Brett Rants

No Heroes

Not No Way!
Not No How!


Swirling bits of grey on dark tones These are all pretty much the same, just a little different It is the reflection of a building off the water, if you must know The ripples of the nearly flat surface distorting the straight lines of the building

What Is a Hero?

See, one can tell this is not going to be a very informative rant, as right at the beginning, I'm asking a question: What is a Hero?

The trivial answer is that a Hero is person (and not a dog, I will not allow Dog Heroes in my universe), who is worthy of praise and admiration. A Hero is someone worthy of being looked up to.

But then, this begs the question as to why anyone would ever look up to another?

And that's a harder question... or at least, it's a harder question for me to answer, as my mind wants to fill in the blank by saying a Hero is someone, who others look up to, because they do Great Things. But then, what are these Great Things? And who gets to decide?

Still, let us not be stupid about the entire thing and get bogged down in semantics before we even begin. After all, I'm willing to assume (much like Great Art) I can recognize a Great Thing when I see it. So I am willing to work with the definition (so, call it a working definition) that a Great Thing is something that a Normal could not (or would not) do.

But even in that, we have a Logical Fallacy of sorts, for the definition presupposes the existence of Betters and Lessors... Heroes and Normals. And my Thesis (if I have any Great Thesis) is that Heroes do not (in point of fact) exist... that there are Only Normals.

Still, some do more than others and some are different than others. Meaning (and I say this tongue in cheek), some are more equal than others. And if you don't believe me, just ask the Pig from Animal Farm fame.

Um, see? I told you I wasn't being serious.

But then, I am serious about getting to the bottom of this Hero question. So, let me take another stab at it, coming from a different angle.

These are all repeats, described above, presented as a thin band, getting thicker as the page progresses

What Would a Hero Do?

Um, maybe a looking at a few examples would work best?

Military Service

In my life the Proto-Typical Hero has been the War Hero, you know, the guy who charged the Machine Gun Nest, took out a dozen enemy combatants single-handedly, and saved his platoon from certain death... or something like that. It's a good line, makes an even better story if the guy got shot or lost an arm or something, and I accepted this type of Hero as being legitimate for most of my life. But at some point, I realized its just a Glorification of Death. For, in the end, this line of reasoning reduces to One man killing another in pursuit of Life; ergo, Hero. Or if you'll allow me to go just a little bit further astray (or off the rails, if you prefer to look at it that way), Military Heroism reduces to One man killing another at the behest of yet another; ergo, Hero, because Combat Personnel are not typically in a position to choose their own targets.
'Soldier, you mission is to take out The Target.'

'So, The Target doesn't even get a name, now? Wow! Talk about an unspoken National Prejudice. If The Target were one of us, it would probably get a name.'

'No, if The Target were one of us, we would be calling it an Asset.'

'Oh, right. Never mind.'
It's not a complete argument. And Lord knows (you do believe in The Good Lord, don't you, boy), I'm just throwing it out there. So, feel free not bothering to connect the dots or giving the idea any credence. But (in my so ever freaking humble opinion) that's the logical reduction of Military Service: Subservience of One's Will to Another.

Unfortunately:
Honour cannot be bought.

Honour cannot be sold.
And thus;
Honour is not for sale in the Marketplace.
Now, we could argue about the nature of Military Service.
Is a paid soldier little more than a mercenary?

Is it honourable for one mercenary to kill another?

Would it be more accurate to label (at least some) conscripts as political prisoners rather than willing combatants?

I mean, you do realize that the penalty for desertion tends to be quite severe? And that the court that decides a deserter's fate is most likely the same one that sanctioned the poor sap's conscription (call it being Shanghaied or enslaved, if you prefer), in the first place?

Or do you feel like that was an amazingly leading series of questions, which entirely misses the point?
Either way, the results of such a debate are not important to me. After all, I question whether Honour exists in the first place. But if it does (and by my conception of it), Honour cannot be transferred from one to another.

