Heroes of Modernity
19th May 2011Posted in: Blog 0
Heroes of Modernity
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"It" will be used to denote the pronouns he/she) Who is the modern Hero? Is it the soldier who went to war and made the ultimate sacrifice, as those war memorials would have us believe? Is it the cowboy riding off into the sunset as those cartoons and black and white movies tell us? Is the modern hero a man or a woman? I want to make the point that we need modren heroes but that they have grown scarce in supply. The images we used to hold as true modern heroes have dissolved and left us feeling somewhat empty. When I was a child, the image of Sylvester Stallone was believed to be heroic. One man against all odds, kicking the shit out over everything and everyone. Today, his image convulses me to the point of nausea. Post modernism has taught us to question everything. Feminism has taught us to question power structures and be weary of those who claim to hold the truth. Where does this leave us? Nowhere near false suppositions and the illusions of the past i suppose. Nowhere near the illusory comfort which clinging to an american idol can muster.

So tell me, now that we have killed religion, who can i believe in? The holy father used to serve as a sort of surrogate for the earthly father who was so often absent, fighting wars, dying young and living a horrible life alone, away from his childrenu. No there is not even a holy father to look up to, so who then? Many of us are fortunate enough to have a role model or a hero in our midst to look to when pondering the essential questions but i think most of us do not.  Many of us have experienced, informed and caring parents but many do not. When you consider that millions of tween-American females look up to or aspire to be like Miley Cyrus you start to get a hold of how deep, how pervasive the problem of not having modern heroes can be. Or perhaps i should say that the heroes we look to are still  but fools in heroes clothing. Yes, it is my value judgement upon the heroes we embrace, that they are infact but illusions masquerading as what we think would be heroes.

Well, i think my questioning for this post has gone on long enough. Do you want me to tell you who i think the modern hero is? I'll tell you anyway. The modern hero is the guy or gal who gets up and goes to work everyday.  You know, the one who questions things, examines life. Not just anybody who goes to work though because that could mean any old robot who goes about life unquestioningly, following trajectories set for them by others. These are not heroes, these are the ones who need heroes and who seek them out desperately, clinging to the illusion. The boy or girls who crosses a boundary by breaking a gender barrier is a hero.  Heroism requires sacrifice as its main attribute. A whistle blower, the guy who sat in front of a tank in Tiannamen square.  You have to know what you are sacrificing and do it anyway even though the result may be at personal expense to you.  The hero is no ordinary being on one hand  but on the other hand, heroes are just common people, working, living to the best of their abilities. In this life, we will all know trials and tribulations to be overcome. Rich and poor will face brutal upset and moments of brilliant opportunity but my point is that heroes do not live on the margins of opposites between rich and poor, good and bad. They are common place you's and me's. They  are everyday people, struggling against adversity.

You might be inclined to find that rich people are not born with the  same adversity as poor people. Guess that is true in some sense but then the adversity faced by wealthy people may consist of particularly extreme difficulties in finding authentic relationships and purpose in life. Whereas poor people may find their purpose is to work, marry, have children, get an education and move up the ladder. I know that heroes can come from rich or poor classes but that they are much more likely to have faced intense adversity early on in life. This early adversity usually gets them to thinking about the big picture while people born into comfort may have less opportunity to question the world around them and wonder what others are doing. I am pretty sure that heroes can be found in all corners of the globe and that they are far less rare than we are led to believe. Everytime two people choose to work it out rather than hate there is heroism. Every time someone chooses to help rather than ignore, there is heroism. Anytime someone gives to another, at personal expense to themselves, there is heroism. The other kind of giving is just philanthropy and as Ted Turner once said after giving millions to poor people: "it was litterally the least i could do".  Where the rich are concerned, heroism can be seen in those rare times when an individual leaves inherited comfort behind to explore a more uncertain and potentially perillous  environment, there is heroism. A few rich people do this but then again, when you are rich, you are probably asking, why the hell would i want to do that? Taking a risk is heroic if the outcome of taking the risk could potentially be heroic, otherwise it is just risky behaviour.


