The Hero Discussion

9 March 2008

Response to Jeremy Tucker’s last posting:

- In a culture of self reliance how does the role of the hero play into the identification of the individual?
Self reliance manifests ultimately into the idea that we should be able to accomplish all tasks without the help of others. Of course, most people know this to be impossible. Who is termed then to be self-reliant is the person who holds some portion of knowledge about how to accomplish many things, and/or the person who executes basic survival skills without the assistance of society (i.e. the jack-of-all-trades and/or the Alaskan homesteader who lives off the grid).
When those who depend on others, or those who live within society and cities, then look toward the self-reliant person, the dependent then separate the self-reliant into a category different from their own. Some would call the self-reliant ‘heroic,’ while some would use the term ‘crazy,’ and all subtleties in between. This nomenclature depends on the individuals own goals and life views. Albeit, most of us consider the self-reliant to be heroic, and so strive to fulfill what it is that self reliance means to each of us.
- If society could be seen as a machine or mechanism what part of that mechanism would the hero play?
The hero can play any part within the machine. Because we individually define a hero within the boundaries of relativity, the hero can come from any walk of life. For example, an impoverished person can be considered heroic when that person brings food for the family, while a king must benefit an entire country to be considered a hero. A heroic deed is an overcoming, a rising up, a feat of change, all perpetrated with nobility and the illusion of selflessness.
- Is there a clear division of individual from the group when it comes to the function of society, or is it that society as a whole function through a group of individuals?
Society does function as a group of individuals. It is only when removed from that society, that we can observe it as a whole. For example, I can only exist day to day, perceiving that individual day as the whole of my existence, yet when I look back, at say 2006, I am able to place each individual day into a thematic year. And so, in addressing my comment that the hero is somehow diametrically opposed to the social group, I see a blurred line here. In this statement, I see room for an individual to commit heroic acts without breaking the dynamic of the group. As we are in fact animals, it is impossible to imagine a community in which an individual, or group of individuals, does not step forward and act as sort of leader or inspiration. However, there is room for this behavior while still maintaining the integrity of the community.
- Is there an importance placed on the strength of an individual or is it a hindrance to the function of the machine if the individual stands out separate from the group?
I see the hindrance occurring when the group focuses on the individual as being virtuous. The fear I have is that the group may fall into a sort of hero worship, where the deeds of an individual become more important than the benefits of those heroic deeds. But to commit a deed which benefits the group, or to be a strong individual who assumes responsibility within a group, is a virtue not necessarily attached to the acts of a hero. The hero part of it comes in the nature of the deed, the relativity of the situation, and in the measure of the obstacles overcome.
- Does the strength of society only come from unified strength or individual strength?
The strength of society is a culmination of both. Within a movement of unified strength, there will be those individuals who rise above, or stand out from, the average output. A sustainable society must maintain unity. This unity, however, is not exempt of strong individuals.


The strength and virtue of an individual is an important component of any animal group. This is not the thing that troubles me. I am troubled by the elevation of that individual to what I perceive to be an unhealthy stature: the hero. In heroicising a person, we run the risk of thinking that person contains something that we do not, that they are able to commit acts that we fundamentally cannot. Take Christianity for example. This has haunted Christians for two thousand years – how can one live the life that Christ did? It seems, or is, impossible. And so Christians have both suffered through guilt and invented the action of Christ dying for all our sins that we inevitably will commit because we cannot possibly live as Christ did. Out of a fear of eternity, Christians have re-written history and haunted their existence with the deep dissatisfaction of knowing they will never be as good as their hero. It is within this manifestation, within this view of the hero, that I detect a danger. It’s not to say Christ did anything wrong. It’s not to say that admiring his ‘heroicism’ is harmful. It’s in the level of admiration that harm occurs.

To be continued…