Our species has been exposed. Given the availability of cheap junk food, between 40% and 50% of Americans are now obese. Given the availability of a neo-fascist leader, half the country will vote for him. Given the availability of superstitious humbug, billions of people are eager to bow before made-up gods. Given the chance to hate their neighbors, Protestants will hate Catholics and Catholics with hate Protestants, Shiites will hate Sunnis and Sunnis will hate Shiites, and Giants fans will hate Jets fans and Jets fan will hate Giants fans.
Our species has been exposed. Some rare individuals raise the bar but most set the bar low and wish it were even lower. It turns out that man just isn’t very pretty. But we do not know what he could be. On that, the jury is out. We suspect that as a species he will never prove very heroic. But what about lone individuals? Might individuals do better in the future and raise their own personal bar? Can we envision the implausible heroics of some future heroes, men and women who step out from the pack and say, “Enough!”
Of course, the problem is that heroism is so darn difficult. It comes with pain, pushback, and punishment. It comes with sacrifice and ultimate sacrifices. It is nothing at all like what we see in a Disney movie or a Rocky movie. All such fluff pieces follow a formula known as the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is the fairy tale version of heroism. It is a fairy tale set-up, the details of which every novelist and screenwriter is obliged to know, understand, and follow. It is a set-up that penetrates our psyche and gives us exactly what we want: happy endings. The hero’s journey plays us like a violin, let’s us sleep at night, and deadens our collective soul.
We need, not the constant replaying of the hero’s journey in our movies, books, and television shows, but a New Hero. This New Hero would have nothing to do with, and no interest in, the Hero’s Journey. Oh, sure, he might still watch reruns of The Bourne Conspiracy or Under Seize or Die Hard, because we all need our revenge fantasies and our recreations. But in his real life, he would prove a warrior for the good and would rebel against humbug, injustice, tyranny, and evil, despite the real consequences that he fully expects his actions to bring.
Currently, man is not okay. We can excuse him, of course, by mouthing some variation of “He’s only human.” But he doesn’t deserve excusing. And I suspect that there are millions of men who do not want to be excused that easily. What they want is an invitation. They want to be invited into the breach where they can do the right thing—those things that, when left undone, haunt them. It isn’t yet another revenge fantasy that they crave: it’s an action plan and an invitation.
Let me offer an invitation to these prospective New Heroes.
There is so much for them to do and so many sacrifices to make. Rather than despairing at their lack of efficacy, they can matter, maybe in absurdly small ways, but maybe also in ways that actually do some good. In kirism, the philosophy of life I’ve been developing and the subject of these Saturday blog posts, we talk a lot about absurd rebellion. These coming months and years will definitely require a New Hero who is well-versed in the tenets of absurd rebellion and the tactics of freedom.
Man has been exposed—he has lost his pants. But individual men and women can still pull theirs up. And so, the next question is, “What exactly should this New Hero do?” Please tune in next week as we examine his possibilities and present him with his marching orders.