Friday, 5 August 2016

Feet of clay

Hero worship is a funny thing. Generally rational, sensible people pledge their allegiance to someone, and henceforth that person is so perfect they can do no wrong. If you voice the mildest criticism of their idol, they go bananas.

Can they not see that everyone has feet of clay, everyone has personal failings and hang-ups, that absolutely nobody is perfect? Apparently not.

The cult-like worship of the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is a case in point. His thousands of supporters, aka Corbynistas, are quite sure he can walk on water, that he is a political genius, and any setbacks are always the fault of someone else.

Anyone who suggests Jeremy is falling down on the job, that he's not an effective leader, that he's not doing enough to woo the voters, is treated to a hail of abuse and venom as if they had insulted the Queen.

There are plenty of similar "heroes" whose fans jump on critics like a ton of bricks. Like Caitlyn Jenner or Lady Gaga or Margaret Thatcher. They're put on an artificial pedestal they simply don't deserve.

As a teenager, I was a bit of a hero-worshipper myself. First it was rock stars like the Beatles and the Stones, then it was fashionable rebels like the psychiatrist Ronnie Laing, the black activist Angela Davis and militant feminists like Germaine Greer.

But you would expect adulthood to bring a more realistic view of the world and the realisation that there are no heroes, only fallible mortals who get drunk and swear and make colossal blunders the same as the rest of us. Nobody but nobody is a pure and saintly human being, and treating them as if they are is just idiotic.

I can safely say I haven't hero-worshipped anyone for decades, and I'm astonished at the number of people who do. I threw away the rose-tinted spectacles some time ago.

23 comments:

Judy Harper said...

I know what you mean. Audrey Hepburn was my hero. In public, you see a glamorous actress. But what awed me was, as a teenager, she and her Mom helped fight against Hitler, even risked her life. She came from a rich family, but because they had to leave her country, they were financially poor; yet she rose above that, without hoopla, just on the quiet. Very good post.

Nick said...

Judy: Audrey Hepburn certainly looks like a hero, with her work for impoverished children around the globe and the apparent lack of any major personal failings, apart from a long-term eating disorder. But maybe she kept her hang-ups well hidden.

Bijoux said...

I feel as though in America, the only people 'worshipped' are sports figures. Sad, but true.

Yes, nobody is perfect, but there are still folks out there who are heroes based upon little to do with fame and fortune. Off the top of my head, anyone who donates bone marrow or a kidney.

CheerfulMonk said...

No hero worshipping here. I was amused to read an article about Trump supporters today --- they realize he's a crook, but at least he's an honest one. He doesn't pretend to be a public servant the way Hillary Clinton does. Cynicism abounds.

Nick said...

Judy: I also read that Audrey Hepburn suffered from depression as a result of multiple miscarriages and her failed marriages. She is also said to have suffered from survivor's guilt after many friends and neighbours were taken to their death in World War 2.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Sports figures are worshipped in the UK too, despite personal failings which the fans are quite tolerant of. I don't think I'd describe someone giving bone marrow or a kidney as a "hero". Generous and altruistic perhaps.

Jean: Trump is a good example of hero worship. He says and does the most outrageous things but his supporters don't mind in the slightest, in fact it just makes them love him all the more. Utterly bizarre.

Wisewebwoman said...

I love so called heroes more when their flaws are evident. It makes them human. I can emulate a human who does great things.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: Me too, someone with obvious flaws is more human, more interesting, more likeable. If someone is made out to be flawless, I just think, who are you kidding?

Secret Agent Woman said...

I agree with Bijoux about sports figures as heroes here, and on the unfortunateness of that phenomenon, I'd add rock stars and other celebrities.

Real heroes are people who put themselves in danger in one way or another to help someone else out. Those people have my admiration.

BTW, the juxtapositions of the criticisms and name-calling in comments on the post about people's dark sides was entertaining.

helen devries said...

I've escaped hero worship,luckily...I like to take people as they are.
I came across Jeremy Corbyn years ago...he's a 'dogged as does it' sort of person - not charismatic in my view: I can only suppose that people are so desperate for an alternative that they expect too much.

tammy j said...

I've never hero worshipped a politican.
but when younger I think I did hero worship Jacque Cousteau.
I never missed one of his special shows on TV.
he was a very humble man whose life was dedicated to ocean conservancy.
he was trying to protect the oceans years and years ago.
if we had only listened.

Nick said...

Agent: I agree the real heroes are those who risk danger to help others. What's heroic about a rock star strutting around the stage to wild applause?

Yes, I also appreciated the unexpected display of people's dark sides!

Helen: Jeremy is not remotely charismatic. Or even eloquent. Which is why the extreme adulation is so baffling.

Nick said...

Tammy: I'd forgotten about Jacques Cousteau. As you say, he was well before his time in trying to protect the oceans from human pollution. He would be horrified by all the marine creatures choking on plastic.

Hattie said...

I'm with you on this. Once upon a time I worshipped popular icons and politicians but no more.

Nick said...

Hattie: Politicians in particular often attract huge acclaim when they're standing for office, only to prompt widespread disillusion when most of their campaign promises go unfulfilled.

mia more said...

Well I have no real heroes, but a deep admiration for persons like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Abie Nathan and all those who fight today for a better World, not giving up the hope that things can change.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: Admiring someone is a more realistic attitude than seeing them as a hero. You're not putting them on a pedestal but simply impressed by something about them. I wasn't aware of Abie Nathan. Definitely someone to admire for his persistent campaigns for peace-building.

Keith Smith said...

There is a young man in our village who hero worships Adolf Hitler to the extent of having had plastic surgery on his nose and cheeks, dyed his hair black and parts it over his forehead and grew a little mustache, also dyed black. He really does look the part. He is mentally handicapped and has to have a "minder" for his own protection whenever he goes out. Everybody knows him and generally humours him. It's a shame because he is a nice chap really.

Like you, I have never hero worshiped anybody, but perhaps admired a few people.

Nick said...

Keith: I'm never quite sure whether to believe your stories, they're so extraordinary - and I know you have a wicked sense of humour. All I can say is, if anyone round here dressed like that, they'd probably be lynched!

Rummuser said...

If you want to see hero worship, you have to come to India's film heroes and heroines. Their followers build temples for them and will commit suicide if they do not give them audience etc. I personally have never had a hero to worship and do not understand such fanaticism. http://lmt-lss.com/the-culture-of-hero-worship-in-india/

Nick said...

Ramana: Admiration for someone's talent is fair enough, but the sort of hero-worship that goes to such absurd lengths and will brook no criticism I find inexplicable.

Jenny Woolf said...

Very disturbing when people hero worship political figures, disturbing in every possible way.

Nick said...

Jenny: You'd think people would know better, on the basis of so many past disappointments. I fear that if Jeremy Corbyn ever becomes Prime Minister, many of those people who are currently idolising him will be sorely chastened as he inevitably falls short of expectations.