Warriors, soldiers, every last person worthy of the name has voluntarily put themselves in a position where they can be ordered to do something they know or believe will get them killed. And they do it. It’s not simply the risk of death. Any ass-hat that commutes to work can rightly claim that he risks death every day on the road. And there’s no selfish choice in it. You don’t get to pick only leaders you respect or to only obey orders you agree with.
That means a cherry lieutenant can give you an order to watch a street or hold a passage or take point and you will do it, even if it leaves you vulnerable. If the brand new team leader comes up with an entry plan and the plan is shit, you don’t get to say ‘no’ (there may or may not be a time for input). It becomes your responsibility to make the shitty plan work. To not die and not let others get killed, to the extent of your ability. But one person too arrogant to accept any plan except his own endangers everybody.
If you have never been in that circumstance, not only have you not earned even the basic, apprentice level of the title ‘warrior’ but I doubt that you can really discuss it with any intelligence, understanding or even integrity. That’s my opinion.
Heroes, heroism and heroics came up recently. It was in the context of thinly-veiled tribalism: "My side is heroic, that side is evil."
As I listened, it struck me that the named ‘heroes’ risked being called bad names and missing out on huge commissions... and that’s about it.
My definition of hero is pretty simple- someone who risks his or her own life to help other people. Not risking inconvenience. Not risking hurt feelings. Risk your life. If, barring the occasional crazy and road accidents, people or circumstances don’t try to kill you, the heroism label is off the table.
And there is no heroism in fighting only for yourself. Survivors, whether of assault or cancer, are not heroic. They are alive, and that is worthy of admiration enough… but any biological entity, even a worm, will struggle to survive.
That one hits a personal button with me, because I have known many brave and tough survivors and I do admire them… but they had no choice in the fight. Immense choice in how they fought, but no choice in the fight.
To make an analogy, running into a burning building to save someone would be heroic. Running out of a burning building to avoid dying (like seeking treatment for a horrible disease) is simple common sense. Almost a biological imperative.
There is one more thing about 'hero' and why anyone actively seeking the label is unworthy of it. My drill sergeant in basic training said, quite accurately, "You want to be a hero, son? Let me tell you: 'hero' is a four-letter word for someone who gets all of his friends killed and then writes the report so he looks good."
I've known a handful of heroes. I have yet to meet someone of worth who wanted to be in the position that might make him or her a hero.