Transcending Post-Modern Heroism

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“Some say you might find your heroes, some say you might lose your mind”—Noel Gallagher

While Gallagher’s songs hardly have the most cohesive lyrics known to man, this line in “AKA… What A Life” resonates greatly with our generation.  We live in an anti-hero generation.  Humans are a greatly flawed species:  why would anyone want to look up to such a being?  If you follow, you will be led astray.  No one is perfect, so why venerate?

“Forget your faith in me.   I’m not a hero. I really am just a mad man in a box. And it’s time we saw each other as we really are.”
—The Doctor, “The God Complex” (Doctor Who)
“ It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another.”
—Cpt. Malcom Reynolds, “Jaynestown” (Firefly)

I see the value in this approach.  By stripping people down to their humanity, not only will you be less disappointed when they fail you, but you can relate with them even more.  Though Sir Lancelot was revered as one of the great knights of the Round Table, it is through his affair with King Arthur’s wife that others can be level with him.  His gallantry is tainted to the point where others feel that they could be as valiant as he.  “If Lancelot is as flawed as I, perhaps I can be as great as he, too.”  It essentially lowers people of privilege and allows the layman to be on the same playing field.

While many (positive) doors open up to the diminishing of the hero… in the end, is it good?  Is it good that we focus so much on the brokenness of humanity that we push aside the heroic efforts of others?  Is it good that we and our children have no one to look up to without society pointing at his or her flaws?

I would argue:  no.

I recall a friend once criticising comedy shows like Family Guy, where he argued that the problem with a show that makes fun of everything is that all of life is thus diminished.  While that is greatly debateable, there is a lot of merit in that idea.  By focusing on the negative attributes of life to make the playing field fair, we miss out on the wonderful things that creation has to offer.

Sure:  we can reduce US history to white men, slavery, and wars.  Sure:  we can point out all the flaws and issues that Adam Smith proposed in The Wealth of Nations.  Sure:  we can point out how Christopher Columbus began the killing and decay of the Native Americans.  But if it weren’t for the decisive planning of many great statesmen of the late eighteenth century, we would not have such a unique democracy of this size that has tackled many things for good.  If it weren’t for Smith’s ideas on capitalism, we wouldn’t be reaping the benefits of allocation and specialisation.  If it weren’t for Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World [yes, he wasn’t the first.  I know.], America would be a vastly different picture.  Perhaps good, but this country has its beauty just as much as its pains.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be critical.  I’m not saying we should wave our banner, singing “my country right or wrong.”  I’m not saying we shouldn’t recognise the humanity and flaws of other human beings.  However, we should recognise and remember the achievements of others just as much, if not more, than the mistakes.  While a hundred lessons can be learned through one mistake, a hundred people can be inspired by one good deed.

Let us be fair with our judgements.  Let our children remember this “post-modern” generation to be more than hopeless critics.  Let us be individuals who see others for who they are:  men and women who may have their issues, but have left their beauty in this world.  Let us venerate the beautiful things that others have done.

About Jonathan Seligman

Jon is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of NWYT. While his main profession is in education/music/history, he has a deep passion for philosophy, theology, ice cream, and everything else that life has to offer. See All of Jon's Posts

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