Hero worshipping non-heroes
Wonder why so many of us hero worship those who are not heroes. What these “heroes” have in common is that the followers refuse to accept that their “hero” has a flaw, and are intolerant of any criticism of him/her. I am not talking about movie stars or sports stars as such. I am referring to any successful and powerful person who manages to achieve a cult status. He/she could be a film personality, a writer, or a political leader. Hero-worshipping is a level above the craze for celebrities. Celebrities generally have a niche fan following while a “hero’ has a much larger fan base – he/she becomes almost a national/regional obsession.
These people who are hero-worshipped aren’t really heroes. There are 3 definitions of the word “hero”:
1. In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.
2. A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life: soldiers and nurses who were heroes in an unpopular war.
3. A person noted for special achievement in a particular field. Example: the heroes of medicine.
In the first category there are heroes like Ulysses, Hercules or Krishna, Rama and Arjuna. In the other two categories there are prophets and philosophers like Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Vivekananda, heroes like Washington, Lincoln, and Gandhi, poets like Dante and Tagore and (examples from here).
Ordinary people can be heroes because of their sacrifices and brave deeds.
Hero-worshipping someone who is excellent at his/her job isn’t right. All their work cannot be good or the best. Paying customers in particular have the right to demand higher standards. Blindly accepting someone’s work smacks of hero worship and I find this kind of thing is quite common in India. A person cannot continue to live on the glory of his/her past. If I buy a crappy book from a favourite author I will say it’s crappy because I have paid for it. If a super achiever cannot take criticism of this kind, then perhaps he/she should consider retirement.
This is not to say that a professional cannot be a hero. Sure he can. If a film-maker makes a bold film about a controversial subject risking his life then surely he is a hero. In fact while producing any work of art if the artist is true to herself and honest, and the effort requires an element of sacrifice, it is heroic. In the case of a politician, if he/she resigns a plum post for principle, then he is a hero.
I believe character is at the core of the true definition of the word hero. A hero understands the nature of responsibility, has a respect for the importance of others, helps others, does amazing things, and accepts life’s quest.
Is the star football player a hero? Maybe. Does he respect his team mates? What does he do off the field? Does he understand that he is a role model and has a responsibility?…Or does he demand more money from his team, more plays centered around him, more media exposure?
That reminds us of a lot of people doesn’t it.
Related Reading: The perils of celebrity culture