Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Heroes don't exist.

I am of the opinion that the word hero is grossly over used. As evidence to support my idea, I offer this:

 
A bunch of people of the street gazing off into the distance, being billed as "our heroes" when all they've actually done is been lucky enough to land themselves a role on a TV game show that takes them around the world performing takes a distracted bonobo could probably accomplish with ease. If your society is attempting to call these people heroes then the word has been so devalued as to be meaningless. 

We have sporting heroes. In New Zealand, the All Blacks are regularly billed as sporting heroes.  What have they done to achieve this lofty pinnacle? They have worked hard to gain the opportunity to be played large amounts of money so that other people with more money can sell the spectacle and make some more money. That's all it is, selling the spectacle. We are sold heroes and as soon as we have bought one, another is rolled out to tempt us into buying that one as well.

Business heroes, sporting heroes, community heroes. The list goes on. Some of these people (probably not the business heroes) are undoubtedly worthy of respect for the hard work they put in and the good work that they do for the community. In the case of those who win renown saving the lives of their comrades on the battlefield in times of war or those who endanger their own lives in save others in times of disaster, heroic actions are no doubt performed. 

I don't believe heroic acts make the hero though. To declare someone a hero is to blind yourself to their flaws. And if they're human, they have flaws. Richard Feynman, world renowned physicist, Nobel prize winner, hero of physics, casual (and quite horrible sometimes) sexist1. We've had cricketing "heroes" that have been roundly condemned in the media for their off field behaviour.

Heroes are made to be looked up to, to exhibit behaviour that we can aspire to. Which is easy enough to do when you look at a single, specific behaviour of someone who has put themselves in harms way for the betterment of their fellows or excelled in some noble endeavour. Or it can be impossible to do as in the case of the heroes from the amazing race. The idea that we are going to find someone who is universally laudable in all aspects of their behaviour though, is ridiculous.

So the only place that we can find true heroes are in works of fiction. Only in fiction were all aspects of a person that aren't described don't exist. It is only in fiction where all the flaws can be removed. 

Then again, maybe I've just read to many comic books.


1. Yes there are arguments about context, i.e. his behaviour wasn't necessarily out of the ordinary for any men at the time. Doesn't mean it wasn't awful though.