The Millennium Awards
Harbinger of the Millenium
According to Icelandic Sagas sometime about the year 1000 a small group of Vikings crossed the Atlantic, probably to some part of North America do a little hunting. They saw a strange looking man, so they killed him. No one knows the poor guys name. To every one involved it was an ordinary murder, little did anyone know the time that this was the first of many, many, many, times, over the next 1000 years, that white people would cross seas and kill the people they found there.
Man of the Millennium
And I do mean Man of the Millennium, because let’s admit it was a man’s millennium.
How do you give an award like “man of the millennium?” Does it go to the Best Person of the Millennium? The Most Influential Person of the millennium? The Most Successful Person of the millennium? None of those are quite right. I think The man of the millennium is the person who most embodies the spirit of the millennium. And therefore the award must go to:
Benjamin Franklin: Name a trend of this millennium and this guy was in on it. The European dominance of world politics? He was a slave owner, and he negotiated British treaties with American Indians. The decline of the European dominance of world politics? He was a leader of the first successful revolution against a European colonial power. The technology explosion? He invented bifocals, discovered electricity, and invented the stove that was the industry standard for 100 years. The sexual revolution? Yes, he was in on that too.
If you’re from Michigan, Wisconsin, or the part of Minnesota that’s east of the Mississippi, you owe the fact that you’re not Canadian to Ben Franklin. I wouldn’t even mention this, but this the achievement that he thought he would be most remembered for. He was also an early advocate of democracy, a capitalist when capitalism was just getting started, a scientist, and he still had spare time to become a best selling author. That concept didn’t even exist in the last millennium. I wouldn’t attempt to judge who the “best” person of the millennium was, but, truly, Benjamin Franklin was The Man of the Millennium.
Over-achiever of the millennium
Joan of Arc You don’t expect a lot from a teenage, schizophrenic*, peasant girl in sexist, classist, ageist, and not-real-friendly-to-the-mentally-ill late medieval Europe. But this one did a lot. In just two years, Joan managed to unite the French army, drive the British out of a large part of northern France, and crown the King of France. For this she was both burned as a heretic and canonized as a saint by the same organization—the Catholic Church. Now she is the French national hero. Not bad for someone who, if she were born today, would probably be given psychoactive drugs.
* Some modern scholars have diagnosed her as a schizophrenic based on her trail testimony where she talked about voices in her head.
Best Idea of the Millennium
Louis Pasture, who said to the medical community, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Why don’t you guys wash your hands in-between patients?” This and the antiseptic method that followed has saved millions of lives ever since. It may have saved more lives than any other idea in human history. Looking back it seems so obvious you wonder why nobody thought of it say 2 or 3 millenniums earlier. You can talk about steam engines, electric lights, cars, airplanes, penicillin, personal computers, and the idea of stopping Hitler in Czechoslovakia, but I don’t think any of those are a better idea than a doctor with clean hands.
Embarassing Moment of the Millenium
Catherine the Great, Czar of Russia. Rumor has it she died having sex with a horse, when it fell on her. That’s embarrassing.
Event of the Millennium
Columbus Discovers America.
Whether you like Columbus or not, and well, I don’t, you got’a admit he changed the world. He wasn’t the first one to find America. The natives knew right where it was. But, for them, he discovered Europe. Until he came along the two landmasses had separate histories, with little contact or trade or knowledge of each other. Before Columbus there were two regional histories, after Columbus there was world history. He introduced Cattle, horses, and don’t forget slavery to the Americas, while he introduced tobacco and corn to Europe. Some say he personally brought syphilis to Europe from America. Others say he personally brought syphilis to America from Europe. But, I guess it suffices to say there was a lot of that going around.
Loser of the Millennium
There have been a lot of high quality losers this millennium, they all deserve to win this award, but, of course, there can only be one, loser of the millennium. To cut it down, I’m looking only at people who started with everything, and ended with nothing. If you built you achievements first then lose them, no matter how bad you lost it, you’re a part time winner and not qualified. Sorry, Mussolini.
Maximillian, his cousin gave him Mexico and he got himself killed. Don’t you think if you’re cousin gave you Mexico you’d walk away with something?
Louis XVI, born the King of France of France, he went into debt to pay for aid to the American Revolution against his enemy, Britain. Inspired by the successful democratic revolution in America and angered by the high taxes to pay for the debt crisis in France, his own people revolted and beheaded him.
Winner: Czar Nicholas III. No one else in that last 1,000 years has been given so much, and finished with so little. This man was born heir to absolute rule of the second largest empire on earth. Russia at that time still held the doctrine of absolutism making the Czar quite literally the owner of one fifth of the Earth’s land. Mostly because of the large amount of his own screw-ups and partly because of a little bad luck, he managed to die with nothing. His credits: He declared war on a small country (Japan) that had only been experimenting with modern industry for about 40 years, and he lost, making him the first post-colonial European to lose a war to a nonwhite nation. His goal in life was to maintain the Absolute Monarchy, but he let a peasant, Rasputin, who was rumored to be doing his wife, make most his most of his important decisions for him, for about five years. He declared war on Germany, a much smaller nation, but managed not only to lose, but to let it inspire widespread revolt and his own arrest and execution. He should be an inspiration to make everyone in a boring dead-end job feel successful.
Vacation Destination of the Millennium
Dictator of the Millennium
This award goes the most effective dictator the millennium, the idea of a “Best” Dictator in a moral sense being an oxymoron.
Mao Tse Dung
Winner: Joseph Stalin. He new how to grab power and lot’s of it, and he knew how to hold onto it. He started out as a political radical and ended up the absolute ruler of an area that is now 24 nations (including “satellite” Eastern European nations as part of his empire), totaling over 1/5 of the Earth’s land area.
But, he knew when to say when, to expand his power just as far, but no farther than he could get away with. He makes his most obvious rival Hitler look amateurish by comparison. Hitler burned out in the prime of his life, while Stalin still had a strangle hold on power even when he was advancing into senility. He finally died of natural causes, and was given a huge state funeral, while Hitler had to commit suicide to avoid arrest an execution. Stalin kind of reminds me of Brittany Spears, I don't like what he does, but he sure knows how to do it.
Worst Prediction of the Millennium
"The days of the white man are numbered."
-Chief Crazy Horse, c. 1880 A few Year later He found himself living on a reservation.
"The third Reich will last 1000 years."
-Adolf Hitler, 1933. He was off by 988 years.
"Capitalism will destroy itself"
-Karl Marx, author of the communist Manifesto, Since then, communism destroyed itself while capitalism marches on, but maybe it will destroy itself in the next generation.
“In a few generations, population will outgrow the available food supply.”
-Economist, Thomas Malthus 1799. 200 years later the world population is 100 times what it was then, yet the food supply continues to grow faster than population, but maybe population will outstrip our resources in the next generation.
Winner: "The end of the world is at hand."
-Numerous people, throughout the millennium.
This prediction wins because so many people doggedly predict it every year, and nobody’s ever been right. The millennium began with Christian fanatics in Europe going up into the hills expecting the end of the world to come 1000 years after Christ’s birth, and a few did it again in 2000 under various guises. In the intervening 1000 years, every war, famine or natural disaster, and cold winter has—to some prognosticator—foretold the end of the world, but they world somehow continues to exist.