Category Archives:

Modern Hero: Wanted Dead or Alive

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008
Posted in Guest Writers by Joel Gross

My younger brother Jordan Gross has written an excellent guest post on the concept of the hero and how modern society has tried to tear him to pieces. I agree with Jordan 100% that modern politicians are so afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes that we have lost very vital principles. What do you think? Should a politician take an unpopular stance on something he or she believes?

I have realized, in reviewing my many favorite pieces of literature, that our culture has managed to completely and absolutely obliterate any semblance of heroism. Our media, our culture, and even our government have managed to circle like vultures around the identity of the hero. They have slowly picked him to pieces over five generations, and now in Generation Y or Z, we are left with nothing but fleeting moments of selflessness.

In reading Beowulf, Arthurian legends, Atlas Shrugged, and other books, epics, poems, etc, I’ve realized that in the last half century we have not allowed one person to ascend to the status of hero. Instead, we allow them fleeting moments in the spotlight, before we denigrate their achievement, question their motives, or sully their history. Even in traditional folklore, heroes (or heroines) are allowed their personal flaws, and often their greatest moment comes in the overcoming of that fatal weakness. They set a standard for the culture by whom they were worshipped, even in their failing. They are examples of determination, courage, pride, strength, and self-understanding. They fought impossible odds, and sometimes succeeded, and other times were laid low. But we don’t have even that story any longer.

How have we lost this valuable portion of human tradition in our post modern society?

Our Media has refused to respect the individual. Every person, event, or place has become another dollar sign to the news agnecies of this period. They care little for the story or its people, only that it sells. Sensational stories, weird stories, disturbing stories, earn the dollar for their magazines or print. We hear about the Fundamental Latter Day Saints and their Temple, about Britney Spears in rehab, about protests of the Olympics. Global warming, international terror, economic recession, and local murders hog the spotlight. We are left better educated, better informed, and completely uninspired.

Culturally we have been taught to accept everything around us, to not question the viewpoints, opinions, or beliefs of others. To do so would be insensitive and offensive. We can’t make a slip up in a blog post, or in an interview, or in a speech. Everything is monitored and reported. Our society wants us to be a nice neutral tone of grey. Nothing too unique or individual. Monotony, PC, and the almighty beige are what we strive for. Our art imitates the past, recreates the present, but presses nowhere. Our music “samples”, “borrows”, and outright steals from more creative ilk. We do nothing new, imagine nothing special, and are fearful of doing either.

And the government is perhaps the worst offender of all. We see bureaucratic purges more severe then the previous with each new “elected” government. Our statesman and politicians strive above all to be polished, refined, well spoken, and bland. They cannot tell us their own opinions, without firing their speech writers. They dare not present a different view point then their fellow candidates, for fear of missing some portion of the electorate. We discourage fair representation with our two party system and give only two outlets for hundreds of millions of people. Third parties have, at best, served to hand the reins of power to one of our two Twin Towers. Other countries see open debate, heated arguments, and honest exchanges about policy and opinion. And we have the mud slinging of our election cycle. Slips of the tongue, email circulations, and stupid hick husbands determine absolutely nothing, but decide everything.

What have we lost in destroying the figure of the hero?
The ability to dream. Perfection is always worth striving for, but we seek so much exposure that we are not allowed to forget for a moment that it is an impossibility.
The ability to change. Heroes are leaders, offering differing viewpoints, unique opinions, and a hard headed arrogance to carry it through. We don’t remember people who led the change anymore. Simply those who have best repeated the past.
The ability to challenge. We don’t have courage enough to stand for anything. We are so crippled by our pasts, by the chance to make a mistake, the fear of ridicule on a local/national/global scale that we can’t make a meaningful fight for anything. It cripples the spine and weakens the heart.
The ability set a standard. Heroes define societies, traditions, and momentous occasions. Their behavior is a way of living to be pursued. Without them, we have simply joined the rat race, regurgitating, repeating.

I miss the heroes we have never had.

12 thoughts on “Modern Hero: Wanted Dead or Alive

  1. I personally hate that heroes have been so abused in our modern day culture. The closest thing we have to heroes are sports stars, but we need political heroes and economic heroes and military heroes as well. Our modern day politicians and economists are too cowardly to really step out and make powerful actions for what they believe. Instead, we are stuck with weak, pandering politicians like George Bush, Bill & Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I should run for political office. Something tells me neither of the major parties would have me. Maybe I should just raise an army and march on Washington. Who’s with me? Anyone?

  2. I’m with you, but only because of the brilliant and persuasive argument of whomever wrote this post. Bravo! And on to Washington!

  3. You article explores a very interesting subject. Generally, I agree that modern culture and media is responsible for the sad, sad state of political discourse amongst our elected leaders in this country. But at the same time, easy access to media has also created a new genre of movers and shakers, consisting mainly of political outliers, such as, Christopher Dockins (UK), Thomas Friedman, Al Gore (lol), Alan Green Span?……..ugh, I give up! I can’t think of anymore well known (US) leaders who live up to the hero criteria…..hmmmm. Maybe you should enter the political arena, Jordan??

