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  1. #1

    Question Heroes, villains, ability, and shifting cultural attitudes

    Why do people have such a hard time distinguishing qualities from individuals, individuals from single-common-denominator groups, and (in)competence from (anti)heroism?

    If my Facebook newsfeed over the past week is any indication, it seems to me that there is a cultural tug-of-war between different factions of the populace that believe it is acceptable to deify or vilify certain individuals or groups of people based on their particular view of what is 'praise-worthy'.

    A few recurring hero-or-villain debates seem to pop up again and again with people fist-pumping from either side of the aisle:

    • celebrities
    • politicians
    • public servants
    • members of the armed forces
    • the wealthy
    • the poor
    • any group/individual that is a combination of any of the above

    These types of individuals and their subgroups seem to fall in and out of favor among the population over different periods of time. For example, in our current cultural climate I think it is socially acceptable to deify servicemen (and -women), talented celebrities, and bus drivers while it is okay to vilify men, welfare recipients, and educators. And of course, there's always the crossfire between supporters of these shifting popular attitudes where one bunch tries to buck the adulation of another by erecting their own "counter-revolutionary" sacred cow.

    I believe that neither individual ability or voluntary, compensatory public service should be confused with heroism. I believe personal sacrifice, courage, and intent can be indicative of heroism, but do not always warrant the title. I prefer to admire qualities rather than (groups of) people, so I ask you...

    Why do people have such a hard time distinguishing qualities from individuals, individuals from single-common-denominator groups, and (in)competence from (anti)heroism?
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  2. #2
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    I've noticed this culture war myself and mentioned it lots of times on this forum, I think that its a reflection of the fact that politics is slowly morphing into something like a spectator sport and a lot of opinionated people are like hooligans in the stands.

    Reading your topical dividing line, which I think is correct, the divide in your social scene seems like patriotic libertarians vs. others.

    There isnt any self-critical perspective and there wont be, its a win-lose, perfectly good vs. perfectly evil, even pragmatism when its deployed is usually as a tactic in the overall game playing and its phony, so you have "I'm pragmatic, I only believe in unemployment and starvation or illness being used to control people, I dont think the wealthy should just be allowed to pop a cap in their ass" sort of thing.

    At least Neil Young was able to sing on Living With War about loving his country but that it had an ugly side, most people with pet causes will not admit there's an ugly side because they'll see it as some kind of surrender.

  3. #3

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    The catalyst for this thought process (though a long time coming) was my newsfeed clogged with Whitney Houston tributes and awkward, pro-military retorts (i.e. the Marine should be the real celebrity!). Blah blah blah.
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

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    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iwakar View Post
    The catalyst for this thought process (though a long time coming) was my newsfeed clogged with Whitney Houston tributes and awkward, pro-military retorts (i.e. the Marine should be the real celebrity!). Blah blah blah.
    Not so much traffic on mine, but then I find that a lot of FB users here dont express a lot of strong, strong opinions on FB or broach controversial topics, at least in my circle but then I know its possible to use settings to limit what other FB users can view.

  5. #5

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    AH the internet make small things turn into big things, just like its mass communication father medium the TV and its mass communication grandfather medium the radio!

    Dont look into other peoples opinions too much or you'll never understand anything.

    I'm going to be honest with you guys and say I wasnt really sure what to post because I'm not sure what your asking...

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    Freaking Ratchet Rail Tracer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iwakar View Post
    The catalyst for this thought process (though a long time coming) was my newsfeed clogged with Whitney Houston tributes and awkward, pro-military retorts (i.e. the Marine should be the real celebrity!). Blah blah blah.
    Seen this happen, but not as big.

    The thing with Whitney Houston, she is only a person. Yes, her death was tragic. Does it warrant a week or two of constant "Houston-ness?" Her coverage has basically overshadowed everything. The pro-military retorts are masking that fact.

    But there is a retort I hear often from the U.S. and other countries. The U.S. have different priorities from the other countries. While other new sites dedicated to other countries were mainly talking about the Greek Riots and what was happening in and around Syria, U.S. newspapers were mainly talking about Houston.

    Most "popular" stories right now:
    Whitney Houston's journey 'home' ends

    ESPN fires writer of offensive headline

    Lindsay Lohan to host SNL

    Bobby Brown leaves Houston funeral after spat

    >.< all entertainment related.

