On Heroes and Idols

I will get back to my progress on the horror short, erm, shortly. Right now I’m in the process of getting a new lens for my camera which I want to show off to you guys, but it’s taking some time to get my grubby mitts on it.

This morning I watched this video on YouTube:

If you can spare a few minutes I think you’d enjoy it because it raises some good questions about how time warps our perception of historical figures and events, using Nikola Tesla (inventor of AC electricity amongst countless other things) as a prime example. This got me thinking…

Does history paint a rosy picture of the past? Hiding the less inspirational parts so the message of the story is not ruined?

The idea that history is written by the winners is not a new idea, but somehow this video painted it in a new light for me. Maybe because I have a huge fascination and respect for Nikola Tesla, to the point that I got very excited in Croatia when every town had a street named after him; but I’ve also been touting this train of thought for a while now. During my Blog Every Day In April fiasco, I wrote a couple of posts about how people want to be perceived, and how they perceive others. Paradox played with the idea that we cannot be put into a single box, knowing someone likes Games of Thrones or is a Whovian doesn’t give you the whole picture. The second post looked into the falseness of idolising people in the way Elphaba, in the theatrical show Wicked, makes the Wizard of Oz her role model, only to discover he is as human and insecure as her.

Elphaba idolises the Wizard in Wicked, despite his shortcomings. Do we forget that we’re all 3D and no-one is explained in a single sentence?

History does the same thing. It has a wonderful habit of remembering the good about people, such as Tesla’s amazing scientific discoveries, while burying the weird stuff like his obsession with a pigeon… and racism. But, as the video above, and Wicked, go to illustrate, maybe this is exactly what the human race needs. We garner motivation from achievement, don’t we? If history didn’t paint a rosy picture of civil uprising, of underdogs and morals winning the day, how would we believe that within ourselves is something that can change the world?

I don’t feel like I’m jumping the shark to suggest that religion offers just that. A rosy solution to the past that preaches how positive actions can make a difference. You could point to terrorist attacks and religiously motivated hate crimes and paint a different story, but that debate is for another time. Everyone following a faith sees it as a way to find meaning and purpose, to help them make the right choices in life. If nothing else, religion helps with the stress and pace of everyday life. And why shouldn’t history offer that too?

The 21st century has brought about an information age where the lives of everyone are more public that ever before. You could argue that this makes finding a 21st century hero harder. Olympic athletes who fail drug tests, Popstars who twerk, Presenters who do unspeakable things to kids, politicians who sleep with rent boys… the media would have you believe that these people are the devil. But does this really change all the good things they did? I know the controversial one here is Jimmy Savile. Once he was out-ed for his atrocities, tens of memorials to the BBC presenter were removed across the country. Now I’m not here to say if that was right or wrong, but it goes to show how history is only representative to a point. This BBC story explores how this case, and other damnatio memoriae (the damnation of the memory) stories in recent and ancient history ask the question: “Is there an ethical duty to preserve the truth of what happened, no matter how unpalatable it might be?” Ultimately, despite the answer, there is no overarching vehicle for preserving public affection or opinion, so history will always be written by a lot of small decisions by many people.

Nobody is perfect. And in the information age this can possibly be seen more than ever, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of heroes, even if they are a little rough around the edges. We all have a chance to make a difference, take it. The little things count more than you think.

I know this post didn’t really answer anything, but I don’t think the answer is the important or interesting part to this. It’s about the debate, and how it shapes the way we live our lives. Until next time x