Roxanne Tellier: A Hero is More than Just a Sandwich

Roxanne DBAWIS“I need a hero. I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light. He’s gotta be sure, And it’s gotta be soon, And he’s gotta be larger than life.”  Jim Steinman and Dean Pitchford

“Do the right thing at the right moment”… Scouts’ honour.

It seems like today, more than ever, we’re all looking for a hero, someone to swoop in and save us from financial woes, inept and corrupt government, the planet disintegrating before our eyes due to greed and selfishness … a hero to rise above the world’s problems, save us from ruination, and yet     somehow, remain humble, sweet and shy.

But the search has gone on for as long as there have been people on the planet, and in the mythology of all cultures and religions. In every continent, every society, since time began, mortals have searched for someone to save them, and to protect them from the world outside. Acknowledging that we are weak, and cannot battle the monsters, we crave a hero, a leader that will shelter us from harsh reality.

King ArthurThere’s even an arc, always followed, that describes the path our hero must take to salvation, hopefully beginning with a miraculous or virgin birth, and then moving on through hearing a call to action, struggle with acceptance of his/her role, through tests and ordeals that prove his merit, and eventually bring him to reward, which the hero brings back and lavishes upon his people. We use the word ‘libido’ to encapsulate sexual desire; but in fact, ‘libido’ is a psychic and/or emotional energy stemming from primitive physical urges, usually focused on the attainment of some goal. (Complete Idiot’s Guide to World Mythology, 2007) And that is indeed the hero’s motivation and quest.

If there isn’t a hero handy, we’ll create one. We put ordinary men or women on a pedestal regularly, but just as quickly, find the feet of clay and pull them back down amongst us, judged unworthy. Contemporary pop heroes begin their ascent based more on looks, sex appeal, and money than upon ability. We build them up, and then kick them to the curb when our adulation dwindles in the face of reality.

Remember when Justin Bieber could do no wrong? He was everywhere, that same lame song recorded over and over in different permutations. One day, he and we woke up to discover that he was just like the rest of us ….  greedy, self-serving, self-indulgent, demanding, and prone to petulance. And before Amy Winehouse died so tragically at 27, few were not judging her every stumble and addictions. Post mortem, the cult of Amy launched in earnest.

Must the hero die young to stay heroic in our eyes? In music, we speak of the members of the “27 Club” (musicians gone at the age of 27) with reverence. Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain – once dead, their music and lives became the stuff of legend. On the one hand, we mourn their loss too young, but on the other, they are captured forever in perfect and heroic youth. In “28” writer John Craigie  wonders what might have been had these icons lived. Song performed by John Craigie – guitar – harmonica -vocals, Drew Citron – piano – vocals, Mike Brun – vocals, Leigh Jones – ukulele, lead vocal

We’ve had our share of fallen sports heroes. Lance Armstrong is merely the latest to disappoint us, after years of triumphant, but apparently steroid driven, success. Riddick Bowe, Dave Meggett, Greg Mortenson, Tiger Woods, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa … there are no fields without men whom we deified until we discovered that their duplicity and desperation to win games, money and sex at any cost bordered on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

In politics, the fallen are multitudinous … as it’s ever been. From Julius Caesar, felled by Cleopatra’s wiles, to modern day Clinton sex antics … it never ends.

Yeah, right … but why then has his camp sprung up again, with his support for Obama? Because we desperately want heroes. We can’t live without them.

There’s a meme making the rounds of the Internet right now, and it tells part of the story.

Thatcher Meme

 It’s only partly about Margaret Thatcher, bless her soul. People are disgusted by those in charge deciding where the money will be spent, regardless of the will of the people, and are beginning to understand that bread, not circuses, is where our tax dollars need to be spent.  A state funeral for a woman who fell firmly on the wrong side of history in her support of apartheid is beyond repugnance.

The plain fact is that anyone who is desperate to enter politics, is, by definition, the wrong person for the job. There is far too much leeway for a use and abuse of power and a handing off of supremacy to minority leaders, takers, hangers on, and sycophants.

As in music, there have been some politicians who have left us with lasting impressions.

But really, after umpteen thousands of years of people raising heroes, our TMI, TMZ internet culture has boiled most pop celebrities down to 15 minutes or more of fame, begun through ‘confidential’ sex tapes stealthily released through intermediaries, a brief shining moment in the sun, followed by years of trying to live down what you accidentally insta-grammed to a few thousand of your closest friends, in a drunken moment. (Oh, like you haven’t done that!)

It’s actually gotten to the point where, if you’re not specifically identified as the male or female in the sex tape, you’ll chase down paparazzi to let them know who you are, and how to get in touch with you. It’s money, baby.

And yet, most of us still crave the stereotypical hero. Big and tall and strong with a red cape, flowing hair, piercing eyes, strong jaw … hey, do some people take on the hero role simply because they look the part? Look at Christopher Reeve … the man was born to play the role of  Superman. And again … the hero was struck down in his prime. In real life, but still… there’s an awesome synchronicity about his downfall from spinal cord injury, something no one could have foreseen.

Revves Supes

Along the way, we’ve discovered accidental heroes, like the mother that lifts a 2000 pound car off of her pinned child in a moment of incredible heroism and adrenal madness. Or the reluctant hero, taken advantage of by Dustin Hoffman, in the 1992 film “Hero.”

TV gave us a motley crew of superheroes with fatal flaws, from Superman to Batman to The Greatest American Hero, all thrust into heroism without asking for the job.

But my personal bias is to those everyday heroes, the ones who just get up every day and do what has to be done, without expecting too much in return. Those men and women who daily show their courage and mettle by simply doing what is necessary to get themselves and their loved ones through another long, brutal day. It’s their job, it’s what they do, whether they signed on for it or not. And those people never think of themselves as heroes at all.

Was your dad your hero?

But we must never forget … whether it’s the men and women who show up every day in horrible situations, to help someone they know or don’t know … or those wonderful brilliant stars of our time, like the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, or Mother Teresa, that there’s a flip side to nobility. These heroes may feel fear, despair, but their overwhelming need and desire to be there for their fellow man overtakes their qualms. They have made a promise, and so here they are to fulfill their mythological role. Be gentle with those everyday heroes, they are the most precious treasure society has.

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

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DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king – and that was just yesterday’s to do list. Tomorrow she starts on the letter Q.  

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