First Steps Toward Becoming Heroic

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The Kitty Genovese effect. This has to be one of the most understandable, yet most guilt-producing products of human sociology. I remember when I worked at Putnam Investments I was ish; not a kid , and I came back from a cigarette break. A man was in the corridor having an epileptic seizure. He was prone on the floor and screaming like an animal.

I had never seen anything like it and I was paralyzed. Someone was trying to tend to him and told me to go away, and I did. It's odd.


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In a life with little success, I still have few regrets, but that event haunts me. I wish I had been better. If it were to happen again, now, maybe I would be. Here you discuss physical heroics, and I totally agree. To sacrifice one's life or decide that that is a potential outcome is to make the ultimate decision. Most would not. This is interesting. Obviously, having the skills to save someone who is in peril is the best scenario.

But how less of a hero is someone who tries, or risks, who doesn't have the skills? Is that person any less a hero than the hero who succeeds? Scott, this is a fantastic article and it has made me think. I think it will make me think for a long time. Thank you! Steve, many thanks for your kind comments.

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Perhaps you've inspired another post on 'the making of heroes'. That day you saw the seizure victim, you were startled and weren't prepared to respond. The same thing happened to me during a car accident in my youth. Depending of the situation, we can grow into the role of becoming a hero through mental, emotional, and physical preparation. In each of us is a heroic heart; it takes time to develop the heroic head. One doesn't necessarily have to be deviant to be a hero, but one does have to choose a different path than everyone else to stand out from the crowd.

Sadly, there is incredible pressure in society for people to behave a certain way and do certain things. One is expected to go with the flow, keep a job, pay bills on time, get along with family members and keep a low profile.

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Heroics requires the opposite. Heroes have to step up when nobody else will do so.

If the heroic efforts don't turn out so well the societal outlier will be ridiculed and shamed. There is a cost to behaving heroically, and people don't want to step out of line and take a chance. All you've said is very true. There is indeed a cost to behaving heroically. But once people understand that the cost of NOT behaving heroically is much greater, then maybe we've opened the doors to more frequent heroism.

Tell this to the families of "have a go heroes" who died trying to do something they were basically incapable of doing but felt they had to try.

In these cases it goes from one person dying to two or three or four dead for the emergency services to sort out and multiple families wrecked. I really think you might have an uphill battle these days.

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They most certainly is applied to people who didn't do anything that enriches the life of others think celebrities and sports players. This so called heroes are even tolerated when acting unheroic or damaging. They take drugs, drink themselves stupid, buy prostitutes, engage in adultery, and lots of other sins and still people fawn over them calling them their heroes. Of course don't forget that Wolf in the Wallstreet guy, they had admired him so much that they made a movie about him.

But then, does a single act makes us heroes or is it has to be a lifelong engagement?


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  • Does a person who says save several person from a burning building still a hero even though that person had raped several women before and after the heroic act? How about a person who once saved lives of many people but one day killed a person out of anger?

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    Also what constitutes a heroic act. Manny Pacquiao is seen as a Hero in the Philippines when the only thing he just did was doing his job as a boxer. The same to all those sport players. They are lauded as heroes for doing their job, well, doing their job very well. This doesn't apply to other jobs though. No one would say this person is a hero for creating a very good software, or painting an excellent picture or teaching the children very well. What was in this sport events that make them heroic to those who win while on other activities similar success just seen as banal?

    There are also those that are heroes in one side a great evil in the other. Many military generals for example have been adored and labeled as heroes by their home country but to those people in countries who lost family members, see their country evaded, see these 'heroes' raped their mothers and sisters and friends.

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    These heroes as worse that the devil. A great example can be seen this in the Japanese Comfort Women issue. During the war, Japanese soldiers forced many women from the countries they invade to be their sex slaves. After the war ends these soldiers are honored as heroes and a shrine is build for them in their homeland and has always been visited by the higher ups in their country. The other countries see it differently as would be expected.

    In a way, the label 'Hero' is quite useless and meaningless. And in a way you are right, there are more heroes than you believe, and not because there are actual 'heroes' out there, its because you just have believe, or label or even just say this person is a hero to make that person a hero. Scotty, your articles for PT have been very interesting, this one especially. My first reaction was that the shortage of heroes is only an illusion. Think of all the heroes we have profiled over on the Heroes Blog, and how many we have yet to do. Roberts, S. Craig ed. Applied Evolutionary Psychology.

    Contributions to Indian Sociology.

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    Martin's Press. Burkert, Walter Greek Religion. Cambridge, Mass. Calder, Jenni From Byron to Guevara. London: Hamish Hamilton. Campbell, Joseph The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton : Princeton University Press. Chatterji, Roma In Quest of the Hero. Hadas, Moses; Morton Smith Heroes and Gods.

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    Lee, Christopher Lidell, Henry and Robert Scott. A Greek—English Lexicon. Price, John London: Bloomsbury. Lord Raglan Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. Republished Smidchens, Guntis Slavic Review. Svoboda, Elizabeth What Makes a Hero? Stock characters. Byronic hero Man alone Tragic hero. Gentleman detective Jack Trickster.

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