Hand someone a book about ‘history’ and more times than not they break out into uncontrollable shaking, floundering in a quagmire of forgotten names, dates and places. Upon learning the book was written by a ‘Professor’, brain cells explode in panic as they mentally smell the dry dust whiffing up from the crinkled, yellowed pages. “History? Oh God, no. Dull, boring, meaningless ‘History’! Why me God?’ they cry out in despair.
Yes, we’ve been conditioned well to view history as a succession of names, places and times committed to memory, that might as well exist on Mars for as much relevance placed on them.
Yet, is there anything more relevant to our continued survival and advancement as the human race than in the understanding of our past? Is ‘History’, in fact, nothing more than a succession of memorized names, dates and places?
The answer to both questions is a resounding: “NO”.
History is not some faded collection of mythical events and names flashing across our memories like a disjointed slide show. History is a record of people’s interaction with and responses to the world around them. People – who were no different from you and I are today. People – who had dreams, drives, motivations, fears, strengths and weaknesses - no different from people today.
Why and how they did what they did when they encountered opportunity or obstacle and what resulted from those actions – the generations to follow have the benefit of hindsight to see and call it ‘History’.
Why is it relevant?
Because when all is said and done, people haven’t changed. Our clothing changes, our toys change, technology, transportation, communication and knowledge all change and for sure our weapons change. But the needs, wants, emotions and reactions of people two thousand years ago, for the most part, mirror the same drives and feelings of people today.
The redemption history offers us, is learning from our predecessors actions so that we can avoid the same results and consequences they experienced and proceed towards creating a better world for us and our children.
Think about ‘History’ and names begin jumping out at us like flashbulbs going off; popes and kings, presidents and queens, bigger than life people, in the way history books, fiction books or Hollywood has imprinted them in our minds. But were kings and queens standalone players in the schemes and designs of men? Did they move in isolated spheres devoid of information? If not, then from where or whom did they get their information? Their biases? Who held their confidences and provided them with advice and direction – or misdirection?
In his latest work, “The King Whisperers, Power behind the Throne from Rasputin to Rove” Professor Kerwin Swint (Mudslingers)has attempted to remove some of the wrappings and fluff of history by showcasing the people behind the Hollywood ‘headliners’. Going behind the dry names, dates and places committed to memory, taking the spotlight off of them and putting it on those in the background who played a role in shaping those events – many times more so than the ‘king’ himself actually played. Those key persons who leaned over and whispered into the king’s ear “Hey King – have you heard about…” and changed the course of history. Further, he’s attempted to show some root causes for their motivations, making them identifiable and understandable to us today. By doing so, historical events are viewed in a fashion that we can in fact relate to and learn from – the true goal of a historian.
A sizeable undertaking for sure.
His approach is different from that of the standard historian as well. Instead of the traditional focus on major events in time, Professor Swint has categorized his ‘whisperers’ by motivation and personality. Slicing across the timeline of recorded history, he has chosen examples of each to present his thesis. A difficult task, especially when ten categories are identified. A wide spectrum, presenting difficulty in distinguishing one motivation from another across lines that are fuzzy at best and invisible at worse. Few people, if any, are of a single motivational make-up but are complex creatures having multiple motivations and personalities, all jumbled together, making it difficult if not impossible to categorize clearly, (beware the ‘silver-tongued, truly evil, rebel, empire builder who comes ‘whispering’).
Defining the motivation of powerful, complex men and women, who moved and worked, centuries ago in high-profile roles during turbulent times, civilizations and governments is a task of Herculean effort and no small skill. Professor Swint manages the task with competency and brevity choosing 47 representative men and women covering around 4700 years of history in less than 300 pages (too bad it wasn’t 470 pages and we could have a trifecta). He doesn’t present detailed biographies, that not being his goal, instead he provides micro-level overviews of their common personalities and motivations and how they interacted with the situations they encountered. Neither are the historical ‘events’ surrounding each person the focus of Professor Swint’s thesis. Whether it’s the crusades or the inquisition, the war in Iraq or the Russian Revolution, the focus is on the motivational personality of the advisor behind the crown.
As is true in our own lifetime, many of his ‘whisperers’ changed roles during their reigns, some going from…
‘king whisperer’ to ‘king’…
‘king whisperer’ to ‘court jester’…
and still others going from…
King whisperers to ….
Professor Swint poses many rhetorical questions throughout his book, from the origins of government and civilizations to the nature and definition of ‘evil’. It’s not his intent to answer these questions and he doesn’t attempt to. Rather, he lays them out for the reader as if setting a table for thought when discussing his examples of those who embodied such things while ‘whispering‘ from
behind the curtain.
And like the great Wizard in the Land of Oz, it turns out, when the curtain is pulled aside, they too were not wizards, but were just people with the same drives, fears and biases we have, only they had the power to appease them.
Professor Swint delves into the backgrounds and personal histories of his examples; their childhoods, successes and failures, pains and joys, providing the reader with identify, making them human, thereby bringing them out of the ‘dusty, yellowed’ pages of ‘history’ into the light of modern-day analysis, not to condone or condemn, but to understand.
The representatives he’s chosen are good examples in showcasing the motivations discussed in each of the ten categories and establish a cross-timeline slice of history supporting his thesis. The reader can easily insert examples of their own in each of the ten categories across international and political lines. (The use of recent persons by Professor Swint may be hurrying the definition of ‘history’ somewhat, being a little early for historical analysis of events still unfolding.)
The quest of humanity should always be to improve ourselves and our world. Only by learning from the actions of those who’ve gone before are we able to do so. There are many historical figures – good and bad – credited with things they did or didn’t do and there are many unknown persons who really shaped events and history who are not known. Many of these heroes and villains, were the ‘whisperers‘ behind the spotlights. And there’s the rub – for in that informational void people cannot discern truth and therefore cannot learn. This is the true role of the historian, to bring to light those behind the scenes forces that shape events and Professor Swint doesn’t let the reader down in fulfilling that role and presenting a case for further study and reflection.
Using a style and format that is easy on the eyes and appealing to novice and academia alike, The King Whisperers cracks open the door, inviting us to look at history from a different perspective and does so in an entertaining manner urging the reader to look deeper and further for themselves. This is not only a book for historians and students but is a must read for anyone with any interest in the whys of what we do and the hows of history, past, present and yet to be.
Those persons who have the ear of the king are the ones we need to know more about and need to watch carefully. Yesterday’s world was able to absorb the mistakes and whims of kings and queens (and of their ‘whisperers‘);
today’s world – cannot.
Whether our future moves towards paradise….
…it behooves us to be vigilant to the temptations of power, for as Professor Swint states:
“Ah, but it is the necessity of winning and the narcotic effects of winning that drive individuals to take advantage of the process and to do it.”
The King Whisperers
by Kerwin Swint
(Union Square Press
Novel Publicity Tour Notes:
Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official King Whisperers blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
The next word for the book give-away is (MORE). Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on the official King Whisperers blog tour page. The other 2 copies are being given-away courtesy of the GoodReads author program, go here to enter. And don’t forget to stop by the Q&A with Kerwin Swint Group to discuss the King Whisperers (including questions from the official book club guide), the author, and his previous works.
Until next time – Embrace Life’s Bridges – For They Define Who You Are.