Thus, you know, shooting one man at the behest of another hardly qualifies as Honour. And do we really want our Heroes to be Men (or Women... or even Highly Trained Service Animals) without Honour?

Public Service

For much the same reason, Public Service as a venue for the accumulation of Honour does not seem like a viable option... you know, to me.

Let's start with Fire Fighters. I view the profession, as just that... a profession, a job... and a well paying job at that. I'm hardly going to call Accountants Heroes, so I can't see why anyone would feel the same about Fire Fighters. Besides, in my life, I've never seen a Fire Fighter enter a burning building (though, I have seen them shoot water on the flames of a burning building from the safety of the curb, which hardly seems Heroic... and more like something any adolescent male would love to do if given half the chance). Thus (and more typically), when I encounter Fire Fire Fighters, it is almost always at the beginning of their shift (I presume), as they shop for provisions at the local Grocery Store. Let me tell you, every time I see a group of Fire Fighters loading up a shopping cart with food, I can't help but to think what a great gig that must be. But more importantly (and the only reason I mention any of this at this juncture) is that getting paid to shop, cook, and eat hardly qualifies as a Heroic or Honourable activity.

Of course, I know I am in the minority opinion, here. And others will slant the facts differently. But my intent is not to be fair. Rather, it is to express my opinion.

I have a much dimmer view of Police Officers... Public Safety Officers, or whatever they are calling themselves these days. I view them (one-hundred percent and completely) as Garrison Forces. They are there to Keep the Peace. But The Peace overwhelmingly means maintaining The Market (for, at heart I am an Economic Being). And I don't see how Enforcing the Laws of the Market imbues one with any Honour.

Of course, that may be a bit too abstract for many. So, let me say that I heard it quoted recently that there were over 26,000 Criminal Offences (throughout the different jurisdictions) in the United States. I find it hard to believe (as from a statistical point of view, it is highly improbable) that anyone (absolutely anyone, anywhere) agrees with all 26,000 of those laws. But yet, a Police Officer is expected (or so I assume) to enforce all of those laws.

So, Riddle me This:
How is it possible to Honourably enforce a law that one does not believe is Honourable?
It can't be done.

Thus, Honour Denied!

{And as I re-read this section, a Referee Sports Analogy comes rapidly to mind as a Counter Example. I mean, would we not want a Referee to enforce all the Rules of the Game, even those Rules that they, themselves, don't personally agree with? But then, there is a big difference between enforcing a Ten Yard Penalty and enforcing Ten Years to Life... or not extracting such a penalty when the converse is true. For, there is no Honour in letting the Bad Guys get away on a account of The Letter of the Law, which perhaps, goes a long way towards explaining why I have a very low opinion of The Letter of the Law.}

I won't make a separate section for Politicians. But the rationale is very much the same. If we assume (which I do) that Politics is a game of Diplomacy, Negotiation, and Comprise, then we are really saying (or I am saying) that Politicians are in the business of Settling for Less than the Ideal. And I don't want to allow anything remotely close to Settling for Less than the Ideal into my definition of Honour.

And if one does (at the risk of sounding hostile), one has completely sold out and has no conception of Honour.

Just saying.


Honour

Now, I've been talking a bit about Honour... almost like I switched the conversation from Heroism to Honour. Well, that's because I have some (small hazy) idea of what I think Heroism should be about.

Heroism
But really, I'll go a bit further than that.

Heroism
These are all vague and debatable terms. And of course, one is free to believe that one (or all) have nothing to do with Heroism.

But I do.

And a main purpose of any writing project (outside of Fame & Fortune) is to help work things out for the writer. Seriously, the best part about Writing Fiction is that I get to Experience that Fiction at a far higher level of involvement during the writing process than any reader ever will. So (despite the meandering), I'm sort of happy with how this project is going, as I am making progress.

You see, that Wondrous Proportions qualifications has always been an unwritten assumption (in my mind). And now, I've explicitly stated it.

