“The roots of violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles.” (Mahatma Ghandi)
Perhaps it’s the lack of real conflict, the absence of war that’s caused the aberration in the words ‘hero’ and ‘warrior’. English, language in general evolves as we do, but I must say I do not like the new expanded definition of these two words. First, the NRL started using the term ‘hero’ in relation to its players; last night, I heard a new AFL advert refer to footballers as ‘warriors’. Describing people with attributes that they simply have not proved is something the media needs to rectify.
A hero in my mind is someone who risks his life or quality of life for the sake of others, with no expectation of personal reward. It’s the stranger who runs into a burning house to rescue a child, the woman who runs the women’s health clinic in a region where she is likely to be a subject of rape herself, the recovery workers in the earthquake zones, the nuclear power plant workers trying to minimise disaster in Fukushima, knowing they cannot avoid the extreme levels of irradiation and effects on their bodies.
A warrior fights, knowing that he may well lose his life. If he’s fortunate, he may come away with nothing more than scars to his body, but it’s likely that those to his psyche will balance the tally if his physical wounds are limited. A warrior, as opposed to a thug, has an ethical code, believing in not picking on anyone weaker than himself, never throwing the first punch and only going so far as to ensure the safety of himself and those dear to him. He does not seek to simply vent rage, but rather protect what is important to him, to stand up for the rights of others.
Sportsmen risk nothing of import. They gain substantial income in an enterprise that is relatively short-lived and based purely on self-gratification, the accolades of an adoring club of fans. The pleasures that come, the girls, the fast cars, the bank balance, come with little consideration for the impact on others; no conscience and, as evidenced by the string of sex scandals in recent years, no morality. They are worshipped for no real reason other than their freakish athleticism and strength. When the gladiators fought, they really did risk their lives, their income, and their social status.
A hero is selfless and expects no recompense for his deeds and he must humble. It is this that differentiates the two most clearly. Some warriors are heroes, performing acts of such bravery in circumstances so dire that they never expect to survive. A soldier on the battlefield who draws fire away so that his comrades can make a counter assault to escape would be a warrior-hero.
The heroes I see in Australia today are few. Of the deceased, I could name Mary MacKillop and Eddie Mabo. Dr. Helen Caldicott, the anti-nuclear campaigner is a current Australian I admire, but I’m not sure she counts as a hero. There are people I admire, from those I work with in healthcare who give many more hours than people often realise, to those who teach our children and yes, even the police who protect us, despite the rotten eggs in the barrel that they must periodically fish out, who abuse their power. I share my life with a warrior and know how he thinks, I know what drives him, I understand his morals and beliefs, but he’s not a hero. Few people become heroes. Fewer still, of those heroes are remembered for the sacrifices they made to better someone else’s existence. Even Bonnie Tyler mistakes hero for warrior.
Anyone know where I can find a bona fide, real life Australian hero? Perhaps the search and rescue teams working the earthquake zones and the nuclear power plant rescuers are worthy of the tag of ‘hero’.