For the most part, children can not be heroes. They lack the ability to evaluate consequences fairly. They take risk yes. They seek adventure but rarely at the expense of whatever comfort they enjoy and rarely with any knowledge of potential outcomes. Their drive for self preservation is stronger than their drive for exploration. If it were not so, hardly any children would survive childhood. Feminists, at least the early ones ran the risk of social ostracisation because they crossed gender barriers, socio economic norms. The risk they ran took a toll on their psychological wellbeing and what little social advantages they had. The rewards were of course much more appealing but much less likely to be obtained. That is what i call a risk. A soldier going to fight a war can not be a hero for choosing to do so. He might be a hero for saving someone elses life, or putting himself in danger to help someone else but he can not be called a hero simply for enlisting. That would be too easy and i would like to suggest that we get those people out of the hero category as soon as possible, before some young boys become convinced that they are the heroes we need. Simply enlisting to fight involves too many extrenuating circumstances such that a person needs to eat, has a social role to fill, molds himself to the expectations of his family etc. One could argue in many cases that an army volunteer is simply looking for a college education and an opportunity to travel and is jumping through army hoops to get those. In addition to a college education and some travel experience, the army volunteer will see thrust upon him, the admiration of his nation complete with all of the perks this entails. Perks may include increased desirability amongst women, due in part to the salary he will earn and in part to the fullfilment of the iconic and archetypal characteristics of the wounded hero. Many country songs are in fact hymns to this archetype and serve to illustrate its importance in the hearts and minds of the American psyche. In spite of all this, he or she is no hero. Why? Well, because the enlistee can not possibly know what they are fighting for, nor can they know thy enemy. The manifestation of politics and economic necessities is such that the soldier does not know what the captain knows and the captain does not know the officer's thinking while the officer has no clue what is on the general's mind and the general is just taking orders from the commander in chief who hopefully, is not himself a puppet.

Mohammad Ali was a hero because he came from black disenfranchisement to appear on tell it vision kicking white peoples asses. He also refused the draft publicly spoke out against Vietnam war efforts. He was a hero because everytime he stepped in the ring, he did not know whether he would walk out. The only regrettable thing about Ali is that violence was his process and he ironically made us worship violence because we admired and believed in him. Heroes are people who have families, but before you go out and tell everyone you are a hero, remember that anyone with functioning genitals can go out and make babies. Making a family is a little more difficult and you don't actually need genitals for that. I don't want to toot my own horn here, but heroes invariably and absolutely make art. Not visual art but the Art with a capital A. Art with a capital A is creativity with a capital C. Creativity is what gets you through the hard times and a hero is by definition, someone who gets through the hard times to some ultimate advantage.  Any survivor of abuse is a hero because they employed some creative mechanism to pull through. If you died as a result of the abuse you suffered then you don't get to be a hero. You get to be a martyr. A martyr for the cause. But don't despair, for being a martyr is still helpful and contributes to the cause because your name is remembered in concert with the trauma and you serve to remind us of something we must not forget. But before all you self exploding bomb fanatics go out and call yourselves martyrs or heroes, just remember you are doing so on the assumption of an afterlife which you actually know nothing about. You are being a martyr within a social and cultural climate where you were told everything you believe from the time before you could actually think for yourself. I would argue that not only are you not chosing but you are not aware of the consequences of your actions even if you can be said to have chosen. You are not aware because you have not experienced the afterlife, and you are not aware of the consequence of your actions because you are dead. No chance you are a hero and only a slim chance you are a martyr because you probably killed yourself to uphold an economic imperative masquerading as a spiritual one.

Heroes are common people. Most heroes are unsung heroes because most don't go around telling others of all their great sacrifices.  To do so would lack modesty, and heroes must be modest if not humble. Modesty and humility are essential to the definition of heroes because if lacking in these, one is inclined to personally benefit from ones heroism. When one intentionally benefits personally from a heroic deed, the heroism is lost. It has been distorted, reduced from it's original spiritual origin and debased to a mere reward versus punishment issue. It becomes mere acting in self interest. When one acts in a mere reward versus punishement fashion, psychological science can tell us what went on, but when one demonstrates true heroism, we are left with the question: "what in the hell possessed that person to sacrifice themselves?" It is simply greater than our scientific comprehension can grasp. Many sacrifice for love but then we don't know what love is. To be a hero you have to give something at net loss to yourself even though you and your people could gross huge. Feminists directly involved in protesting daily inequities were heroes because they suffered firing, more direct and abusive forms of oppression such as humiliation and violence but they gained in the gross for women  as a whole because women eventually got the vote, equality and recognition in many areas. Same holds for blacks and other minorities. Ghandi took a personal beating for a larger cause. Siddartha left his riches to experience life as an asetic. He was a rich man  who somehow overcame the extreme odds against becoming a hero and then became a hero in spite of not wanting to be one! The hero faces paradox and contradtion, overcoming both. So like i was saying, the hero is truly a mere mortal, assimilated by the masses, blending in with us on the sub or high ways. 

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