Fire Fighters
{Once again, please feel free to argue the details. I can see how some may wish to argue that Saving Lives is an Achievement of Wondrous Proportions. But so then would be keeping someone alive... as do Farmers (growing food), Truck Drivers (delivering food), and nearly every member of Society down the line.}

But the real thing I have against Fire Fighters is that they get too much Glory in the Popular Press. You see, I would have a really difficult time telling if any specific person is (or was) Honourable (or not). I mean, sure, I am happy to almost completely define Honour out of existence (and that is the point of this rant, it's stated purpose, don't you know). But even if I were to allow that many (most, almost all) people are Honourable, how would I tell the Good from the Bad (those who are Honorable from those who are not)? It's not like the Bad Guys are going to tell me that's what they are. They are Dis-Honourable, after all. So, they will lie (or merely have an inaccurate self-assessment). Thus, I really have no way of knowing whether any specific Fire Fighter is Honourable. And more importantly, I don't think the typical (note the qualification) Contribution to Society of the average (lowering the peg, we are) Fire Fighter is of Wondrous Proportions. So, like, even if I were to grant that some Fire Fighters are (or even, could be) Heroes, it's hardly a Universal Trait... for Fire Fighters, Police Officers, Politicians, Public Servants... and seriously, why do we (or at least, I) never think of Janitors as Heroic?

Well, the answer is simple, most (any, all) of a Janitor's Contribution to Society is not of Wondrous Proportions. And therefore, the cause of cleaning toilets is not Heroic.


Fame & Fortune

I would rather be Rich than Poor.

I would rather be Famous than Unknown.

I say this even though I know (or believe) that Fame is mostly bought (and paid for) in this society.

Don't believe me?

Then:
Q: Why does the Rock & Roll Band need a Contract with the proverbial Record Label?

A: It's the door to success.
I mean, you can believe me or not, but within the confines of this site one will find (or could find, if they bothered to look) a few of the best novels I have ever read (and also, the worst). Yes, I am bragging about my own work (and kicking other bits and pieces of it at the same time). Most Artists likely feel the same way about their own creations (hate some of it, love some of it). Put simply, I believe My Good Stuff is as good as anything They've got... whoever They are. For instance, the Photographs at the top of this page (but not so much the sectional divisions interspersed throughout) are as good as anything in any Art Museums, anywhere... Well. OK. Maybe, they are not as good as anything in any Art Museum, anywhere... Yeah. Fine. They are most definitely not as good as everything in every Art Museum, everywhere... not by a long shot. But they are better than the bottom ten-percent. So, I'm happy to claim that the photographic images, which grace the top of this page, are better (to me, at least) than the worst items in any World Class Art Museum. So, what's the difference between my items and those? Well, the principal one is that my items do not reside in an Art Museum. And my books aren't published. And before they get that Record Deal that Rock & Roll Band is just another Unknown.

Wow!

That last was sounding a lot like the ending to the Wizard of Oz, there.

So, what does any of this have to do with Honour... let alone, Heroism?
The Market makes Money.

The Market decides the Winners & Losers.
Don't misread that last line. I didn't say that in a Free Market Economy the Marketplace is the Venue in which Commercial Competition takes place, deciding the Winners & Losers. I said The Marketplace decides. It's not the consumers. It's The Market.
The Government and The Market are One.
This means:
The Government IS The Market.

The Government CONTROLS The Market.

The Government DECIDES who the Winners & Losers are.
And I know such a statement is indefensible. But when folks talk about Systemic Racism, a Permanent Underclass, or things of that ilk, this is really what they are talking about.
The Medium IS The Message.

The Government IS The Market.
So, when I contemplate a Very Rich Person (call them a Billionaire), I do not see someone who Earned their money. I see someone who exploited a weakness of a Government Created Market.

You are free to disagree.

But I do not believe Billions can be Earned.

Hey, don't get me wrong. I'd love to have Billions. And if I were to be given Billions from my Books, well, that would be swell. And I'm sure in no time, I'd be telling you how I earned that money... or at least, wrote those Books, took the chance, and worked hard for my money.

