April 16, 2004
THE TRADE WINDS group advises us in song to seek out and honor our heroes. But who is a hero (or she-ro, as Maya Angleou puts it)? What are the parameters that we must use to define a hero? Should a hero in just one area of endeavor be globally recognized and lauded as an example for youth and the citizenry in general to emulate? Claude Noel brought home a World Boxing Championship belt for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, so they named an entire modern Highway on Tobago after him. Subsequently, he was convicted of a criminal act larceny - yet to this day, the Highway bears his name. Perhaps, we should wait until people are dead and them posthumously place the mantel of "hero" on their names. On the other hand, posterity might have a different agenda and the hero might never get his or her true deserts.
A cynical French philosopher reminds us that there are heroes in evil as well as in good. To my mind, a hero is often the product of propaganda. Myths and legends are harmless.
For example, some years ago, tow sisters became instant heroines when they reportedly withstood a jungle ordeal. At the risk, even now of harvesting national wrath, let me say that I had now and then grave doubts as to the veracity of their story. But it is not important.
At other times, however some of the myths, propaganda and legends that create a hero may have more long-lasting and destructive repercussive effects, because we then misguidedly place these into positions where they ..................... It is all well and good have a Pancho Villa and Emilano Zapata or Stokely, Elridge Cleaver and Rap Brown fight for the rights of the underprivileged. But God help us if these heroes in the post-revolutionary period are put in charge of administrating things. The Solidarity movement of Lech Walesa as agitator in a shipyard in Gdansk, captured the imagination of a nation and the world, and eventually his Solidarity movement proved to be an important part of the machinery that brought down Communism in Poland.
And then they gave him the country to run. Poland one number 7 in the list of European industrial powers became a basket case.
Cato the Elder once remarked: The hero saves us. Praise the hero! Now who will save us from the hero?
Similarly, here at home, it would seem to me to be unwise to take, say, a truly heroic fighter for the rights of the rural proletariat and make him head honcho of an important productive region. Such a hero may have his/her functional niche. It may be in the area of agitation, but it is not necessarily in the realm of administration.
You see, we must differentiate a hero from a celebrity. A hero is know for tangible achievements; the celebrity for well known-ness. The hero reveals the possibilities of human nature; the celebrity reveals the possibilities of the media. Time makes heroes but dissolves celebrities.
Also, I must advocate that we be careful when we begin this hero manufacturing process, for example, via the National Awards, I find some difficulty with the bestowment of national awards on to those who left our shores when the going was rough and then returned later (often to fat salaries when the going got better). And I can never accept awardees that broke and break wise laws, irrespective of the positions they now hold. Actually, I am also quite ambivalent about political heroes. Most rally aspire to be superstars rather than genuine heroes. Kissenger thinks this distinction is crucial. E feels that superstars strive for approbation and crave consensus, while true heroes define themselves by the judgment of a future they see it as their task to bring about. Superstars seek success in a technique for eliciting support, while heroes pursue success as the outgrowth of inner values. In other words, and in Good Guyanese parlance; our heroes must be made of long lasting sterner stuff not of superficial and embellished stuffings