Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

Objectivist Heroes
by JJ Tuan

What is a hero?  A hero is someone who stands for our values and achieves great things.  He is an embodiment of qualities we hold highest and strive for in ourselves.  How does Objectivism fit in when it comes to heroism?  Is there a difference between a hero in the traditional sense and an Objectivist hero?

A traditional hero usually emerges in a time of conflict: an evil force threatens peace and a world in crisis cries out for someone to step up.  He is thrown into action by the bigger circumstances. The greater the evil, the more epic his heroic act.  And he usually quietly returns to ordinary life after world order is restored.  His value is significantly diminished in a conflict-free environment.

Contrast this with Objectivist heroes like John Galt of "Atlas Shrugged" and Prometheus of "Anthem".  When the world is upside-down, they hold their own and persevere.  But a world in harmony is when they are thriving, producing and creating the most.  The less turmoil the world is in, the greater their heroic acts.  Furthermore, a hostile setting is altogether unnecessary for an Objectivist hero to distinguish himself.  Howard Roark and Hank Rearden are excellent examples in this regard.

This comparison brings about the question: what exactly makes these two types of heroes behave so differently?  To answer this, we need to take a look at the prerequisites of each.  What made them heroes in the first place?

The making of a traditional hero usually requires two elements: a world in conflict and unique personal qualifications, often bestowed by fate, chance or birth.  Examples are Superman, Spiderman, Richard Cypher, Harry Potter, Frodo, to name a few.  But these two elements don't happen in real life very often.  The world isn't constantly collapsing and their special powers, not only unearned and unearnable, but also have little bearing on every day living.  It becomes then tricky to make them resonate with regular people.  Often, the solution is to make them uphold an ordinary and uneventful life as their ideal.  Thus showing that deep down, they are just "one of us".  As soon as their heroic acts are done, they hurriedly return to being ordinary.

What about Objectivist heroes?  They are normal people who made themselves exceptional.  Their heroic acts are possible due to years of purposeful hardwork and continuous self-improvement, independent of circumstances.  Given their capabilities are developed precisely for living well on earth, it's no wonder that their heroism doesn't spawn from the presence of a dark force, and that their skills are powerful living tools when their environment doesn't hold them back.  For such heroes to be accessible to ordinary people requires no dumbing them down.  They were born ordinary to begin with and made themselves into heroes.  Every one of us has what it takes to become an Objectivist hero.

Objectivist heroes thrive in peace time.  Everyone has the choice to become his/her own Objectivist hero.
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