Beware Small Men Who Cast Long Shadows!

28 Sep

The actual quote that caught my attention was “When small men begin to cast long shadows, it is a sure sign that the sun is setting”. The origin seems unclear, but what it conveys seems sombre and foreboding. I interpreted “small men” as “small minded people”. Not men of small stature (short) but men (or women) who may be deficient in many ways, but, nevertheless, exercising a dangerous level of control over our lives and our world. The sun setting is a warning that our future, if any, could be perpetual darkness – all gone. If I use the term “small men”, as explained before, it is not referring to stature or only men.

Who are these “small men”? I am sure we all know some. Many are motivated by personal greed and skilled in finding ways to justify action against anything affecting their personal gain or selfish ambition. They may act alone, or in concert with likeminded people. Collectively they can influence the structure of our society and divide people into those who use (for control or gain) and those who are used (most of us!).

Who allows the undeserving to control our lives? History confirms the pattern and the way those in power cling to power and their domination over average people. In our part of the world, it is only since the Industrial Revolution that there has been a progressive move to improve the lot of employees and working conditions, including limitations on child labour and other exploitive practices. It required legislation and the passing of such legislation met with intense opposition from the traditional ruling classes and nouveau riche business owners. They feared the increasing power of political parties representing the working classes, and giving too many rights to the people (including unions) that may inhibit their businesses.

It is not in our history to care too much about other people. It may be in our various religions, but interpreted by people in a “safe” and convenient way. We may establish social conventions to satisfy obligations of our faith, but generally making sure they do not close doors to personal opportunity, that may, by many, be seen as including exploitation.

Those in high places control by preserving their power. Frequently they try to convince us that it is the best way – that their power somehow benefits us and we should follow them. Big men are committed to what they say, take their responsibilities (for our future) seriously and without being completely unselfish, do nothing intentionally to harm us. Small men have personal goals we cannot trust, may pretend to care about people but do not and do not really care about the future (sustainable environment) much beyond their own lifetime. They may not deliberately harm or disadvantage people, but are indifferent to their fate if they are not important to their pursuit of wealth and power – or caring may limit their personal gain.

Times are changing. When we were small, my mother told us repeatedly about the horror she felt when they announced that that Atom bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wiping out much of the population. In many respects, she saw this as the beginning of the end and a terrible testimony to the capability of men to destroy. She had lived through the war and peace came at a terrible price. Destruction by fire (primarily bombs) continued to be a great fear during the cold war. War and destruction was the fear in peoples’ minds and could be visualized in very graphic terms. In our lifetime, the battle has become very different and distinguishing between friends and foes, big men and small men, is very difficult – they are often indistinguishable.

We have to think it all through and draw our own conclusions. To do that we have to reason and question, including principles we have lived with all our lives. The person who may appear big, successful and caring and claiming to protect our interests and freedoms – is he really a small person casting a long shadow and slowly turning off our light and our world, as the sun goes down?

Thank you for your interest and for caring – I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have,



2 Responses to “Beware Small Men Who Cast Long Shadows!”

  1. Howard Spiegel September 30, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    Hi Ian

    The quote is ” Ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow.

    Tyrion smiled. Lord Varys, I am growing strangely fond of you. I may kill you yet, but I think I’d feel sad about it.

    I will take that as high praise.”

    ― George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings

    As I read this, there can be another take on this statement. Consider that it could mean that you need to pay attention to the potential impact that a person can have regardless of their physical size. The actions can be positive as well as negative.


    • ianclive November 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Hi Howard,

      Thank you very much for clarifying the quote and for your insight on this subject. I apologize for not responding earlier. I just noticed your comment this morning – it must have been hidden by the shadows!

      Very best wishes,


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