Tuesday, January 10, 2012


This has been percolating since November. Sat in on a panel on Heroes in fiction. They really meant protagonists, I think.

Just to get a taste, here's what I think about people who need the 'warrior' label:

Needless to say, 'hero' would get more vitriol, except fewer people have the arrogance to claim it. I was taught early that 'hero' is a four letter word for someone who gets his friends killed...and somehow manages to write the report so he looks good. So the panel was about protagonists, not heroes.

Doing dangerous things because they need to be done isn't noble or heroic. It doesn't come from a sense of great passion. It doesn't come from a tortured soul or any of the motivations that writers try to imagine.

It is exactly like cleaning up dogshit.

There's a steaming pile of dogshit in a public place and most people just walk on by, pretending not to see it. A few will get indignant: "Someone should do something." The worst won't even clean up after their own dogs*... just as the politicians will never fix the problems that their policies created.

But a few, a very few clean up dogshit when they see it. Not because it is noble. Not because it resonates with knights on white horses. Not because it is fun and exciting. Not to save the maiden. Because it needs to be done, and if they don't do it, no one will. And if no one cleans it up, sooner or later the dogshit will get tracked everywhere.

So you hold your nose if you have to and you get in there and you clean up the dogshit. As quickly and efficiently as possible. And you try not to get any on you. Because someone has to.

Maybe it's your job and you signed up for it. Maybe it just needed to be done.

Either way, there's nothing noble about it. It just needs to be done. Which I find kind of noble.

*Any decent person will clean up their own mess, pick up after their own dogs.


Wayne said...

Having read many stories from the civil war and WWII, I remember many a personal story when someone talked about what they did and often it boiled down to "someone had to do it" or "it needed to be done". I usually find it very moving.

Neil Bednar said...

I often clean up other's dogshit outside my apartment, only because I don't trust myself to not step in it. Toward those whose dogs piss all over my motorcycle I just hold resentment. ;)

Jake said...

I occasionally clean up other people's dogshit. I always clean up my dog's own dogshit.

Some people do not clean up their own dog shit, and that's not cool.

I confess to a certain ambivalence about this one; I think on a certain level that you're right, and on another level, doing something that needs to be done, regardless of motivation, can still be a noble or courageous act.

The ACTOR may not perceive themselves as being noble, but that doesn't mean the ACTION isn't.

Rory said...

Jake hence the last line, because I do find it kind of noble.

Josh K. said...

I think it mostly just teaches some that they don't have to pick up their own dog shit.

Jake said...


Those people wouldn't clean it up anyway. Someone might as well.

Josh K. said...

Jake -

I do believe we have left the realm of self-defense.


Josh K. said...

"You can't go around building
a better world for people.
Only people can build a better world for people.
Otherwise it's just a cage."

- Terry Pratchett, "Witches Abroad"

Jake said...


At this point, I think we've drifted into actually talking about dog shit. As in, shit from the ass of a dog. Not quite what I think Rory was going for :-)