Every society has its heroes and, through history, they have been worshiped and praised. Throughout humanity, groups and individuals have been designated as heroes. They include leaders, prophets, farmers, teachers, politicians, gangsters, revolutionaries, librarians, and any one else. Often, the organization they are part of also gets a semi-hero status – the police force, the military, the education system, and so on. According to Meredith Iler, what brings all these heroes together is that they have sacrificed something of themselves to better the lives of others.
Meredith Iler on How a Hero Is Made
All heroes throughout history have sacrificed themselves, held ideals, and saved others. Stories about Brahman, Isis, Jesus, Quetzalcoatl, Muhammad, the Buddha, and so on, all talk about how these individuals were able to create something new and better. They all went through difficult trials and they all shared their wisdom with their society and community. Their lessons, which were learned thousands of years ago, are still true today.
Today, people continue to create heroes. They are, like in the past, people who took part in activities that gave them a certain standard in society. They were able to change consciousness and bring about social order. They are people who sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Soldiers are a clear example of this.
Human beings set themselves apart from other animals because their life is not dominated solely by procreation and nutrition. They care about faith, materials, characters, and ideals. Today, human heroes are those who are able to sustain life, and who represent their chosen walk of life. The traveler who teachers others about the world, the postman who braves the snow and ice, the firefighter who saves a kitten from a burning building, and the soldier who gives his life – they are all heroes.
Interestingly, there are generational conflicts in this as well. Many thugs and gangsters are heroes to the younger generation. People like Bob Marley are loved the world over, despite the fact that he smoked illegal substances. 2Pac is quoted on almost every school wall, despite the fact that he was a gang banger and was shot to death because of his gang affiliations. Heroes are about transformation, and they are about representing the ideals of a society as a whole. Sometimes, that also means breaking the law.
There are also heroes who represent entire groups of people. Someone like Nelson Mandela, who took up violent struggle and some would even call a terrorist, which is what he was imprisoned for, became the president of South Africa. Today, although deceased, he is known as the father of Africa. Similarly, when entire groups of people are persecuted, a hero figure often appears. This is the same figure who, should they die, be classed as “martyrs” and therefore be revered even more.
According to Meredith Iler, what makes a true hero is someone who wants to bring about equality, peace, and justice. And she believes the best people to point out modern-day heroes are our children. Their innocence means that they can sense true goodness when they see it.