No More Heroes?
[00:08.38]Many articles have appeared in recent years,
[00:13.52]claiming that there are no more heroes in the Western world.
[00:17.12]The authors say that,
[00:19.68]particularly in Europe and North America,
[00:21.96]the young now refuse to admire anyone;
[00:25.26]that we are living in a world too well informed,
[00:27.98]too curious and critical for hero worship.
[00:31.17]The press, books, and television
[00:34.33]keep showing us the faults of the public figures
[00:36.94]who could become today's stars,
[00:39.03]until we lose faith
[00:40.79]and start looking for defects in any person
[00:43.60] who seems worthy of respect.
[00:45.38]In a neighbor or a statesman,
[00:47.89]we try to discover the weaknesses, failures,
[00:50.96]or ugly motives that are surely hiding
[00:53.76] behind his noblest actions.
[00:55.34]Is it true that we know too much?
[00:59.49]Were our ancestors lucky to be only partly informed?
[01:03.86]Those who read the first biographies of Charlemagne,
[01:08.01]George Washington, