Heroes are Individuals

Wired has an article about the Stanford prison experiment and Abu Ghraib.  This jumped out at me.

To be a hero you have to take action on behalf of someone else or some principle and you have to be deviant in your society, because the group is always saying don’t do it; don’t step out of line. If you’re an accountant at Arthur Andersen, everyone who is doing the defrauding is telling you, “Hey, be one of the team.”

Heroes have to always, at the heroic decisive moment, break from the crowd and do something different. But a heroic act involves a risk. If you’re a whistle-blower you’re going to get fired, you’re not going to get promoted, you’re going to get ostracized. And you have to say it doesn’t matter.

Most heroes are more effective when they’re social heroes rather than isolated heroes. A single person or even two can get dismissed by the system. But once you have three people, then it’s the start of an opposition.

So what I’m trying to promote is not only the importance of each individual thinking “I’m a hero” and waiting for the right situation to come along in which I will act on behalf of some people or some principle, but also, “I’m going to learn the skills to influence other people to join me in that heroic action.”

I’ve written about this before.  Cultivate this mentality.

One Comment

  1. mexigogue says:

    I think the element of risk (stated above) is a very important element that people often overlook. It’s why I argue against it vehemently when people say that Christopher Reeve was a hero for championing stem cell research. He was, perhaps, a good guy but there was no risk involved in him arguing for stem cell research. He was already paralyzed at that point and he was simply advocating for something that would help him out (anyone else would have done the same thing). Risk would be if there was no third base in a baseball stadium and he offered to be third base, putting himself knowingly at the risk of an errant line drive.