It's time for another history lesson, in which Jester Makes History Fun. Are you seated comfortably? Then I'll begin.
An on-going debate that happens in the United States is measuring the relative "greatness" of past U.S. presidents. This is something that historians have been arguing about since roughly World War I. The pre-World War I list was quite literally set in stone. So with a couple of exceptions here and there, the arguments tend to center on the post-WWI Presidents and how they compare. And it's kind of interesting to watch the rankings change over time.
On the lists available on Wikipedia, I'd like to call your attention to Dwight Eisenhower. He will be our case study President. Eisenhower is one of those Presidents that U.S. middle school children find difficult to remember. Don't blame the decade in which he served: the 1950s was an extremely busy period in both U.S. and world history. But particularly through the 1960s and 1970s, he was regarded as being simply responsive to the events in which he lived rather than an active shaper of those events. Or alternately (and ironically), he was regarded as being dictatorial, a legacy of his Generalship in which he gave orders and expected those orders would be obeyed. Or he was weak in the support of his party's beliefs and principles. Or he was soft on Communism, or too weak in his support of civil rights. The list goes on.
These accusations were hurled at him during his administration, and their volume only increased when he was compared to his extremely charismatic and activist successors. The point being that by the time of his death in 1969, he was pretty firmly regarded as, if not a failed President, certainly not a particularly successful one.
Then, as the decades passed, Eisenhower's Presidential reputation improved. People remembered that he ended one war and didn't start any new ones. They began to appreciate the massive undertaking of creating the U.S. Interstate highway system. And launching NASA and the U.S. space program. And stabilizing relations with the Soviet Union and China despite having to take adversarial positions with both of them. His embrace of technology is remembered, as is his rescue of the Republican Party from the isolationism that threatened it at that time. These days, some fifty years after his Presidency, Eisenhower routinely makes the top ten list of U.S. Presidents. He'll soon be one of only six Presidents with a full-size national memorial in Washington D.C.
But it took a half-century for his contributions in this position to be recognized.
Let's talk about CSM7, shall we?
During my recent chat with Alekseyev Karrde, Hans Jagerblitzen, and Seleene, I flat out asked them: "What do you see as CSM7's top three accomplishments so far?" The silence that greeted this question was instructive and it stretched on for quite a while before one hesitant response was offered: "The Minutes?" I commented that that wasn't much of a list, and it was argued in return that CSM7 hasn't had a crisis to respond to. They then mentioned some contributions they wish to make to future CSMs that I'll get to presently.
But it was a rather Eisenhowerian response, I think you'll now agree. ;-) And I responded just that way, brought up a much shorter version of what's above, and pointed out that Eisenhower wasn't appreciated in his own time. I then stated if CSM7 wanted to take that tack then I wasn't going to feel at all bad about giving them a good deal of flak while they're in office. And even the whitest of CSM7 white knights is also coming around to this way of thinking. It didn't help that the rest of the CSM then essentially threw Trebor Daehdoow under the bus when he proposed a change to the CSM voting mechanic before Hans finally took a small amount of pity on him and explained just what the hell was going on with this behind the scenes. CCP Xhagen was then good enough to step in and point out that maybe he should be leading this discussion.
Would have been mighty interesting had more of CSM7 spent some of this summer thinking about how CSM8 should be selected but at least the conversation has started now. That's a good thing. There's still plenty of time.
Start ranking CSMs based on their respective greatness and you'll probably start an argument about whether CSM5 or CSM6 should top the list. But it's interesting to me how much both of them were reliant on the tone and groundwork laid by CSM4. Go back to that CSM's list of proposals and you'll find something interesting. Virtually every single one of them has either already been implemented or has now been acknowledged by CCP as something they should have done and are slated for implementation in the near future.
But even more than that, toward the end of their own term, CSM5 stated how important CSM4's work was to them in terms of granting the CSM "stake-holder" status. Now over the nearly three years since that time, there have been discussions and counter-discussions about exactly what that term means. Ask CSM7 today what they think their biggest accomplishment is going to be when their term ends, and they'll say they're looking to formalize and document exactly what the term means and what it will mean for future CSMs. I pointed out in my response to the Minutes that the CSM should take a stronger role in rewriting and redefining the CSM White Paper and this is an important part of that job.
It remains to be seen if CSM7 will complete the work successfully.
But it's going to make things kind of interesting for the CSM7 members that choose to run for CSM8. We're not going to know if CSM7 was successful until well into CSM8's term... if we even know then. Like Eisenhower's work not being recognized for decades after he left office, and like the work CSM4 did, it could be years before we appreciate it. As a result, it's not that surprising that some CSM7 members are looking to attach their legacy -- and presumably their CSM8 election hopes -- to a somewhat different star...