{Though in truth, I'd rather have a Billion Fans and you can keep your money.}

But this, really, wasn't supposed to be an Economic Rant. On the other hand, I felt that some sort of awareness of these facts (which in the end, are just my opinions) was required.

Rich or Famous Person
I feel the need to dig a little bit deeper into that 'never done alone' part and look at all those little people, who play their roles behind the scene. And as such, that is the purpose of the next sectional aside.

{Of course, I question whether I ever adequately explain my true purpose for the aside... nor will I do much here, except to say that if an achievement derives from the Labour of Many, it is misguided to assign the Fruits of that Labour (Honour and Heroism in the context of this discussion) to the One.}


Wage Slave

For there to be Rich, there must be Poor. It's a definitional thing. For there to be a group (even singular in nature) who has vastly more than the average, then there must be a corresponding group, who has less.
Being Rich means a person has More.

Being Poor means a person has Less.
If a person believes this More comes from Merit (personal skill and effort and not through luck or the Structure of Society) then it is possible for the Accumulation of Riches to be done with Honour. Otherwise, it is Not.

I fall into the Not category.

It's not something that can be proved. The notion is laced with a lifetime of prejudice... on both sides.

Suffice to say, I will posit that a wage of $25/hr for labour performed is a Fair Wage. And if one makes more money by working longer hours, that is Noble and Good. And I'll even grant that a person might be worth a bit more or a bit less than this middle ground point of $25/hr (computed from taking the National Average of $50,000/Year and assuming there are 2,000 Working Hours in a Year). But at some point, once the wage has increased over a certain level (I'll throw out $100/hr as a starting point), merit plays little to no role.

For the Professionals in the audience, I will simply point out that The Government very much controls the Credential Process; and therefore, very much controls the Market for Skilled Labour. Yes, it may take Skill to get the Credential. But the wage paid for the Credential is based upon Government Enforced Scarcity (and not the skill required to get the Credential).

It's a minor point.

I will move on.

I fail to see the Merit required to Collect Rents. Rents being the Term Economists use to describe not only Lease Payments, but also, Interest, Dividends, Capital Gains, and payments for the use of Intellectual Property.

And since it is impossible (or at least, I am unaware of the counter-example) to obtain Great Wealth (in the Billionaire range) without collecting rents, becoming a Billionaire is not an indication of Great Merit... well, maybe it is, but Accumulation of Money, in itself, is not an indication. For as we all know, one can become a Billionaire by Virtue of Birth and inheritance.

But we were talking of Self Made Billionaires. And in those situations, the money is accumulated in one of two ways:
I'm not going to call Arbitrage an Honourable vocation. It may not be Dishonourable. But I'm pretty sure there's nothing Noble in what amounts to either Under-Paying or Over-Charging.

And since this Rant has gone on for quite a bit. I'll let that statement stand... almost raw and undefended.

Profits
I mean, that whole Under/Over (or should it be Over/Under) is difficult to parse fairly. So suffice to say, if one is making money off of another's labour, then one must pay the other less for their labour than the one is making off of that labour. And I am defining this situation as Under Payment... an intrinsically un-equitable situation.

Profit = Labour Value - Labour Cost

{And thus, even though we live in a Society where Money is not Distributed Evenly (or in my opinion, fairly), there is no reason we (or at least, I) should (or will) do the same with Honour.}

Moving on.

My real interest (here, in this section) is in discussing Intellectual Property.
Q: Why is a Search Algorithm worth so much?
A: Because The Government backs the right of exclusive use.

Q: Why is a Fictional Franchise worth so much?
A: Because The Government gives the Copyright Holder exclusive right to Market the Content.
So, is an Inventor (of anything) Honourable?

Well, maybe.

