Building a Better Bloke

We can be heroes

Posted in Gender, Role models, Self esteem, Status by Sam de Brito on December 1, 2009

By Sam de Brito

Ask a young boy who his hero is and you’ll more than likely get a range of answers from sportsmen to Spiderman or whoever the American movie studios are stuffing down our kids’ throats at that moment.

Speak to teenage boys and you’ll probably get the usual suspects of rap and rock stars, maybe the odd porn actor and, of course, more leading-lights from the sporting world.

Now, speak to 20-something blokes and ask them the same question. For many young men, by this stage of life, heroes have become uncool.

A few years in the big bad world has woken them up to the fact they’ll never be Ian Thorpe or Daniel Johns, so their aspirations have been downgraded, from worldwide fame and adulation to, perhaps, a spot on the next series of MasterChef

The cult of celebrity being what it is nowadays, if you’re famous for anything, many deem you worthy of esteem or, at the very least, comped entry into your local niteclub.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said the desire for fame was one of humanity’s most noble, for “fame means being respected by everybody, or having some quality that is desired by all men, or by most, or by the good, or by the wise.”

However, when Aristotle was scuffing his sandals, men achieved fame by doing something better than anybody else — being a marvelous athlete, orator, warrior or thinker.

Now, fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your outlook), you can get famous by slapping a chick in the face with your penis on national TV or crashing a US Presidential state dinner.

I don’t mean to suggest that US gatecrashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi are heroes to anybody, but I’m sure there’s more than a few young Aussies who aspire to follow their road to renown.

Does this mean soap stars and reality TV contestants have replaced legitimate heroes? I guess that comes down to your definition of the term.

Like “tragedy” and “evil”, the word “hero” has been misused by the media to the point its true meaning is now so diluted, some dude who can kick a goal from the touchline is hailed so.

Couple this with the constant harping about sportsmen being “role models” for youth; is it any wonder this morphs into hero worship?

When I think of heroes, I think of men like Charles Kingsford-Smith, Albert Namatjira and John Simpson. Though I admire the accomplishments of a lot of sportsmen and musicians, very few strike me as heroic (aside from Frank Black).

What qualities should a hero have? If it were virtues like compassion and the ability to achieve the extraordinary, every kid in Australia would have posters of Fred Hollows and Ted Noffs on their walls.

Instead they have Brett Stewart, though I’m sure he doesn’t think of himself as a hero, or, for that matter, ever asked to be called one.

It just strikes me as somewhat ridiculous to have the likes of Chris Judd or Benji Marshall visiting schools to tell kids they can be anything they want when athletes represent the far shore of the gene pool that few can hope to emulate.

Would it not make more sense to expose kids to someone who has achievements that are little more attainable? Say a plumber, who’s worked his way up from an apprenticeship and now employs 20 people or even the producer of MasterChef, who started as a floor manager?

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7 Responses

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  1. Ella said, on December 1, 2009 at 8:14 am

    I am a female in my 20’s and i think the reason why we dont have any heroes at our age is because real life takes over. You dont really dream anymore, you only mull over what you have to do for today like me i have to pay 2 bills, take my children to kinder, feed them, bath them, prepare dinner, take them to swimming, make up with my husband from the fight we had last night and remember to put the Christmas tree up (as my kids have been bugging me for the last 2 weeks).

    I also think the whole ‘i can kick a bag of leather around so I can be your role model in life’ makes me sick. Im really, they arent doing anything particularly noble, they arent saving lives and they arent curing cancer. And if you arent as genetically blessed as they are, how can you ever be one of them? Rather, I think heroes should be everyday people, i.e, the guy who lives across the street from me who is dying of prostate cancer but still does volunteer work, or they can be people who do extraordinary things like those surgeons who separated the conjoined Bangladeshi twins. To me they are far better heroes or role models than any sportsman or woman could ever be.

  2. Stuart said, on December 1, 2009 at 11:33 am

    More than anything else, the media loves a story (or “the journey” as the say on the reality shows). Second on their list of their affections are shortcuts. Labeling some one a hero immediately casts them in a story, with triumph over adversity and unlikely circumstances without going into messy and laborious tasks like investigation. Even better is the hero who doesn’t actually do anything more than kick a pig skin. Sure Elizabeth Blackburn was the first female Australian to win a Nobel prize, but how is that going to help Powerade increase its gross revenues? So who gets the more media time?

    One of my philosophy lecturers taught me that the myths a society tells say alot about the nature of that society and what qualities they venerate. The practice of labeling certain people “heroes” is an extension of myth making, what does it say about the qualities our society venerates?

  3. StevoTheDevo said, on December 3, 2009 at 10:02 am

    I don’t think I ever had any cardboard cutout heroes, mine have always been people I know and respect…
    I thought all people were like this, but perhaps I’m a weirdo who sets realistic goals!

  4. Mekay said, on December 5, 2009 at 1:06 am

    As a young gen-Yer I find myself in the unique position of having my father as my hero. By dint of his upbringing or mine I have never come across a man or person so stoic in their resolve to be the husband, father and great man. Under his guidance and protection I feel at greatest ease moving forward and coming to my own in the world.

    It is the lack of this devotion as a father that I see many men fail their sons, leaving them to look upon the league players and others prominance in our society as heroes and mentors. It is in my opinion our fathers who should seek to be both our carers and our leaders, as their acomplishments are honest and real. For without exposure to our heroes everyday and without their guidance how are we to grow and learn that which will lead us to happiness?

  5. MEN said, on December 7, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    When growing up I never really had many heroes, but now in my late 30’s, I realise that it is never too late to have a hero. I have just finished reading Sir Jackie Stewart’s autobiography and would consider him to be my new hero. Being a triple Formula 1 World Drivers Champion certainly would have elevated him to ‘hero’ status for many people, especially when at the peak of his powers in the early 1970’s. However what I learned from reading his book is what truly makes him a hero.

    While I will always tip my hat to the man because he reached the top of his chosen sport, what stood out for me was that all through his life, Sir Jackie has alway built strong and meaningful relationships with people, professionally and personaly. Sir Jackie is a hear as he is someone worth emulating and can teach every man a lesson in integrity and humility.

    Perhaps we should teach our children to look for heroes who have lived good and meaningful lives and have contributed more to society than just a short lived sporting career. Surely the Jackie Stewarts of this world have more to offer our kids than the latest 21 year old football sensation will not much in between the ears. You see, I don’t know about you, but I don’t reckon we’ll see Sir jackie Stewart on the news next week for urinating on a shop window…

  6. Brian said, on December 7, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    When I was young I read alot, stuff the The Great Escape, The Dambusters, Reach for the Sky etc. so my heroes were the Guy Gibsons, Douglas Baders, Kingsford Smith and so on. When you think about people like Gibson who at 24 was a veteran pilot commanding a Squadron of men who might at any time not come back from a mission – being paid a shit load of money to kick a ball around a field doesn’t mean that much. For that reason I’ve never had much time for “sporting heroes”.

    I’m not sure who I’d say my heroes are today – there are a few movie actors I admire for their honesty and generosity of time. I remember reading an interview with Ewan McGregor talking about his brother, a RAF Tornado pilot. While I can’t remember the exact quote it was along the lines of “Look at what he does – I get paid to wear makeup for a living!”

  7. watch the ghost writer online said, on February 19, 2010 at 3:15 am

    Thank u for the links ^^


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