“Where have all the good men gone?
And where are all the Gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds…”
Apparently, celebrities all around the world do not like Donald Trump… Vast majority of them anyway. Like, Lady Gaga wants to vomit whenever she hears about Trump, Justin Bieber would not sign at Donald’s function even for a million dollars, and Mike Jagger would not let this notorious character using his old records in presidential campaign ads. Not for free in any case…
I have also heard that a there is a growing list of celebrities of all sorts and kinds, who want to leave USA altogether, if Trump wins the next elections… Oh dear! This would be quite disturbing… One of my Democrat-leaning American colleagues (working with me in a big OZ bank in Sydney) have recently commented, however, that if he could trust these celebrities, he would certainly vote for Trump, just to see “how all this junk leaves America once and for all“. Why such an attitude? After all, celebrities have become celebrities for some good reasons, haven’t they? And they (some of them, at least) come quite close to what the great Western civilisation can refer to as “modern days heroes”, don’t they?
Wait… what is a definition of a HERO?
You can refer go to various on-line and hardcopy dictionaries and see for yourself… there are many interpretations, but let me quote the one, which seems the most appropriate for my liking:
Hero. 1) A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her own life while not being primary motivated by a personal reward. In other words, “a hero” is a person, who is prepared to sacrifice himself / herself for the benefit of others, but NOT because of a desire of personal gains. Good examples of heroes are WW2-era people fighting Nazis on the occupied territory of their countries or volunteer doctors trying to contain deadly epidemics in, say, jungles of Africa… But what modern day celebrities have to do with the definition cited above? Really NOTHING at all.
But what about all this recent headlines about Rio sports people: “Our Olympics heroes have won another two gold medals!”, “Olympics heroes are back” and so on? Well, here we have an example of using a second (or evolved) meaning of the word “hero”, which, in my opinion, is not quite appropriate, but is very widespread nowadays and clearly dominates the original meaning:
Hero. 2) A person noted for a special achievement in a particular field. In a consumptionalist society like ours, these fake “heroes” (of definition 2) somehow have become more important, than real ones (of definition 1). The reason is simple: the need and ability of producing real heroes is all, but lost in Western countries, whereas celebrities (or fake heroes of type 2) can still be engineered and are in high demand for the purpose of advertising of goods and services and maximising an ever-increasing consumption, which, in turn, leads to “perpetual” profit growth.
Moreover, a significant share of people around us are thinking that we do not need any real heroes anymore at all. I can recall eating a casual lunch with a couple of my academic friends and having a conversation of what to do in an unlikely event of hostage taking or hold-up situation. One of my friends was strongly arguing that one should always do NOTHING. I partially agreed saying that if the situation only involves few people as a hostages (victims) and outnumbering and well-armed criminals, who are, say, demanding money, then it is clearly better to give away your valuables and stay calm and safe instead of starting a desperate fight. But I have also pointed out that if bad guys’ doings are gravely endangering lives of many other people and there is a reasonable chance that your own actions can help the potential victims, then you have a moral obligation to act… My opponent just erupted in protest: “You’ll just screw up everything! You should do nothing and let professionals to handle the situation – they are well-trained to do so!” We agreed to disagree back then… But, really, was my friend right? Should we abandon all our inner hero potential and always let these supposedly so well-trained professionals to act instead of us? Maybe everyone will be happier this way indeed?
I strongly doubt it. First of all these professionals are only humans too and often arrive too late or do rather stupid mistakes (one can recall a few recent examples, e.g. Lindt Café siege in Sydney). Second, clearly, if potential victims vastly outnumber a murderer at the beginning of his rampage, then an early sacrifice or courageous actions of a handful of people can almost certainly help saving many more of innocent lives. Third, constantly appealing to the help of “trained professionals” is a typical position of an immature person (child) or a coward. Have we all suddenly become babies and cowards? Or simply there are no heroes around us left and there is no hope that anyone will act with courage and determination? After all, we do not even have guts to execute monstrous murderers and usually only put them in jail for life (or even less) “for humanitarian reasons” (remember Martin Bryant and Breivik?).
But if Western civilisation has given up on producing and encouraging of its own heroes (who are hard to raise and even harder to control, so why bother?), then this “hero-vacuum” will be filled by its competitors. Thus, I am not surprised to see how some jihad supporters (whose actions I do not approve, but still try to understand) are displaying their slogan: “Our dead go to Heavens, your dead go to Hell!”. What they mean is that the actions of some of their war fighters fit the definition of real heroes (definition 1) far better, than actions of Western professional soldiers fighting with them. Just compare frontline self-sacrifice of ISIS drivers of kamikaze jihad-mobiles with ruthless attacks by highly paid US Air Force pilots… Attacks, which are deadly for their opponents, but actually are reasonably safe for the pilots themselves.
Surely, heroism of ISIS fighters is neither noble in its nature nor attractive for me personally. But let me give you another example of recent non-Western rise of heroism, which I am far more sympathetic to: pro-Russian volunteer fighters involved in an ongoing civil war in Eastern Ukraine. If you know little about this phenomenon or get all your news from pro-Ukrainian sources (and most of Western newspapers and their news sites are rather pro-Ukrainian indeed), then you may naively believe that, say, 90-95% of all pro-Russian forces fighting in Donbass are, in fact, well-paid Putin agents or some other ugly type of greedy mercenaries. Trust me, this is not so – vast majority of rebels have nothing to do with Russian secret services and do not fit the definition of “ruthless mercenaries” at all! Today rebel troops are not too often involved in combat battles (as we are slowly moving towards an elusive “Minsk Process peace deal”) and largely rely on local people. But back in 2014 and 2015 a significant share of anti-Kiev fighters were indeed volunteers from Russia (and other countries) who came just to help their Ukrainian brothers to fight “fascist” Kiev government (“Junta”) or to defend the ideas of Russian World or just to do something … heroic (while also going away from their routine and boring hometown jobs). Amazingly enough, quite a few of them, indeed, became real heroes – people who were risking and often sacrificing their lives for the brighter future of others.
I can go a bit further and even claim, that current high support enjoyed by the president Putin in Russia (about 75% approval ratings) is partially related to the fact that he allowed Russians “to become heroes again”, e.g. by going and fighting for the freedom of Donbass. (“Allowed” is the right word here, as I cannot say that Putin and his government even encouraged volunteer fighters to go into Ukraine… But, surely, they did not do much to stop many thousands of them either.)
Finally, let us go back to Trump. In my opinion, the amazing and unexpected rise of his poll popularity is partially due to the unhappiness of a significant part of American society about their “heroless” future under the rule of any conventional leader (like Bush, Obama or Clinton). Not everyone in the Western society believes that the ultimate goal of their lives is to die in a peaceful and vegetable way in a nursing house close to a “perfect” age of 115 or so. Not everyone enjoys a hysterical propaganda of “infinite tolerance” delivered by a pathetic crowd of mostly drug-addicted perverts (modern day fake heroes, a. k. a. “celebrities”). Instead, people want to see REAL heroes again and they are happy to believe to even such a clown-like character as Donald Trump, because at least he promises something different to them, whereas “leaders” like Hilary Clinton can only promise… the same usual old crap.
But, really, deep inside ourselves we all want to have a chance to do something properly heroic – fly to Mars, colonise the Moon, fight the Evil… So why suppress this desire? Maybe it is time to let it go.