So, let me refine the question a little:
Given that a Creator (Artist, Inventor, etc) is given the Exclusive Right to Market said Creation is any additional payment via the Coin of Honour justified?
Inventor & Creators
{As a minor aside, let me point out that I am cognizant of the fact that I have the rarefied luxury of spending my time as I wish, writing whatever I desire, without regard to any economic incentive or outcome. And all the while, my needs will be met by the labour of others. So, tell me, is it not right and proper that those who spend their time meeting my needs should not, also, benefit from this, my labour of love? Such a statement (or question, I suppose) reeks of Communist Dogma and does not take into account the need for incentives. And I could go into this further, but I shall not. Suffice to say, if an action has already been incentivized, why overpay by calling it Heroic or Honourable, as well? And that (maybe, perhaps) is the gist of my argument, the thesis of this page.}


Selfless

We've (or I've) followed an overly long and twisted path to get to this point.

Too bad.

It doesn't matter.

I needed to work it all out for myself, if no one else.

Thus, to state it explicitly:
For an Action to be Honourable (according to my conception, please feel free to disagree in your own Rant Space), said Action must be done Selflessly.

And with that definition in mind, it's, probably, time to look at our (or my) leading contenders, once again.

Honorable?
It's doesn't look like Honour, to me. In the end (middle, and beginning), I am an Economic Being. Thus (once again, for me), the above roles reduce to mere Economic Transactions. And I don't want to give anyone better terms based on an Outdated Notion that is no longer valued.


Heroes of Myth & Legend

You know who was a Hero?

Moses!

Now, I don't know the whole story... nor do I much care whether the story is true or not... or if my version is Biblically Accurate. But at some point (I think it was when he broke that first pair of stone tablets in disgust, you know, the ones that held the Ten Commandments, because he took a good long look at his fellow man and what they had done in his absence and was more than a little revolted), Moses knew he would not be going into The Promised Land. And yet, he led His People (may be Your People, may be My People, but it was most definitely His People that he led) into The Promised Land, even though he knew he would not be going there, himself (as per God's decree). And in fact (assuming he gave it any thought, at all), Moses knew he would stop being His People's Leader the moment he had fulfilled his mission. And yet, he continued to lead His People to The Promised Land (where they would desert him and leave him to die alone in the desert), nonetheless.

Now, that's Selflessness.

And that's a Heroism to me.

Ironically, I am hard pressed to come up with another example of a Hero from either Fiction or Reality... though, I suppose some folks would put the story of Christ into the same category.

But come one!
Parting the Red Sea to kill thousands upon thousands of honest hard working peasant farmers called up into the military to do the bidding of the Pharisee?

Obviously Honourable.


Sacrificing yourself on the Cross so as to Wash Away the Sins of Man.

Please, such nonsense. Give me a break.
Thus (and in retrospect), I am sure there are plenty more examples... equally as valid... or invalid.

Still, I am not aware of the Case Histories (mainly, because I don't feel like thinking about it that hard), but I could easily see (and for me we are entering Story Time, so this would be) a Fictional Character from a Possible Book doing that which He (or She) knows will condemn Him to Death (or Eternal Oblivion), but which will also save (or significantly benefit) another.

That's Heroism!

{Besides we all know that Christ knew that he would be ascending to the Right Hand of God, so it's not like he was sacrificing all that much. I mean, the choice was This Mortal Coil or Eternal Life. Which would you choose?}

WARNING: CONFUSING SENTENCE AHEAD
(And it is just one sentence.)

So, like, when some random person (so, it could even be a Fire Fighter) who knows the effects of Third Degree Burns, who has seen the Victims in the Hospital (in the Burn Ward, don't you know) and has heard the screaming moans of these poor unfortunates souls throughout the long lonely night (so, they know the consequences and the risks they are facing); and this person runs into a Burning Building without Adequate Fire Protection (because with Adequate Fire Protection, we're just having fun, playing with fire, don't you know) and they know the likely outcome is Death by Fiery Flames (or even if they don't think about it too terribly much, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, and all that), and that person dies (or dies two and a half painful months later in the Burn Ward with not nearly enough Morphine trickling through that drip, come on, man, can't you see I'm dying, here), in a futile attempt to save another (or not so futile, as it doesn't much matter much to me if they succeed in this endeavour or not), well, when someone does something like that (consciously, willingly, knowingly), then that person is a Hero in my book.

