It seems to be commonly known that the time of heroes passed a long time ago. The modern world has driven the need and want for heroes and heroics away. Except it hasn’t, has it? Last week’s 9/11 anniversary made it very clear; the passengers of flight 93 who risked their lives in order to prevent the loss of more lives as well as the cops and firefighters who were the first to respond in New York. But national and international crises are not the only situations where we need heroes. And more importantly, we need the concept of heroes.
In a recent newsletter of hers Holly Lisle talked about the usurping of the word “hero” to mean things like “victim”, “survivor” and even “villain”. Most specifically she was talking about fiction, but this keeps on happening in everyday life all the time. The concepts are all very far from each other but for some reason all have been getting the label “hero” put on them for one reason or another. I admit it, language is continually changing and evolving and we should let it. But there’s something to be said for preserving the concept behind the word “hero” as it has been for centuries.
The sentiment that humans are sheep has been expressed in many a movie but it is also the cornerstone of the majority religion in the western world. “The Lord is my Shepherd” sang Mark Knopfler as well. The majority of humans do seem to find it easier to just follow than to stop and think for themselves (I will of course admit to having been guilty of it more than once or twice in my life myself). For people to remember why humans are great we need heroes who will lead by example and risk their lives and livelyhoods to save others. We need heroes, real or fictional, to have someone to look up to. Someone to lead us to be better people.
My own favourite hero of all time is Sam Vimes from Terry Prattchet’s Discworld. Maybe it’s because I can relate to him, having been poor groving up, or because his dark sense of humour speaks to me. Or maybe it’s just that he’s an ordinary person. He’s not a demigod like Hercules or Jesus, not a supposedly perfect individual like heroes were made out to be for so long. He’s an ordinary person who does the job that’s in front of him, not necessarily because no one else will do it but because it’s the job he has chosen for himself.
From real life my hero is my mother, who even though she was left thousands of dollars in debt by their divorce, always found a way to keep us fed and clothed and managed to raise us while working insane hours all through bankruptcy, unemployment and single motherhood. And she somehow managed to allow us dream big, to go after things in life she never even dared imagine.
Who’s your favourite hero? Why?