  4. Actually, I’m graduating this year with a degree in political science. Look at people like Al Gore. At first he’s our climate hero, we even give him the award. High percentages of poll respondents thought that An Inconvenient Truth was pandering for votes, or information was falsified, and that Al Gore himself didn’t live up to his standards. We go out and spend as much time slaughtering “heroes” as we do creating new ones. But once they get too big for their britches, down they go. And I think this is true culturally- I doubt that our musicians will receive the same recognition in one hundred years that other earlier artists will. People will remember this as a cultural dark age. We spend so much time trying to fit the mold, that we can’t do something new. Where is the innovation, the insight, the creativity!? Have we really reached the end of human cultural achievement? I think at this rate, we’ll might as well simply allow computers to do the rest.

  5. Out of curiosity, what do you plan to do with your degree? I majored in Political Science at the UW myself. I disagree with you comment that we lack innovation/achievement. I believe that it is just happening in other areas, outside of the traditional spheres of influence such the arts and politics. There have been many advances in digital media for instance, that have has a profound affect on our culture thanks to innovative people like Al Gore (who invented the internet, lol!), Mr. Gates, the Google Guys, and many more. While such figures might not be considered heroes to the like of JFK or MLK, they have provided the ground work for regular people (bloggers like your brother) to easily enter into public discourse and actually make a difference. It’s too bad your brother spends most of his time writing about random BS topics like that unruly MySpace child that he would like to abuse! Another thought: I’ve heard many people say: “We love building our celebrities up, and then tearing them down.”

  6. Political Science, political schmience… who needs it when you can have a dictator like me? I am not a regular blogger, Tara, I am the King of Bloggers. Never question my dominance and abilities. Abusing children like that Myspace kid is my God-given right and duty. Jordan, you are way off on our time being a cultural dark age. We have more good music and art coming out now than ever before in history. Just because you choose to shelter yourself from it and sing the same stinking religious songs every sunday and listen to cheesy christian rock doesn’t mean that the other music and artistic endeavors you haven’t seen aren’t amazing. You should venture out of your sphere more. You would discover some amazing bands and some really cool art. Just explore around online and you will see tons and tons of beautiful graphic art. Open your borders!!!!

  7. I stand by my earlier comment- this is a cultural dark age. All of our new artistic outlets (and our music) are so “genre-nated” (new word, Shakespeare did it, so can I) that we can hardly call them more than mass produced. Its one of the ways that our culture successfully crushes the art form. By recognizing it, embracing it, copying it into oblivion. We don’t give things time to develop. The moment there is a hint of something new, we seek to make it mainstream acceptable. And very few art forms are capable of resisting the cash flow of a global economy. BTW- And I listen to very little Christian music. Instead I choose to listen to music that does not offend my sensibilities and appeals to my ears. I enjoy quite a few unique bands, musicians, etc. But the fact of the matter is that they will never achieve a culturally relevant status simply because they are unique. JFK and MLK both are great examples of the tragic flaw of our society. Even so many decades ago, JFK was still a figure to be ridiculed and contested, to be mocked and sullied. Look at the amount of effort Hoover put into placing him with a number of hookers and Marilyn Monroe. Martin Luther King was accused of extramarital affairs and communist ties during his period. In hindsight, we can say that both of these men were good to great at what they did. But neither is of our generation, and the thoroughness and speed with which we currently dismantle leading figures results in their elimination from that quest for greatness. Perhaps bloggers offer an outlet. But most hide behind a certain amount of anonymity or meaningless post material. (Erhemm, “Horse Driving in Car, Answering Phone and Getting Beer”). They are neither figures of self-sacrifice or a standard bearer. They’re simply there.

  8. My random posts are awesome. You may not appreciate them, but some people do. I have lots of content for lots of people. I appeal to a broad audience. Meatheads like “Flag football domination” and cynics like “Football Parent’s fighting”. Intellectuals like “Modern Hero: Wanted Dead or Alive” and people looking for a laugh like “No Glass Door Prank” and “Horse Driving in Car”. I have it all, and I even offer a philosophy of the world to back it up. :)

  9. You are the thread that binds us all. Perhaps we can elevate Joel to the status of hero, just to watch him get crucified in the blogosphere.

  10. Jordan, perhaps you have been reading a little too much Ayn Rand. Just put the book down buddy……that woman is an extremist who has beat this topic to death over and over in her books. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where “heroes” don’t have a magical canyon they can run away to. BTW I do love her (ayn). You should read The Fountain Head – it’s much better. Joel, we all know that you are in love with yourself.

  11. It’s not that I’m reading too much of anyone. I just believe that each generation DESERVES the opportunity to have heroes. It’s what motivates and drives the next generation. We can look back and say, man, so and so really made a difference. I remember when they did this or said this…. That mattered. Instead of this, we remember our tragedies (which all generations have been privy to). 9/11. VTech. Columbine. Oklahoma City. Heroes are representatives who impart something of our tradition from one generation to the next. They give us the most valuable, most optimal standard that we can learn from. All we have is the mistakes of those before us.

Comments are closed.