Today’s heroic action will be a betrayal of an old heroic figure and heroism. It is commonly assumed that in order to overcome absence of values and nihilism, dominant in our society, we need more examples of heroism. Actually, nihilism already in itself involves the need of heroes―nihilism and quest for heroes do not contradict each other, and the latter can’t conquer the former. We should go beyond the paradigm of heroism, which always is a search for superhuman, a tool to legitimise war, and a way to prevent reinventing one’s identity.
Where were you, Adam?
Heroism is escapism. At the first glance, heroism is a manifestation of life. However, in real terms, heroism turns to be an excuse for avoiding participation in releasing of burden of daily activities, an indifference towards a fellow man. Heroism neglects importance of involvement in everyday life as it is perceived as ordinary, common and transient. A desire to overcome daily life and an obsession with heroic action lay ground for refusing responsibility for our everyday actions. Therefore, counterintuitively, heroism might be considered as an anti-social phenomenon. Besides social dimension, pursuit for heroism has an existential one too―it deprives a sense and significance of life, which exists outside the scope of heroic action.
The land that needs heroes.
Heroes might play the role of maintainers of ideological status-quo and power of political class. Political regime relies on heroism of its citizens to overshadow all the insecurities of the state. Heroes are creations of the state: heroes are the part of nation’s collective memory. Therefore, here is a legitimate question: who needs the image of heroes and what kind of heroes dominates official discourses? It is the same as with history: what kind of past does the present need? The one, which justifies current logic of governance and/or legitimizes past and future wars, as most images of heroes are connected to war. Even more, as Alain Badiou puts it, heroism needs war as its stage.
War is contextually associated with the phenomenon of self-sacrifice. It is not a coincidence that the most horrific event is always surrounded by magnificent images of heroes. Heroism legitimizes war and helps to maintain sacred and solemn militaristic rhetoric. If particular heroic act of self-sacrifice is something that we should be proud of, then the notion of ‘tragedy’ loses its sense. Therefore, heroism makes tragedy impossible by substituting very particular human death with abstract notion of glory. Heroism deprives human being of an authentic human face.
Trap of narrow identities.
Heroism strengthens the image of ‘Other’. It enhances not only the understanding of who we are and who we don’t want to be at any level of analysis, but excludes the sphere for possibility of a Dialogue between two different identities. By maintaining the simple dichotomy of Friend and Enemy, it almost eliminates realm for self and other’s reidentification and mutual recognition. There is a chance to fall into the trap of narrowly defined identities.
Not everything that is not heroism is cowardice. By overcoming this binary opposition, one can find herself/himself cherishing ideas of daily responsibility, courage and dignity.
Photo from M.Minakov’s “Photosophy” (2017)