“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare.
The problem with people is they love heroes. Once they recognize someone as their hero, it is hard for them to reject him/her later even if there are enough flaws revealed in their so-called heroes. This unhealthy obsession often plays vital roles in making larger than life heroes out of villains.
Here are 7 heroes we all know about who were, to a great extent, also villains.
1. Thomas Alva Edison
Today, people take Alternating Current (AC) for granted and it is the standard for electricity to reach the people. But little do they realize that the great inventor Thomas Alva Edison, whom they remember as someone who invented the phonograph, the motion picture, and most importantly, the electric bulb, was staunchly against the technology improved by Nikola Tesla, the greatest electrical genius the world had ever seen because he wanted to hold the market for his Direct Current system and saw AC system as a threat.
In fact, Tesla used to work under Edison at one point of time and had suggested to him that the future of electricity was AC and not DC which Edison didn’t heed to at that time. Later, Tesla negotiated a deal with another person named George Westinghouse to carry alternating current to people.
He spread the propaganda that AC was way too dangerous for people and could kill them if they were not careful. To prove his point, he held events after events where animals were killed via AC in front of public and press and created a fear psychosis.
He even went on to secretly finance the invention of electric chair using AC to execute criminals despite of claiming that he didn’t believe in capital punishment, in the hope of upholding in front of people how dangerous AC was.
Edison is also believed to have patented many inventions under his name which were actually invented by the workers working under him. Throughout his lifetime, thus, he was able to have 2,332 patents under him.
2. Steve Jobs
While there cannot be any argument against the sort visionary person he was, Steve Jobs was also an abusive boss who used to treat those working under him terribly. He would make them work overtime, underpay them, be rude with them and possibly believed that to be successful he needed to be a boss who could throw verbal assaults on the staffs and react with anger and foul languages to them always.
Such was his awful reputation as a boss that Fortune Magazine once described him as ‘one of Silicon Valley’s leading egomaniacs’ and that his “inhuman drive for perfection can burn out even the most motivated worker.”
To mention one of the darkest episodes in Jobs’ life, when 14 workers in Apple’s Foxconn manufacturing plants in China committed suicide in 2010, a year before Jobs’ death, Foxconn made the other workers sign an agreement that in the scenario of them committing suicide, causing self-injury or unexpected death, their relatives would not sue the company.
A few months after his death, 150 workers in Wuhan, tired of sickening working conditions and low pay threatened to commit mass suicide. The company asked them that they could just quit the jobs with compensations or keep the jobs without increments. They quit the job but never received the compensations. This was the kind of leadership and empathy he had installed into the company.
3. John Lennon
Imagine someone singing in a multi-million dollars property about having ‘no possessions’ and promoting a world where there would be ‘no religion’ while being involved in all sorts of spiritual fads including Hinduism.
Lennon lived a life pretty much opposite to what he used to preach and sing about and contrary to the peace-loving image that he tried so hard to create of himself, he used to physically abuse both his wives Cynthia and Yoko Ono. He admitted it himself later in his life to have beaten his wives from time to time
Julian, his oldest son with wife Cynthia was undoubtedly the most emotionally tortured soul for having been born as a result of premarital affair between his parents which eventually led to their abusive marriage.
Lennon was largely absent from his life during his childhood and when they did reconnect, Lennon never missed an opportunity to belittle him and make him understand how much he hated him.
Julian later admitted that Paul McCartney was more a father figure to him as he was growing up instead of his real father Lennon.
It was because of Lennon that Beatles had fallen apart in the first place.
4. Winston Churchill
Churchill, remembered by the world as the person who won the World War II and who had some fantastic one-liners to demolish the opponents, was actually also a person who caused the intentional death of thousands of people in India and Africa.
When the great Bengal famine, one of the worst that the world had ever seen had dawned on India in 1943, Churchill diverted food stocks from India to Europe for the British soldiers who already had enough food, causing mass starvation and death of Bengalis just for the sake of maintaining a buffer stock for the fighting soldiers.
