by Frank Schnittger
Sat Sep 26th, 2009 at 10:21:37 AM EST
The debate over who should be the first President of the EU Council and our collective inability to come up with a strong alternative to Blair got me thinking about how few heroes I really have. It's not as if I go around looking for people to look up to - for people on whom I can project my ambitions, desires and frustrations. It's not as if I think I'm as good as anybody else and don't need others to do what I can not. And it is not as if the search for heroes hasn't been historically disastrous more often than not. The cult of the personality, whether of Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and perhaps now Obama, has generally led to very unhappy results.
However most of marketing and popular politics seems to revolve around trying to persuade us that Brand X or Politician Y is the answer to all our problems. The left has, traditionally, tried to focus more on policy than on personalities, but this has often led to it winning academic debates and losing popular elections. As anyone who has tried to de-construct neo-liberal economics or neo-conservative politics knows, it is not the intellectual rigour or factual accuracy which wins political arguments, but the power of images, mass media, and financial resources. And before we get too po faced about this, it is worth noting that Trotsky, Che Guevara, Castro, and Allende have also gotten some uncritical adulation from parts of the left over the last few decades.
Perhaps there is something in-built in our nature which leads us to want and need heroes - people who embody what we can't or don't want to be - but who have made the world somewhat closer to what we would like it to be. So who are your heroes, and what do your choices tell us about you? I'll lay my cards on the table: Whilst acknowledging their human flaws, I believe the world would have been a much poorer place without Gandhi, Gorbachev, Mandela, Dylan, Yeats... but I really struggle to come up with a lot of names after that. I do have my local heroes, of course, people who wouldn't thank me for mentioning their names in public. But what strikes me is how few people I could unequivocally name as having made the world a better place - or my life a happier one. So maybe it is all down to us and what we do after all.
So what about you? Any heroes or people who greatly influenced you that you would like to share with us?