Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Modern heroes

So I’m a geek. Well we knew that.

I’ve grown up reading comics, watching sci-fi, and getting excited by each new incarnation of Batman.
I got interested too in the notion of heroes. Why do we have the stories we do? Often they are throwbacks to the tales we have from antiquity. The demi gods that walked ancient Greece. Cunning Odysseus, Brave Achilles, Mighty Hercules. All of whom bear a striking resemblance to the caped crusader and his motley crew today. Speed, strength, agility of body and mind, they were the men who walked among us, but were not men, they were man plus, that little bit extra that made them the people we wanted to be.

The North had its fair share of stories too. We even adopted one of them. Thor is in comics and movies today just as he was in the centuries before Christ was born. Always portrayed as an everyman (and sometimes a bit thick) he was the hero we could relate to and aspire to all at the same time.

Even our religions have influenced the heroes we have today in our fiction. The notion of the messiah myth, someone who comes from a faraway place with supernatural powers to save us: Jesus and Superman both fit the criteria (though Jesus was here first).

But today what have we got? I mean for real? We have people who are our idols. We have the sports stars: people who get paid thousands, millions, to hone what they have to the very peak of perfection. And I don’t doubt they work damn hard.

But these are surely not the heroes who walk among us? These are supermen. There are no secret identities here, no hiding from the limelight. These people are not bank clerks or toll booth attendants, they are not journalists or lawyers, they are not hidden from us, they are in plain sight.

So where are the secret heroes? Where are the people we don’t expect?

They are coming to London in 8 days time. They are the people who serve you coffee, who answer the phone at the Credit Card company. They do your tax returns, they teach your children.

They are the people who said so what. Men and women who lost limbs to tragedy, lost their sight to misfortune. People who were born without, but did anyway. People who served their country and are thankful to be alive regardless of their condition.

If a hero is meant to do something besides save the damsel and defeat the bad guy it is to inspire. 

You want to meet superman, or do you want to meet the girl who loses her leg and then decides to get up at 5 every morning to train for the swim team or the guy who lost both legs and then ran an Olympic final.

In 8 days time the biggest celebration of what it means to be human is coming to London. Thousands of people who refused to lie down and accept the world will show us all what it means to be a hero.

And at the end, just like in the movies. They will hang up their costume, they will go back to their jobs as a bank clerk or a tollbooth attendant, as a lawyer or a journalist and you won’t know, you just won’t know.

But maybe, just maybe, one day when their guard is down, you’ll catch a faint glimpse of gold as they reach for something in their bottom desk drawer.

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