There is a saying, “Wise people plant trees in the shade of which they shall never sit.”
This is Legacy. In the 19th and 20th centuries there rose to power and prominence a collection of men who became exorbitantly wealthy through monopolistic capitalism. These men had names like Carnegie , Rockefeller and Nobel.
Yet you’d be hard pressed to remember these men as the brutal industrialists they were. Why? Because at some point at the back half of their life they became introspective. They looked upon all their mighty works and despaired. They saw how the world might remember them, and shook before it.
All three of the men worked tirelessly to re-write history into their favor, burring their sins under the good works that millions and billions of dollars can do, and these men largely succeeded. Nobel is no longer remembered as the merchant of death who built his empire off dynamite and munitions, Carnegie’s brutal steel magnate days are largely forgotten about and even contemptible old Rockefeller is met with a less harsh gaze.
This is common. Man when faced with his own mortality, and the idea of his legacy is often spurred to be seen in the best possible light. While some might see this as disingenuous, I see it as a natural psychological consequence of death. First you fly from it, then you accept it and attempt to become immortal through the persistence of memory, in the case of the very wealthy the collective persistence.
Moreover, examples of common people making plans for future generations can be found across time, culture and space. The roman aqueducts were built and expanded over 500 years. The people who began construction on these public works products could not have seen that far ahead, however they chose to work on them daily to benefit people they would never meet. This is cultural legacy.
However, as discussed in the previous blog post, the invention and use of the Nuclear Bomb for the first time instilled in many cultures, societies and individuals a sense of existential dread.
In the face of total nuclear annihilation, it suddenly made no sense to start projects that might benefit anyone even 10 years down the line. Suddenly, all that mattered was the here and now.
Continued in Part 3: