Saturday, 1 September 2012

Dogged heroes

The popular idea of a hero or heroine is someone who has done something brave and life-threatening, but to me the real heroes are those who persist in something they believe in, or simply stay true to themselves, despite relentless harassment and persecution from other people.

They just stick to their chosen path with quiet determination, refusing to compromise and refusing to give in to the bullies and bigots.

To my mind, that can be more heroic than a person doing something that's courageous and risky but which is generally supported and applauded by the public and they aren't also fighting for the right to do what they're doing.

Certainly rescuing someone from a burning house is heroic, but what about insisting on your own identity in the teeth of violent opposition? Opposition you may have to endure for decades? Opposition that may extend to death threats and murder? Isn't that heroic too?

I think of people like Manal al-Sharif, who has campaigned in Saudi Arabia against the ban on women drivers, and has been hounded by the government and forced out of her job.

Or Karen Silkwood, who investigated claims of dangerous practices at a US nuclear plant and died in mysterious circumstances.

Or Amy Lees, stalked for nine months by her ex-boyfriend, who put her details on a sex website so strangers kept pestering her.

Or Paris Lees (no relation), the transsexual campaigner who has been constantly abused and attacked simply for rejecting her given gender.

Or Lydia Cacho, the Mexican journalist who writes on sex trafficking, prostitution and pornography and has been physically attacked, raped, tortured and had numerous death threats.*

These are my heroes, these are the people I really admire for their dogged persistence in the face of seething hostility and repeated attempts to shut them up.

In short, people who refuse to take the easy way out.

* Yes, they're all women. It just happened to be women who sprang to mind.

PIC: Manal al-Sharif


  1. This is my idea of a hero too...and often heroes are unwilling or inadvertantly so, just doing their job or sticking to their guns...excellent post.

  2. Ditto what Leah just said! I also like the idea that anyone can accidentally become a hero through sheer strength of belief.

  3. Leah: Yes, I guess most of them wouldn't think of themselves as heroes but just stubborn so-and-sos.

    Scarlet: This is it, sheer strength of belief compels them to defy all the rotten eggs that are thrown at them.

  4. No disagreement here. In fact I get sick of our sporting greats being referred to as 'heroes' we seem to have forgotten what the word means.

  5. Baino: Indeed, the sports champions are impressive, but only for perfecting a certain skill. So why aren't highly-skilled scientists or surgeons referred to as heroes? Because they're not, they're just people doing a job very well.

  6. there are rare surgeons who have hero status conferred on them

  7. Kylie: That's true. But I still think they're skilled surgeons rather than heroes.

  8. It is not surprising that your choice of heroes all turn out to be women. By just being women they become heroes as they do not have life as easy as it is for men.

    It is so particularly in traditional societies like Asian, where for thousands of years women have been treated as second class citizens and trained to be subservient to men. The odds are stacked against the modern ones and those who do succeed in whatever passion that they follow deserve to be called heroes more than men who seen to hog the headlines all the time.

  9. Ramana: I think you're right up to a point that women have a tougher time than men simply because they're treated as second-class citizens, but there are plenty of men who've also been faced with harassment and persecution for their activities or beliefs. I just didn't think of them!

  10. Agree with your criteria and add Peter Tatchell to your list. Like the Terminator he never gives up - though I imagine it's a lonely, cash-strapped existence.

  11. Paul: Yes, Peter Tatchell's a good example. He's been sneered and scoffed at for decades but he never gives up. And who's ever called Peter a hero? More likely they just call him a bloody nuisance....

  12. Oh, for the benefit of my foreign visitors - Peter Tatchell is a gay rights and political campaigner.