Heroism: Are heroes born, or simply made

Every nation, society and family has its own hero and almost every country recognizes her fallen Heroes. All of us have ever day dreamed about a hero. The heroes of our day dreams vary; often as we grow, so does the idea of heroes develop and become more sophisticated and so the meaning of a hero.

Every nation, society and family has its own hero and almost every country recognizes her fallen Heroes. All of us have ever day dreamed about a hero. The heroes of our day dreams vary; often as we grow, so does the idea of heroes develop and become more sophisticated and so the meaning of a hero.

Who is a hero? What is it that someone must do to in order to be considered a hero? Is heroism a lifetime issue? Are heroes made or born? And if they are made, who makes them? Do we have general established criteria for selection of a hero?

All the above can be answered differently by different individuals, nations and societies. Commonly hero-worship is about looking up to some, we literally look up for those people who admire and have impacted our lives, thinking etc.

These may be parents - probably everyone’s first hero is their mothers or fathers; political leaders, soldiers, religious leaders, professionals like medical doctors and the list may be endless.

Every stage of growth in a human being comes with a new dimension of heroism. Your hero at the age of 10 years may not be still your hero at the age of 20, 30 and 40 years.

When we grow up and really begin to reconsider heroes, particular difficulties seem to occur again and again; the problem of identifying a hero then becomes too complex.

One assertion is that heroes are born and not made; that heroism is a matter of fate. While another one is that heroes are just made, and this also raises the question of who makes them.

History gives an illustration of the above two, whereby in ancient societies heroes were determined by the common understanding of individuals who make up the society.

Most people agree that heroes were literally extraordinary and performed astonishing deeds, far beyond capacities of an average person.

However, some other people possessed superhuman characteristics and extraordinary destiny from the moment of their birth.

An example is the man called Samson who the Bible talks of as having extraordinary strength that made him perform incredible feats that an ordinary person wouldn’t even dream of undertaking.

He just couldn’t have done it all had he not been extraordinary and yet because of his incredible nature and an aspect of himself over which he had no control, he was probably a hero to almost everyone then and to us who read his story today.

Another ancient figure who seemed almost more than human is Alexander the Great; in his various campaigns together with his men he conquered territory from Greece to India, penetrating 14,000 miles to the east of Greece.

In fact it is said that Alexander wept because there was no more world to conquer. It would be centuries before anyone could begin to match his stature.

Whether made or born, there is one quality that quickly comes to everyone’s mind in the discussion of heroism, which is courage.

The physical courage is portrayed when one is at work, for example soldiers: would their heroic nature be ever revealed if they do not go to war? But does this mean that it is only at war that we can discover and identify who is a hero according to what they do?

What about an ordinary mother who without thinking, rushes back to a smoking, flame-engulfed apartment in an attempt to save her helpless children from a hideous death? Is she doing it as an obligation or responsibility?

Even for a soldier it is his responsibility as a serving man to provide security to all people living in their area of jurisdiction.

Is being labeled a hero sometimes simply a matter of surrendering to impulse; should the above woman be seen as merely doing her duty?

What about a very poor parent, probably a widow who manages in his little capacity to educate his children to University level, surpassing other parents in the same category? Does this qualify her to be a hero or she is carrying out her responsibility? Is heroism detached from someone’s responsibility?

I think all the above persons are heroes but in different capacities and perspectives. Another issue of concern about heroism is; can heroes really be heroes if only a certain group in the society call them heroes?

Joan of Arch had a vision which directed her to make it possible for Charles VII to be crowned King of France. She was eventually made a saint. Joan was a heroine of French people who wanted to see Charles as king but England had her burned as a witch in 1431.

Likewise, Itwari Fred Rwigema together with others took up arms to liberate Rwandans but not all people even among Rwandans took it a s a heroic act, as much as he will always be a hero to us. Some people like the French, Habyarimana’s regime do not take him as a hero.

This brings me to another complex issue of who decides someone is a hero. Can people who are noble and admirable in one aspect of their lives but contemptible or immoral in other area still be called heroes? Can someone be a hero while still living?

The heroes I have seen celebrated and honored are the dead ones. Is heroism meant for dead people only?
We better start celebrating our heroes while they are still alive so that they also know that we appreciate their courageous service to the people.

What about being talented but having to struggle to express that talent? Can this qualify one to be a hero? Sometimes an individual gets an unusual call, and follows that call with total dedication to its conclusion.
All heroes do not only appear in great and traditional areas of confrontation war, religion and politics.

And, does time matter in understanding the creation of a hero? Heroism seems as if it should be a timeless and unchanging quality.

Traditionally, heroes best ride the ages and also it seems right that a hero is both immediately and continually perceptible. For example, the contemporary view of Jesus would not match Herod’s perception of him.

Napoleon might have been a hero of his time but I wonder whether if he was still alive and doing the same things today he would be listed as a hero. People who are nobodies at one moment are apparently heroes the next and then these people are gone again. 

As situations and periods change, usage and meaning of some concepts change to suit the prevailing situation, and so heroism and its determinant more likely to change. Though the core issues of heroism may not change, it is just understood differently according to norms, customs and traditions of a society, section and group.

On who makes heroes, it is all about the societies we live in. The military for example has it own way of determining who a hero should be; likewise the church, tribe, clan and kingdoms. There is no general accepted standard to base on while declaring one a hero.

However, one common understandable issue is the role of the media in making heroes. The media is so good and equally dangerous; it can make you a hero as much as it can destroy you.

It is true that without the media which discovers and certainly announces people of valour and honor to us, we might never get to know the heroes amongst us.

So please do not undermine yourself; you are a hero to some out there. You may not be celebrated and not awarded a silver medal, but you still remain a hero.

Someone in this world is living because of your heroic action, and again you might think you are a  nobody today and tomorrow you are somebody.

All the people we celebrate today were one time like you and they just rose to hero-status; so you can also make it. We are all very important to our country, family and community.

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