Tough this might sound like a debatable move by Churchill, taking on record that he had refused free food supply from USA and Canada around the same time for no reason removes all doubt that he had little empathy for Indians. When the administrators in India sent a telegram to hill giving the details of the misery people were in, he replied why Gandhi wasn’t dead yet.
During his second tenure as the Prime Minister of United Kingdom from 1951 to 1955, he put about 1,50,000 Kenyans in labour camps so as to seize lands for the settlements of whites.
Among the many victims of this move was the grandfather of former United States’ President Barack Obama.
5. Christopher Columbus
Columbus, the so-called discoverer of Americas on whose honour Columbus Day is celebrated in the USA was actually a mass murderer and the primary reason why the indigenous Americans’ population fell so rapidly.
Columbus set his foot on shores of San Salvador in the year 1492 when he was trying to find a route to India at the expanses of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and enslaved the indigenous people who were living there for about 14,000 years before his arrival.
He and his men carried out mass murders of the Indians just for the sake of fun, to compete who could kill quicker and at one blow, to test the sharpness of their swords’ blade and other reasons that made no sense at all.
He also introduced taxes on them and those who couldn’t pay them had their hands chopped-off. He took the women for sex slaves and gifted them to his lieutenants to rape them.
From the day of his ‘discovering’ the continent, he carried out such plunder, mayhem and atrocities to the Tainos or the Red Indians that within three years after 1492, the number of Red Indians fell from 8 million to mere 3 million and by the time Columbus left in the year 1504, only 1,00,000 Red Indians were alive.
6. Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro, at least in the beginning when he fought against army sergeant Fulgencio Batista, could be called a hero for Cuba. But he eventually turned out to be the same villain he had fought against in the first place. He became a dictator by overthrowing another dictator.
Fidel Castro’s political aspirations suffered a great blow when Batista seized the country by force when he was anticipating a loss in election in the year 1952. Castro was likely to have won a seat in the congress in that election. Soon after that, he started plotting the downfall of Batista and after years of battles, propaganda and guerrilla warfare with the help of his brother and charismatic Che Guevara besides other supporters, he was able to remove Batista by 1959.
With the beginning of Castro’s regime, Cuba didn’t remain the same. True there were phenomenal educational reforms and great healthcare facilities, but he turned the country into a communist state, a first in the western hemisphere, triggering many a crisis and even allowed Soviet Union to have its nuclear missiles placed in Cuba.
Under him, Cuba’s economy suffered a lot and from being the second richest real GDP per person in the Latin America in 1958 at $2,406 it became one of the poorest economies by 2008 with real GDP of $3,764 per person, a mere 64% increase in 50 years.
Everything was nationalized and government could take away anything from the citizen for any reason and no one could say a thing. Most of the things were censored by the government and opposing anything against the government could even lead to death.
It is estimated that as many as 1,50,000 people were murdered under Castro’s regime. Many fled to other countries.
7. The Lamas of Tibet
While whether China was right in invading and taking Tibet can be discussed another day, it is a fact that prior to China’s advance, Tibet was more or less a feudalistic society with lamas controlling the lands and living in luxury.
In Tibet, there were essentially two classes of people- the lamas and the serfs or slaves.
Contrary to what many would like to believe, lamas weren’t exactly the peace loving and forgiving monks that one would expect and while capital punishment isn’t a part of Buddhism, the lamas would go to the extent of gouging out eyes, removing tongues and cutting-off limbs of criminals and those breaking the law. They even maintained torture chambers.
They imposed heavy tax on people who were not exactly rich enough to pay such taxes. If someone was unable to pay the tax and starve to death, the debt would be transferred to his family. Further, the people could always be taken as slaves by the lamas for non-payment of taxes. Even children weren’t barred.
There was, however, the option of taking loans from the monastery but it would come with such rate of interest that greedy loan sharks would look like philanthropists comparing to the lamas.
There was literally a tax for everything. There was a tax for marriage; a tax for birth of each child; a tax for death; a tax for not being able to find employment; a tax from migrating and so on.
The fact that most of these atrocities are not a common knowledge is because when China invaded Tibet, only the lamas escaped and the only version of the story that people got to hear is the one told by the lamas.