I was browsing one of my social media networks when I came across this image:
If that doesn’t shock you, well. Culturally, we have drifted into a pattern of redefining terms based on our confusion of their true meanings, over-exaggeration of situations and events and embellishing things to make them seem greater than they are. We’ve created shortened invented terms like YOLO (you-only-live-once) and LOL (laugh-out-loud), which cause little harm, and use words like “clutch” to express how cool something is.
Despite the seemingly harmless recycling of words, this liberal way we (ab)use the English language has eroded our ability to define and use terms correctly and appropriately in situations when word use is vital. When we take a word like “hero” or “courage” and use it in situations where a person has made a personal decision for their own benefit, we begin to lose sight of the people who sacrifice themselves for the well-being of others. When you watch superhero movies, the heroes don’t become great because they do something out of selfish ambition, they do it for the greater good of mankind and for the safety of their communities and the world.
Here are some fundamental things heroes do:
- Acts of selfless service
- Accomplishes goals to build themselves up, for the purpose of benefiting others
- Does these things despite fears or disadvantages (mental, emotional, situational or physical)
- Rises above a challenge and becomes a greater quality person, and achieves a richer quality of life
It is overwhelmingly tragic how media has become so blind to what true heroism is. In all sense, how does this veteran’s selfless sacrifice and victory pale in comparison with the self-serving change of another celebrity? It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. Glorifying people’s self-serving actions in the name of heroism is wrong. We give too much credit where it is not due and it comes from our obsession with our own self-motivated interests and desires. Even if a person’s selfish action encourages others, we still cannot define them as heroes. Their action may have inadvertently caused inspiration, but they did what they did for themselves and no one else. That does not make a hero. It might make them brave, but we have to use our words carefully.
Call me dramatic but our privileged part of the world is becoming a lot like Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World;” blind in our self-fulfilling desire for entertainment and pleasure. We follow trends, filter our news to nonessential entertainment and gossip, and hop on causes without using our God-given common sense. The fact that I even have to write an article like this makes me realize how consumed we are in the distractions of selfish causes and how unconcerned we are to the real crises happening around the world. As the insightful author of “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Neil Postman, wrote:
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.