23 June 2009

Time Travellers' Test ~ What Are Cusp Moments?

Michael Gove in the Times asks the Time Travellers' Test...
"If you could travel back in time and intervene at one moment in history what would you do? Assassinate Hitler? Stop Lenin getting on that train to the Finland Station? Slip something in Mao's rice wine before he got the idea of the Cultural Revolution?"
Great question! My own top answers would be:
  • Getting Alexander to adopt more enduring political reforms thus accelerating East-West openness and exchange;
  • Talking Julius Caesar into pulling a George Washington and democratizing the Republic into a Roman Commonwealth instead of Empire;
  • Exposing Moses or Jesus or Muhammad back in their day as fraudulent hucksters preying on peoples irrational stupidities and emotional foibles;
  • Influencing the Hongxi Emperor and son Xuande to continue the great sea voyages of Admiral Zheng He in the 1400's thus reversing the geo-polarity of the Age of Discovery;
  • Catalyzing an industrial revolution in Timbuktu and the Songhai Empire of West Africa, thus placing it on competitive footing versus the rapacious Europeans;
Gove's own opinion?
"[Get] between Gavrilo Princip's bullet and Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Almost all the miseries of the last century can be traced to the greatest civilisational catastrophe of all time -- the First World War. There was a madness abroad in Europe in 1914, as the new Tate Modern exhibition of the war-worshipping Italian Futurists reminds us. Prewar Europe was a uniquely liberal and civilised place. And it was all swept away, in a ceremony of blood that ushered in eight decades of oppression."
See Daniel Finkelstein's Comment Central for more ideas.

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