Sunday, December 25, 2016

Heroes

In the past, I pointed out that most on the left joined, at least in past, out of a juvenile desire to be part of a "heroic struggle"*, that the left appeals especially to the young as it gives young people what they crave, the ability to be part of some melodramatic, "big", "important" struggle, to "make a difference" and so on. And, in general, those conservatives I know who read my arguments have agreed, seeing the immaturity in the need to be part of some titanic struggle, rather than simply being part of the "dull and boring" day to day life of productive work and family life.

The problem with this is that the right sometimes does the same. Where the left devalues everyday life by venerating those who struggle to overturn the way things are, the right has adopted a more "establishment", but every bit as melodramatic, view. For the right, the adoration is not for rebels, but rather for soldiers and police. In other words, they decided to reserve hero status for those who risk life and limb.

Now, I understand, in part this is a reaction to the left's tendency to denigrate both groups, and also because, these people really do risk life and limb, but still, if we look at it with objectivity, there is some of the same immaturity in the right's choice as the left's.

I am not trying to take away from the jobs done by soldiers and police (my father was a police officer, and most of my relatives have served in the military, some for their entire lives). They do important work. But there is something juvenile in holding forth as heroic and valuable only those who engage in life and death struggles, in praising only those who engage in an obvious struggle. In a way, it is simply the flip side of the left's veneration of the rebel**.

I would argue, those who deserve praise most of all are those who make our life possible, and as comfortable as it is. I mean by this, those who hold down a daily job, as well as those who found and run the businesses, who create the inventions and sell the products. In short, pretty much all those who do their part to keep things running. And yes, this includes police and soldiers, who play an important part, but not the only one.

This is not meant to denigrate soldiers or police, I believe both play an important role. Rather, I am trying to point out the role played by everyone else, a role the right tends to forget when praising only those engaged in some obvious and dramatic struggle. Yes, without police and soldiers, life would fall apart. But, I am willing to wager, if every store closed tomorrow, farms stopped growing and factories producing, society would collapse even more rapidly. Domestic criminals, and foreign aggressors, both can cause serious problems, but it would take time, much more time than would be required for the shut down of our economy to begin taking lives.

And thus, I think when we on the right are handing out laurels, it may be useful for us, at least sometimes, to stop praising exclusively the soldiers and police (and for a moment after 9/11, the "first responders"***), and maybe give a little praise to everyone else, all those engaged in running our massive, complex economy.

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* See "The Path of Least Resistance", "Juvenile Intellectuals", "Deadly Cynicism", "Self-Serving Cynicism and Our Cultural Immaturity", "O Tempora! O Mores!, or, The High Cost of Supposed Freedom", "An Immature Society", "Trophy Spouses", "Cranky Old Man?", "Pushing the Envelope", "Look Out It's the End Times!", "Life Is Not Fair - And Trying To Make It So Makes Things Worse", "Prelude to a Future Essay on Heroic Ethics and Romanticism", "The Threat of Perfection", "Utopianism and Disaster", "All Life in a Day, or, How Our Mistaken View of History Distorts Our Understanding of Events" and "Catastrophic Thinking, The Political, Economic and Social Impact of Seeing History in the Superlative".

** In a way, it is akin to the habit of the very young to think only of very visible figures who engage in obvious conflicts, soldiers, police, firemen and athletes. The very young cannot see anything interesting in the accountant or the physicist, and so he does not take an interest in them. Similarly, because there is no obvious struggle, or single dramatic achievement in accounting or on the assembly line, the right tends to forget the crucial role they play in our society.

*** Odd how this list so often sounds like a very young child's list of "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

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