At times, there is little to add to what has already been said and written about Muhammad Ali. This is one such time. In the twenty-four hours after his death, the story dominated the headlines around the world.
I would like to add one personal observation
I should have written more
Leaders We Deserve has posted examples of many charismatic leaders. I should have written more about Ali. If he had no talent beyond his sheer physical appearance he would have been discovered (and possibly been exploited) into super-celebrity status.
His life, in complete contrast to one that could have been a passive acceptance of fate, was an articulate gesture against exploitation. Against treatment of black people in America. Indirectly against exploitation of all those American soldiers fighting in Vietnam. Against what he called his “slave name” CassiusClay.
And within these broader beliefs, he fought against his own exploitation, and found his personal resolution in adapting the Muslim faith.
He put to use his great talents. A dazzling speed of thought and movement which propelled him to the world championship in boxing, and an astonishing display of verbal dexterity and self-promotional skills in his very public appearances.
His career was illuminated and at times seriously disrupted as he was seen as an uppity and dangerous enemy to the American establishment.
Towards a post-charismatic world?
There is little dispute about the uniqueness of his talents. Historians will have to reach conclusions about his impact on the twentieth century and beyond.
To say there will never be another Muhammad Ali, is another way of saying that we are moving into a post-Charismatic World, and trying to figure out the implications of that process.