Canada is Free and Freedom is Its Nationality

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Monday, November 23, 2009

Where Have All the Heroes Gone? They've Gone to the Psychiatrists.

(Just for the record. This was written before the Fort Hood shootings, so the rather dark irony in the title is purely coincidence. Promise)

They were mostly suits. Civil servants who were there because they had nothing better to do, and the matter involved their department. A group of badly prepped politicians sat around the table, asking nice, polite little questions. A few witnesses answered the softballs, read out prewritten talking points regardless of context, in the better moments made a few nice points, and engaged in personal slurs against people who had the audacity to make personal slurs against them. Day number whatever in another cumbersomely named Parliamentary Committee.

They were debating one of the most important issues in modern Canada. There were no youth chanting slogans, only a bare handful taking notes. The rest were too busy yelling at politicians over yet another environmental bill. A few hundred yards away freedom of speech was balancing on the line. They didn't know, they probably wouldn't have cared if they did.

They try to assert their individuality. They scream their defiance at the government.

Let's talk about utopia.

Grim, concrete, an atmosphere of fear and intimidation so thick that it begins to slowly choke the life out of you.

Sterile, white, conformity, no pleasure, no pain, a syringe, the lawns never have weeds.

Colourful, drugs, sex, drunken conformity of sodden pleasure, monotonous fluctuation.

Utopias are like pizzas, everyone has their own variety. But one theme that runs through many of them is that this is a No-Hero Zone. You don't need many heroes where everything slips by like pistachios on a conveyor belt. No drama, no moments of crisis. The bad ones disappear, taken by mysterious giant hands from above. The good ones run their course and land with a self congratulatory little rattle in the appropriate bag.


Heroes track mud in on the clean floor. More often than not they attack the postman, mistaking him for a burglar.

Criminals are so much simpler to deal with.

"...the image of a hero has shifted in our modern age to a man who is flawed, dark, and mysterious. We are reluctant to accept a heroic calling. These days purity and virtue are , to say the least, questionable. Cincinnatus, Galahad, and Roland have been replaced by anti-heroes such as Dirty Harry, Jason Bourne, and Rambo." Frank Miniter

So now we get heroics perpetrated by aberrations. Tortured, tormented, criminal, and very high-tech.

" believe in the heroic makes heroes." Benjamin Disraeli

What happens when we no longer want heroes? Can we eradicate heroism?

They have stars in their eyes and passion in their hearts. It seems the eternal prerogative of youth to be heroic. Or perhaps I should have said, it is their prerogative to feel a nameless need for something more.

We cannot quite eradicate "causes", so we will find them causes to our liking. Busy work.

Soon they grow tired of playing with toys. They get a job, buy a Starbucks.

If there are no standards, can we ever really rebel, ever really defend?

"In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines... By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything." Chesterton

We are immersed in relativism and cynicism. There is no good and evil, no right and wrong, no up or down, no standard beyond expediency and we're not even sure about that. In this claustrophobia of equality can we be expected to look up to a hero? Can we believe in anything above or beyond ourselves? Did we kill the fairy tale when we made androgyny our god?

Can you die for something that is not a good? I dare say that most people when they dream of heroics, dream of the moment when the dragon's blood spills around their fingers, burning, staining. The Princess looks on from a safe distance and a red Ferrari. They want to fight for something worth fighting about. They don't want to be the sort of person that would make others consider legalizing high-level anti-depressants just so they don't have to listen to his grating moans.

Anti-heroes, heroes who do not know why they do what they do, heroes who are almost as repulsive as the evil they are fighting, heroes with all the attractive glamour of an oozing infection, have a hard time inspiring heroism. Real Heroism.

Is that why we are being given anti-heroes? Why we are given evil and told to admire it? Why suicide bombers are being elevated, and those who euthanize others portrayed as martyrs?

"Today, there is a tremendous cynicism about the capacity of the individual to impact the broader world, and the truth is that you probably can't make that big of a difference. But storytelling has always been the terrain where someone could. We need someone who can level a mountain so that we can step over an anthill... What I have noticed in the Millennials- the people who are coming of age in this new millennium-is a sadness about the possibility of heroism." Barbara Nicolosi

Swirl from the golden apple and the heroism of the good through the vortex into a grey room. Walk a few steps. Vapours start to form about your head. Turn around. There is a joke to be told. Tell it. Laugh because you aren't supposed to.

Embrace heroism, live it. Track mud in on the floor. Better yet, mop it up.

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