (and to Eisenhower) told it - he has that kind of advantage fifty years after his death, to a much greater extent than let's say de Gaulle or the 1939 Polish government. But at the same time, because after the war Britain wasn't able to reassert itself as an imperial power, most people today don't realize how much the fact of empire swayed the British political elite in the 1930s and into the war - what they wanted to do or didn't want to do, their obligations and hopes. Chamberlain's unwillingness to go to war in 1937-38 has much to do with the fact that NBritain was still a global empire and overstretched by it (and underarmed)- for example, he couldn't know if Canada and Australia would join forces with the UK and also declare war on Germany over Czechoslovakia: with Poland a year later it was much more clear to everybody that Hitler had now become a global menace - but that's all been blotted out of the popular narrative about how the war arrived and what Briain could have done or should have done (a narrrative first shaped by Churchill). :)

Offline Humble Scribe

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2019, 10:10:44 AM »
Thank you for your opinions... do go on, please :)
BTW. One more person I'd like to ask about: Margaret Thatcher...

I have complicated feelings about Thatcher. I was 13 when she came to power and 26 when she was toppled by her own party (back when a certain ruthless pragmatism used to characterise the Tory party, rather than the strange utopian idealism that seems to have taken it over these days). I am from the West Midlands and I went to University in York during the Miners' Strike - I saw the effects her policies had on the places where I lived; the industrial North was decimated in those years, and it has never really recovered. Probably by the late 1970s the power of the unions was out of control, and the economy moribund, and it needed someone to tackle it. But it would have been much better for the country if it had been done in a planned way with reconstruction assistance to the regions affected, rather than the wrecking ball, laissez-faire capitalism that prevailed in the 80s and which she provided over. She was popular in the South, where people got rich, and popular overseas, where people like strong leaders, but for most of the country she was very unpopular during her first term, but somehow rescued it via the Falklands War.
That was a ridiculous conflict over 2,000 people living on some rocks several thousand miles away. If we had paid each of them a million pounds to relocate to the UK, it would have been far cheaper. But it takes two to make a conflict, and the Argentine military junta was equally ridiculous, trying to distract public attention from a collapsing economy with some overseas military adventurism. The historical and legal claims are abstruse on both sides, but on the general principle that you don't just send tanks in to capture territory against the will of the population there, the war was justified.

In the end Thatcher became a victim of her own success - she started to believe in her own PR spin, and I suspect that the dementia was starting to show by the end as well, like with her friend Ronald Reagan. She became quite a sad figure. But somehow when I hear recordings of her voice the student lefty in me resurfaces and I feel that anger about her and what she did to people all over again.

Offline Humble Scribe

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2019, 10:23:12 AM »
In answer to your other questions, I have an outsider's perspective on the US, but Nixon was a paranoid and spiteful man who nevertheless managed to score some foreign policy triumphs (the detente with the USSR and China) as well as some atrocities - the coup in Chile, and the bombing of Cambodia on his way out of Vietnam.
Carter seemed a genuinely humane man and came closest so far to sorting the mess that is Israel and its neighbours, but as Skynet says, didn't have the political nous to achieve much.
Reagan we all used to think was going to get us all killed via his more belligerent approach to the Cold War. The fact that he didn't now seems to have come to look like wisdom, when I suspect it may just have been dumb luck.
Gandhi I really only know what I saw in the movie.


Offline BeorningTopic starter

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2019, 02:26:45 PM »
It's interesting to read these opinions... I can tell you that, back here, both Thatcher and Reagan were held in high regard back when I was growing up (meaning, late 80s and early 90s). At least in the anti-Communist circles. It was much later, when I was in my twenties, that I learned how much Thatcher was hated by some of the British people. For example, in one Warren Ellis comic book she was referred to as a "mad woman"...

As for Carter, I've recently read that he was (is?) considered a weak leader... I'm wondering what that means?

I'm also genuine curious about Nixon. Was his presidency a total disaster, or was he a competent president who ruined his career with one scandal?

