Hero by definition in the Oxford English Dictionary:
A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities and (in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semi-divine origin, in particular one whose exploits were the subject of ancient Greek myths.
Who is it that gets to decide who exactly falls within this rather loose definition? The brand, “Hero” is all to common these days. It is impossible to turn on the television, or listen to the radio without hearing someone declared a hero. I think many heroes reside amongst us. They do not wear capes and patrol the streets with super powers as classically portrayed in comic strips and action movies. And in my opinion, they do not reside on the sporting fields. This is not to take anything away from our athletes. I for one, could not hope to achieve any feats of physical endurance that these men and women achieve with what often times seems “super human” powers. I see a ball on a field and a goal post at either end and I want to go back to reading my book. I do not yearn to run onto the field, subject my body to a constant barrage of battering and run around with a ball. I do not believe that entertainers, who stand on a stage and perform should be known as heroes. I am a shy person by nature and you wouldn’t see me within a mile of a stage. The fact that people are able to get up and perform, despite the stage fright that many experience is an amazing thing, yet it does not deserve this term to be applied.
I also do not think that people who survive adversity, no matter whether it is man-made, or an act of nature should be branded as a hero. I certainly think that these individuals display a remarkable amount of courage for facing these challenges and should be applauded for that, however, our will to survive is imbedded in our very nature and saving yourself is not a heroic act.
The true heroes, in my mind, are the people who work quietly in the backgrounds that do not get the recognition they deserve. Some, belong to occupations that seem to automatically attract the label. I for one think that any people who runs into a burning building in the hopes of saving another deserves to be known as a hero. Although, I have known a couple of firefighters in the past and all have just told me that they were simply doing the job.
I could say that those, who have sacrificed in order that their kids can receive the education that they were deprived could be called heroes. Although, as parents, they should automatically assume that responsibility.
A brilliant movie called “Guess who’s coming to Dinner” sums it up best with Sidney Poitier’s character exclaiming to his father:
You say you don’t want to tell me how to live my life. So what do you think you’ve been doing? You tell me what rights I’ve got or haven’t got, and what I owe to you for what you’ve done for me. Let me tell you something. I owe you nothing! If you carried that bag a million miles, you did what you’re supposed to do! Because you brought me into this world. And from that day you owed me everything you could ever do for me like I will owe my son if I ever have another.
So, if parenting and all the challenges it entails, should also be excluded from the criteria, where does that leave us?
The “Golden Age” of super heroes was during 1938 and 1950, during the times of the Great Depression and World War II. The world was in turmoil and heroes were created in order to provide people with a sense of escapism and perhaps the hope that beings like this did in fact exist.
We live in an age full of uncertainty and with the negativity constantly bombarding us from all sides, it is only natural that we would wish to elevate some people above the rest of us mere mortals. We want to believe, that some people are better than others and that those that are, have our best interests at heart. We are subservient to our fears and dreams.
I believe, that hero is an outdated, overused term. I would much rather have a society of people interested in protecting and caring for each other, than raising any being to a higher status. As for entertainers and sportsmen and women, call them stars. Stars are still unattainable and out of reach. If they desire to have status, then star is a better term to use. True heroes, never use the term. They do not wear masks or capes and protect from characters with names that sound more like they were created by a child.
True heroes are those that touch lives in a special way. Every person has their own hero or heroes, based on something extraordinary that was done to better their life or situation in some way. It is a private institution which was made commercial. My heroes won’t be featured on action cards or plastered over the news. They simply saved someone. Me.