Heroes

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By Kenia Cris

Image by Chiara Cremaschi

The unprecedent tragic gun attack at a school in Rio de Janeiro in Brazi last Thursday made 12 fatal victims and a ‘hero’.

The average ancient greek citizen would say a hero cannot be made. Heroes have always been born from the union of a human and a god, everybody knows that. Our Greek man would spend long hours telling the deeds of Heracles, Jason, Theseus, Odysseus, Perseus, Bellerophon or Achilles, depending on who his favorite one was. Divinity, courage, strength, loyalty and fairness were just a few qualities that would be attributed to Greek heroes.

The modern intellect has interpreted Mythology as a primitive, fumbling effort to explain the world of nature (Frazer). It was Thomas Carlyle who in 1841 introduced the idea of hero as a Great Man whose life bonds to the History of mankind at a certain time and meaningfully changes its course forever. According to him, heroes were intrinsically made of the same material: a great soul, openness to the Divine Significance of Life, and the fit to speak or sing of this, to fight and work for this, in a victorious enduring way.

More than a century later, Sidney Hook defined Greatness as something that must involve extraordinary talent of some kind and not merely compounded luck of being born and of being present at the right place at a happy moment, contradicting  all forms of determinism.

Hook divided men in two different kinds: the eventful ones, and the event-making ones. The eventful man was regarded as being any man whose actions influenced subsequent developments along a quite different course that would have been followed if these actions had not been taken, whereas the event-making man was described an eventful man whose actions were the consequences of outstanding capacities of intelligence, will, and character rather than of accidents of position.

On his analysis of heroes, Campbell concludes that the ancient human heritage of ritual, morality, and art is in full decay within the progressive societies, reinforcing what Nietzsche had said years before him in the words of Zarathustra: “dead are all the gods“. Mysteries have lost their force, symbols have lost interest, meaning has gone from the hands of groups to the hands of individuals. “Man is that alien presence with whom the forces of egoism must come to terms, through whom the ego is to be crucified and resurrected, and in whose image society is to be reformed”, said Campbell.

Hero is just another word corrupted by the necessity of answers to problems created by men and unlikely to be dealt with by themselves. Why is it that as society we think we can make heroes?

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