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Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2019, 03:30:22 PM »
It's interesting to read these opinions... I can tell you that, back here, both Thatcher and Reagan were held in high regard back when I was growing up (meaning, late 80s and early 90s). At least in the anti-Communist circles. It was much later, when I was in my twenties, that I learned how much Thatcher was hated by some of the British people. For example, in one Warren Ellis comic book she was referred to as a "mad woman"...

As for Carter, I've recently read that he was (is?) considered a weak leader... I'm wondering what that means?

I'm also genuine curious about Nixon. Was his presidency a total disaster, or was he a competent president who ruined his career with one scandal?

Even Gorbachev is appreciative and generous about Thatcher in his memoirs (written in the mid-90s). They didn't share the same ideas about economy or long-term ideals of society, but he views her as a mostly honest person in foreign policy, and someone who was genuinely helpful and understood where he was coming from and what kind of problems he faced (perhaps because she, too, had been a bit of an outsider in her own party).

Nixon was a crook at home in many ways, he cemented some of the divisions of the late 1960s (right-wing hawks vs blacks, "commies" and hippies) and made sure they would survive for a long time afterwards. Plus he kept up the brutal and pointless Vietnam war. In some ways he was close to a war criminal when it came to Vietnam, I would say. But he did achieve important breakthroughs with China and the USSR (I'm not saying Robert Kennedy couldn't have done the same thoughm if he had been given the chance...).

Offline Humble Scribe

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2019, 06:31:44 PM »
It's interesting to read these opinions... I can tell you that, back here, both Thatcher and Reagan were held in high regard back when I was growing up (meaning, late 80s and early 90s). At least in the anti-Communist circles. It was much later, when I was in my twenties, that I learned how much Thatcher was hated by some of the British people. For example, in one Warren Ellis comic book she was referred to as a "mad woman"...

Beorning - I'm looking back on your posts, and assuming 'back here' means Poland? In which case I can certainly empathise with you lionising western leaders who were willing to push at the USSR, but I genuinely think you probably have Gorbachev to thank for most of what has happened since 1989.
Obviously "no man is a hero to his valet" - back in the UK we have different domestic views on Thatcher than her foreign policy stance. There are some who will argue that pushing the USSR was what led to its collapse, others will suggest it would have happened anyway. Either way, I'm pleased that Poland has finally managed to emerge from centuries of being pawns of major powers to become a European nation in its own right.

Offline Skynet

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2019, 07:09:29 PM »
Just as there's no single reason for Rome's fall, the decline of the USSR was both internal and external. It could have sauntered on possibly had Gorbachev felt it was worth preserving, although its perpetual war-time economy over-investing in military to the detriment of everything else, lack of freedom of speech meant that the population under-reported economic shortages, and increasing resentment of colonialism in the satellite states meant that its fall was just as much self-inflicted as by its enemies.

Offline Bly

Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2019, 09:19:23 PM »
1. Richard Nixon
Generally bad person, and Henry Kissinger made him worse.

2. Jimmy Carter
Good man. Could have been a better politician. Still doing good work today.

3. Ronald Reagan
I generally dislike him for a few reasons, but the one that I always think about was his championing of trickle-down economics, which was (and remains) a terrible idea. However, he was known to periodically actually raise some taxes as needed, did occasionally try to protect entitlement programs (weirdly his administration also tried to remove people from those programs; it's an oddity), etc. Complex individual. Did a horrible job about the Cold War though.

4. Winston Churchill
Complex figure. A needed leader during WWII. But then there's things like the Bengali famine and his role in it. A figure that--regardless of whatever he was doing, good or bad--did it intensely.

5. Gandhi
Good civil rights activist. In particular, his challenging of the Indian caste system was very important. However, lot of really weird damn stuff about women with this guy that I've heard about, to a point where in the modern day, we'd see him as pretty problematic sexually.

