Opinion

Another View: How would you define a hero?

Turn on the TV, read the newspaper, or follow the news on the web, and on any given day, you will probably hear about another “hero” amongst us.

“Hero,” it’s a powerful word. It appeals to our childhood ideals of heroes from our youth, Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. That idea of the super human protecting society and lives of the innocent, but I wonder, what really is a hero? Has modern day media robbed society of a word that was once reserved to describe those very rare instances in which a member of our society performed an heroic act?  The media tends to cling to that predictable response from us and markets the word “hero” to us over and over again, why not, it helps sell papers and advertising, however, it is now to the point that its becoming common place and politicians have seized the same opportunity and now don’t hesitate to refer to heroes in the most ordinary of cases. Leave it to a politician to politicize anything they can in their favour.  Once the word “hero” is used, it tends to shut down all political debate on the issue at hand, and logical debate on public policy will cease.

Hero, is derived from the Greek word HEROS, and was used to refer to god like acts, and as such was not a word that was used lightly. However, today we find it used to define anything from a person who runs across the country fund raising, all firefighters, police officers, and military, to the passerby who jumps into an icy lake to retrieve a person from an over turned car.

So what is a hero? To me a hero is someone that performs a heroic act. An act that is courageous, brave, done with complete selflessness, without regard for one’s own safety; an extraordinary act performed under extraordinary circumstances. The neighbour down the street out for a walk who sees a house on fire, and breaks down a door to bear the smoke, flame and heat as they try to save someone, they deserve the Hero status. To me, the young man who pepper sprayed the face of the gunman in Seattle several weeks ago is a hero. I also believe a true hero never thinks themselves a hero or gives themselves that title, as a heroic act is a selfless act, and it will be recognized by society without self promotion, as demonstrated by the young man in Seattle.

A hero should not and cannot be a label assigned to a group of people employed and trained to do the job in which they are categorized as being heroes, nor is it a label to be used for someone who did something that most others would have done in a similar circumstance.  Take for example, firefighters. Although a very admirable job and one that we need people to do, and certainly takes a level of courage to do; it does not automatically make the profession a group of heroes.  Remember, extraordinary act performed under extraordinary circumstances. In the case of firefighters, they are fully trained, fully equipped, and have to obey policies and laws put in place to keep them as safe as possible. When they go into a building to fight a fire, or search for victims, they are doing a job they sought to do, are trained to do, and are equipped to do. I say this as someone who volunteered as a firefighter for over a decade, although proud of my contributions in this role as well as the contributions of others with me, at no time did I consider my profession as heroic. I can also say, that if I thought my life was in danger as often as most people think it was, it is not a job that I would have signed up for, as I do value living, and I think I can safely assume the same went for my associates.  As firefighters, we were also taught, the risk benefit analysis. We do not put our lives on the line for buildings, or things, and if we were to put ourselves at risk, the benefit, had better outweigh those risks. If someone ever got hurt or killed protecting a building or a thing, you can be sure that the managers of the department would be facing some very serious investigations as to why their members were in any such situation. This is not to say that people in these professions may not perform heroic acts from time to time, but this does not mean that all in the profession are equally heroes.

I think it is time that the media, politicians and us as the public, stop handing out this privileged title so readily, and help keep the word sacred, with special meaning, and reserved to appreciate those that are society’s true heroes.

Derek Lewers

Sooke

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