Read CROWDS AND HEROES - CHAPTER VI of Crowds A Moving-Picture of Democracy, free online book, by Gerald Stanley Lee, on


Christ said once, “He that is greatest among you let him be your servant.”

Most people have taken it as if He had said: 

“He that is greatest among you let him be your valet.

“He that is greatest among you let him be your butler.

“He that is greatest among you let him be your hostler, porter, footman.”

They cling to a mediaeval Morality-Play, Servant-in-the-House idea, a kind of head-waiter idea of what Christ meant.

This seems to some of us a literal-minded, Western way of interpreting an Oriental metaphor.  We do not believe that Christ meant servanthood.  It seems to us that He meant something deeper, that He meant service; that He might have said as well: 

“He that is greatest among you let him be your Duke of Wellington.

“He that is greatest among you let him be your Lincoln.

“He that is greatest among you let him be your Edison, your Marconi.”

At all events, it is extremely unlikely that He meant looking and acting like a servant.

He meant really being one, whether one looked like a servant or not.  If looking independent and being independent makes the service better, if defying the appearance of a servant makes the service more efficient, we believe the appearance should be defied.

It troubles us when we see the Czar of Russia in the presence of the civilized world, once a year taking such great pains to look like a servant and to wash his peasants’ feet.

We are not willing, if we ever have any relations with the public, to be Czars and look like servants.

We would prefer to look like czars and be servants.

We are inclined to believe that no man who is rendering his utmost service to the crowd ever thinks in the ordinary servant sense of being obedient to it.  He is thinking of his service, and of its being the most high and perfect and most complete thing that he can render-the thing that he, out of all men, could think of and do, and that the crowd would want him to do.  He is busy in being obedient to the crowd, in fulfilling daily its spirit, and not in taking orders from it.

The reason that the larger number of men who go into politics to-day are inefficient and do not get the things done that crowds want, is that they are the kind of men who feel that they must talk and act like servants.  Even the most independent-looking and efficient men, who look as if they really saw something and had something to give, often prove disappointing.  When one comes to know a man of this type more intimately, one is apt to find that he is really a flunkey in his thoughts; that he feels hired in his mind; that he is the valet of a crowd, and often, too, the valet of some particular crowd-some little, safe, shut-in crowd, party, or special interest that wants to own, or to keep, or to take away a world.

Whichever way to-day one looks, one finds this illusion as to what a public servant really is, for the moment, corrupting our public life.

But Christ did not say, “He that is greatest among you, let him be your valet.”

The man who is greatest among us, neither in this age nor in any other, ever will or ever can be a valet.  He faces the crowd the way Christ did-with his life, with his soul, with his God.

He will not be afraid of the Crowd....

He will be the Greatest, he will be a Servant.

In the meantime-in the hour of the valets, only the little crowds, speak.  The People wait.

The Crowd is dumb, massive, and silent.  There seems to be no one in the world to express it, to express its indomitable desire, its prayer, to lay at last its huge, terrible, beautiful will upon the earth.

It is the classes or little crowds-the little pulling and pushing, helpless, lonely, mean, separated crowds-blind, hateful, and afraid, who are running about trying to lay their little wills upon the earth.

The Crowd waits and is not afraid.

The little, separated crowds are afraid.

The world, for the moment, is being interpreted, expressed, and managed by People Who Are Afraid.

It is the same in all the nations.  In the coal strike in England one finds the miners in the trades unions afraid to vote except in secret because they are afraid of one another.  One finds the miners’ leaders afraid of the men under them and of what they might do, so that they have no policy except to fight.  One finds the miners’ leaders afraid of the mine-managers and of what they might do, so that they have no policy except to fight.  One finds the mine-managers afraid of one another, afraid of their stockholders, afraid of the miners’ leaders, and afraid of the newspapers and afraid of the Government.

One finds the Government afraid of everybody.

Everybody is afraid of the Government.

Everybody fights because everybody is afraid.

And everybody is afraid because everybody sees that it is mere crowds that are running the world.

There is another reason why everybody is afraid.  Everybody is afraid because everybody is shut in with some little separated crowd.

People who are never Outside, who only see a little way out over the edge of the little crowd in which they are penned up, are naturally afraid.

A world that is run by little shut-in crowds is necessarily a world that is run by People Who Are Afraid.

And so now we have come to the fulness of the time.  The cities and the nations, the prairies, and the seas and the mines, the very skies about us can be seen by all to-day to be full of a dull groping and of a great asking, “Who Are The Men Who Are not Afraid?

The moment these men appear who are not afraid, and it is seen by all that they are not afraid, the world (and all the little blind, helpless crowds in it) will be placed in their hands.