A long time ago, I was interviewed for entrance to a private college prep school...I was 15. One of the last things they asked was what I felt was the biggest problem facing kids today, to which I answered that there were no more heroes. I still feel this is a problem. Think back, back through time. There was a time when there were heroes in the world. I don't even necessarily mean real people, just those that stood for something positive and who were so big everybody, adult and child, knew them. Whether that person was Superman or Joe DiMaggio, everyone was a fan...and everyone agreed that they were great. In their own ways, they made a difference, and we loved them.
Who are our heroes of today? I have trouble thinking of even one. Our funny-pages heroes have turned into licensing and lawsuit nightmares, their messages lost behind flashy effects, merchandising, and angry parents who want to blame them for their son getting beat up or jumping off the roof. Our sports heroes are little more than paychecks, and the competition to be the face on the Wheaties box or to endorse sneakers has overshadowed the competition to play the game. Video games? Yeah, whatever. Movie stars? Goddess, don't get me started...I think you know where that one would go.
We don't have anyone to believe in anymore. Those few that we could either turn out to be no better than anyone else, or get shot in the gut by the mayhem-hungry media, who seem to have forgotten that they are there to REPORT the news, not MAKE it. That leaves only believeing in yourself, and we seem to be doing a damn fine job of training our children not to do that, either.
I mentioned fear, and that is something that occured to me last night: we no longer fear. Fear is not a bad thing...it teaches you healthy paranoia and respect. I don't mean you have to be curled in the corner, whimpering like a whipped dog. But when you fear something, you learn to face it, deal with it, and you grow. However, we have systematically euphemised everything we can, and made everything else out to be not a fraction as bad as it could be, through rationalization or ignorance. As a result, nothing is to fear, not evil or retribution, not retaliation or danger.
Where is this getting us? Attitudes are more arrogant, respect has disappeared, and stupidity is up. Why fear it, when you believe that you are untouchable and invincible? This only leads to more confrontation and less responsibility, because we did not fear things enough to learn about them. We place more blame on others, and accept less for ourselves. Our children do the DUMBEST things, because they know no fear, and our adults act as if they are blameless. Our country acts like it is everybody's daddy, and our people feel that they don't have to answer for anything they do, since they do not fear the punishment.
In 'Apocalypse Now', Col. Walter E. Kurtz says "You must make a friend of horror and moral terror; if they are not your friends, they are enemies truly to be feared." Therein lies the problem. Instead of learning them to make them friends, we tried to explain them away, and just act like they are friends...and they have become our enemies, because you cannot make a friend until you know and respect it. And they are killing us. Fear, then knowledge, then respect. Shortcuts do not work here. We have become a society of shortcuts, we try to jump to the end of everything, and we have forgotten that, as Geddy Lee once sang, "The point of a journey is not to arrive." The journey itself is significant, because that is where the lessons are.
Accept nothing. Fear that which you do not know. Respect it until you understand it, then make your choice.
Fear the dark.
(PS - the 'hero' part is almost exactly what I told those interviewers (almost...it was 15 years ago, after all; my memory is only so good). I later learned that they accepted me on the spot. My testing scores were incredible, no worries, but, based on that spontaneous speech, they wanted me. Guess they were tired of the 'drugs' and 'sex' and 'peer pressure' stories they tended to get.)