I don't know that I have ever met anyone who has behaved in this way.

And if I met such people on a regular basis or could rattle off a few hundred Case Studies, my perception of the Human Race might be different.

But instead, when I think about Fire Fighters, I think about a group of rather lucky gentlemen, who have a cushy job, in which the start of their shift consists of walking around a Grocery Store, getting the Fixings for Chili. And when I think about them running into Burning Buildings (something I have never in my life seen them do), I view it as might view a Professional Stunt Person about to be lit on fire (for the entertainment of the masses), who is wearing the latest and greatest in Fire Protection Equipment; and so, the danger is... a lot less than it might otherwise be.

No. It's not what I want to do. But the lines to get into both professions are amazingly long.

And that is because (in many ways) it sounds fun... exciting. I mean, can we not agree that Fighting Fires and Running into Burning Buildings sounds exactly like the sort of thing a Thrill Seeking (Stunt Double Type Person) might enjoy doing for a living?

'But they risk their lives!' I can almost hear a Critical Reader (call her my number one fan) say... in exasperated tones, no less.

But do they?

Do they risk their lives?

And (perhaps) much more importantly, do you remember the Title of this-here Post?


No Heroes

Not No Way!
Not No How!

Let's ask a bunch of leading questions in this section, shall we?

Does a Hero run into a Burning Building?

How about if They know if They do, They will Die?

How about if They know if They do, They will Die and Their Efforts will be Futile? What then? Is senseless suicide Heroic?

Or maybe a Hero is someone who will charge into that Proverbial Burning Building, damn the consequences, disregarding their Superior's frantic command to 'Step Down', turning off their comm to better concentrate on the flames before them?

So, is that Heroic?

Does it matter if they Live?

Or they Die?

How about if their actions result in the deaths of two other Fire Fighters who feel compelled to chase after their compatriot Caught Up In The Flames... or however the Fire Fighting Community words such things?

Or maybe the Commander has seen so many more fires than this Rookie that he knows it's a lost cause and the building is only moments away from collapse?

Is running into such a building despite your Superior's Direct Command to the contrary Heroic?

Or seriously, damn the consequences, do what you need to save that life... But wait! There is no need, as the Child has just wandered into sight, around the corner, dazed, slightly confused, but safe... and sound... no worse for the wear... so, there was no reason for anyone to Risk Life or Limb... much less Die... taking two others Fire Fighters with them... as they ran senselessly into a burning building, trying to be Heroic, but only causing problems by breaking ranks.

So tell me.

Are you the type that wants to call that sort of blatant insubordination Heroic?


No Heroes

It's just random writing. I live a rarefied life. My meat comes factory sealed. I've never seen an animal butchered. I've never seen a Man shot down... or patched up and saved.

Society is a series of Economic Transaction, to me.

Seriously, one would have to be a fool to believe There is Honour Among Thieves.

And They (it is always a They) tell me the first Gold Coin was a Medal strung about the neck... no doubt for Glory in Battle.
Life to Ours!
Death to Yours!
Be Careful What Gods You Worship
Or perhaps I should say:
Render Unto Caesar What Is Caesar's
In the end, I find it easy to get caught up in the words (so this is a backtracking concession, an apology of sorts). And more importantly (much more importantly), I would not begin to know how to Give Glory to God, even if I wanted to try.

And with that (as my final observation), please let me return your attention to the pictures that graced the top of the page (and included as section breaks, throughout). There are no Answers. And I am no longer sure it was ever intended to be a Question... just something to be enjoyed.

Heroism (as Art) Lies in the Eye of the Beholder

It is the same series of four images that top the page, Swirling bits of grey on dark tones These are all pretty much the same, just a little different It is the reflection of a building off the water, if you must know The ripples of the nearly flat surface distorting the straight lines of the building


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It is True Nihilism.

I wish it were more.

And if by some chance you are a True Hero, please do not take offence when a Mere Mortal cannot recognize your actions as such.

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Brett@Paufler.net