Some heroes are best avoided

Leafing through Isaac Deutscher’s Ironies of History: Essays on Contemporary Communism (1966), Dalrymple lights on this passage:

A society which has gone through as much as Soviet society has gone through, which has achieved so much and suffered so much, which has seen, within the lifetime of one generation, its whole existence repeatedly shattered, and which has again and again ascended the highest peaks of hope and heroism and descended to the lowest depths of despair—such a society cannot fail to draw from its rich and uniquely great experience equally great generalising ideas and practical conclusions and to embody these in actions worthy of itself. Nor can it fail to produce sooner or later the men and women strong enough in mind and character—a new ‘phalanx of heroes reared on the milk of the wild beast‘—to transform ideas into deeds.

Dalrymple comments:

I am not sure I would care much to meet a phalanx of heroes raised on the milk of the wild beast—in fact, I think I would cross to the other side of the street if I did so. (The quote, incidentally, comes from Alexander Herzen.)

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