6. Margaret Thatcher
Don't know enough about the Iron Lady to really feel I can offer an opinion.

Offline Lux12

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Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #20 on: November 08, 2019, 10:00:17 PM »
I've been reading on various figures from recent history today and now I'm wondering: what do people think of them?

So... I thought I'd ask :)

What's your opinion on the following people?

1. Richard Nixon

2. Jimmy Carter

3. Ronald Reagan

4. Winston Churchill

5. Gandhi

As I said - just curious...

1. One of the worst presidents the U.S. has ever had whose only real worthwhile accomplishment was landmark environmental legislation.

2. Jimmy Carter. A good man and one of the single most underrated presidents the U.S. has ever had. People keep saying he was a "terrible president, but a great person", but I beg to differ. He was a better president than people give him credit for, the problem was that he wasn't enough of a stereotypical hardass for some people.

3. Ronald Reagan....Oh where to begin...I despise the man, he more-a-less helped create the modern evangelical and conservative movements drowning in reactionary ideology and his trickle down bull hurt countless people. Not to mention his policies were utterly harmful to ethnic minorities. He more-a-less chose to ignore the mounting AIDS crisis, escalated the pointless drug war, and generally pushed a bassackwards agenda which is causing issues to this day. Perhaps one of the single most overrated world leaders of all time.

4. Churchill is a figure I have an increasingly complicated opinion of, he did help stop Hitler, but he was also quite an awful racist who let millions of people die in colonized territories who didn't need perish. He was a man of immense wit, but that doesn't excuse his more deplorable actions.

5. Gandhi is someone who at the very least helped free his people from colonial rule and had some great ideas which in turn have influenced me, but some of the more problematic things he's done or said have come to light and it's left me with a very mixed outlook on the man. Anymore, I just try to take what positive influences I can from his teachings while not forgetting everything else and keeping that in mind.

6. See what I said about Reagan. I have a very similar opinion of her in many ways. Sans the America specific stuff I mentioned, my opinion of her is much the same as the one I have of Reagan.

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Re: Historical figures - your opinions
« Reply #21 on: November 08, 2019, 11:15:04 PM »
Being 50, I have memories of some of these historical figures.

1.  Nixon was listed as the most hated man several years running in an annual 1970s international poll, if I remember correctly.  He carried on indiscriminate bombing of North Vietnam, directed a secret war against Cambodia, kept a secret list of political enemies he directed the FBI to keep tabs on, and was part of McCarthyism in the 1950s, as a member of Congress.  He was always a petty, vindictive, wicked man, although he did carry out some few quality actions, like creating the Environmental Protection Agency.  He also believed he was above the law with his ideas of executive privilege, which he tried to use to prevent evidence of his crimes from coming out during the Watergate fiasco.

2.  Carter is a fine human being.  He well deserved his Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace between Egypt and Israel.  He also handled the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor meltdown admirably--he had worked on a nuclear submarine in the Navy, and understood the crisis at hand.  He was stymied by stagflation--stagnant inflation--because of supporting Israel during wars, which OPEC retaliated over with raising oil prices.  The Iran Hostage crisis was also a lingering, dragged-out international issue that weighed down his administration.  However, it didn't help that the next figure interfered with the outcome of that...

3.  Reagan was telegenic and a decent communicator, but was a horrible person.  Aside from awful things he did as governor of California (tear gassing a college campus because of a protest, affecting protestors and innocents alike), he sent his vice presidential candidate George Bush to negotiate the release of the hostages in secret, while he was still a candidate himself.  They convinced the Iranians to hold off on releasing the hostages (which they'd agreed to release after negotiations with President Carter) until after the election, an egregious example of election tampering that should have resulted in prison sentences for those involved.  Instead, he won the election and served two terms.

My parents, who I can consider old-school moderate Republicans, hated Nixon after the Watergate scandal was exposed.  They ridiculed Carter.  They loved Reagan.  Back then they were Catholic, too.  Now, they're Protestant evangelicals--but they still hate Trump, even before he was elected.  They won't vote for a Democrat...but they've told me they'd never vote for Trump, either.