13 June 2005

Heroes versus heroes

[No, this is not about Brazil versus Argentina in World Cup Football]

Traditionally, a hero has been defined as someone who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero is someone who has given his life to something bigger than himself. Meaning, there’s a moral objective to heroism: usually saving people, or supporting an idea. To put it in a few words, a hero is someone who sacrifices himself for something of greater good to mankind and society.

Typically, the hero has been a person of superior skill and/or distinct physical prowess: the soldier-king is a prime example of this. In many myths, the hero has also been defined as a person of divine origin: a son or daughter of a god or deity. Traditionally, too, the hero has been seen as a man of the mind: a thinker/philosopher, a scientist, a spiritual leader. And, since the Industrial Revolution, the hero has been identified as a producer – from the technological/economic/business sense.

These heroes are the life-giving forces whose work makes possible human success, prosperity and happiness. And the stories we read are really the tales of what being a hero is all about.

The heroes in Ayn Rand’s stories, however, are a sharp contrast to all this. Except, perhaps, to include the producer-hero of the Industrial Revolution. Rand’s heroes have nothing to do with war or slaying of dragons or saving people; they are driven by reason, science, technology, economics and business. They have everything to do with the power of the mind of the modern man: therein lies his heroism.

Mind you, “the power of the mind” Rand refers to is not the Gautama Buddha nor the Plato variety that dominates our history and civilisation. Her philosophy of the hero is that of practical reality, of self-preservation, of reason. Hers is an intellectual hero, far advanced from the common man; a product of the best of modern civilisation. Hers is a hero whose rational potential is fully actualised. Hers is a hero whose life-giving force is his intellectual accomplishment.

Which one would you rather be?

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