    A pastor takes a chunk of the front page, Syria takes an even smaller square.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Not so much traffic on mine, but then I find that a lot of FB users here dont express a lot of strong, strong opinions on FB or broach controversial topics, at least in my circle but then I know its possible to use settings to limit what other FB users can view.
    "FB users here?" Do you mean Ireland or are you talking about TypCers on FB?
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rail Tracer View Post
    Seen this happen, but not as big.

    The thing with Whitney Houston, she is only a person. Yes, her death was tragic. Does it warrant a week or two of constant "Houston-ness?" Her coverage has basically overshadowed everything. The pro-military retorts are masking that fact.
    I'm talking about individuals posting their opinions on said events, not just linking news articles. Setting up an entire group of people as honorable and beyond question (military servicemen) is not a rational counter to setting up a celebrity as honorable and beyond question. It's the same judgment error. People are very intolerant of allowing a positive point about a generally criticized entity to be made or a negative point about a generally revered entity to be made. (For example, I conceded that Whitney Houston was a very talented individual and people assumed that meant I thought she was more important than all the other 'everyday heroes that go unrecognized.' Ridiculous!) I got odd passive-aggressive retorts in other people's statuses about "how some people can't cope with others keeping it real" coupled with images like this. Yeah, I said she was talented because she was; she was also very sick and had some serious life-coping issues. I don't condone her drug addiction just because I thought it was a shame for such talent to go to waste. All life and talent is precious even if I don't think it was treated with the reverence it ought to have been by the person in care of it. And let's be serious --contrarily, people criticizing Whitney Houston may get flak, but not nearly as much as someone that dares to criticize the military or one of its members.

    I did the bus driver link in the op because someone shared a story about how a bus driver saw smoke pouring out of the dashboard of her schoolbus, so she escorted the 6 children off of the bus and waited by the side of the road until help came before the bus burst into flames 5 minutes later. "She's a hero!" they're all updating. Well... I'm gonna be frank, I don't think she is. I do think she's a stand-up person. I think she's competent. I think she did her d*mn job. I feel good about her being a schoolbus driver and having sense enough to get those children out of harm's way. But why is something like this considered heroism in the public discourse? I think it boils down to oversimplification --a culture that has been culled and groomed for many years by media and other figures in need of their support or ire to serve their own agendas. (I'm sure there are other reasons that I'm not thinking of that I hope others can contribute, hence presenting my question in the op.)

    People have a very, very hard time separating individual observations on a small scale from larger "feelings" like support/condemnation on a large scale. I think humans have to get better at complicated perspectives unless we're going to stagnate as a species. Simplifying every opinion or gesture into a black-or-white "choosing of sides" is how we keep getting shitty leadership, a two-party system, and massively swayed public opinion over 5-second sound bites... or, if we wanna take the military-as-celebrity opinion at its face value-- military dictatorship. (FWIW, I know that person is promoting an idea they haven't really thought through, which is of course my point about the sin of oversimplification.)
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  9. #9
    Senior Member Tiger Owl's Avatar
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    What is FB???
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    People have a very, very hard time separating individual observations on a small scale from larger "feelings" like support/condemnation on a large scale.
    Intellectual laziness rules the day.

    These people posting have no incentive to give it any more thought because they just want to identify with the trend and move on.

    I think humans have to get better at complicated perspectives unless we're going to stagnate as a species.
    That's a bit of a stretch.

    Does it bug me that the public generally has such a polarized view of popular figures? Yes.

    But no matter how shallow most news coverage is, and how many people identify with that shallowness, there are and will always be people who intellectually invest themselves in their opinions, and try to move the cultural conversation forward in a meaningful multifaceted way.



    Most importantly, if you are interested in reading real news, but your news site is mostly filled with entertainment garbage, you are reading the wrong site.

    There is plenty of good news out there for people with the inclination to look for it.

    It's not enough to find that real news either, before you accept what you read at face value, you need to take into consideration the biases and motives of the author.

    And in lieu of such information, decide what size the grain of salt you take with that news needs to be.

    America has a media and culture that is, by and large, frighteningly devoid of critical thought.

    But before you point fingers at others, make sure you've already pointed it at yourself.

    Quit letting TV or the internet (or anyone at all) do your thinking for you.

    Spend the time and think, I mean really think, about what your position is on different issues.

    Figuring out what you believe and where you stand, and thinking critically about what you hear and read, differentiates those of us who consume news and those who are manipulated by it.

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