There’s a natural instinct to want pure heroes and villains in the world but that instinct is incompatible with human nature. Humans are not angels, and most aren’t demons, either. The best we can expect is for an individual to push, on balance, in the right direction in the biggest ways they can undertake.
■ Even in Hollywood pictures, where purity of good and evil is easier to compose than in real life, complicated characters are more interesting than their over-simplified counterparts. The James Bond who struggles with internal complexity
in “Skyfall” is a more compelling artistic device than some of his polished-too-thin
■ Gorbachev’s flaws merit criticism – perhaps even scorn. But he did, on balance, push the part of the world he could influence in the general direction of right. And for that, he paid a price in esteem at home
. His dream of restructuring the Soviet Union was never fulfilled, perhaps because it was doomed from the start. But the world is better off without the USSR in it, and to no small extent, we have Gorbachev to thank for that. He literally closed the book
on the country’s legal existence.
■ If we demand flawless heroes, we’ll only overpopulate the world with villains. The judgment of history ought not to turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of fallible human beings; goodness and decency depend upon people being conscious that they will be judged after they’re gone.
■ But the rightful test of a person’s legacy isn’t whether they’re deserving of sainthood – it’s whether the preponderance of the evidence shows that they did meaningfully more good than harm. By that standard, it is fitting to regard Mikhail Gorbachev’s life as a success.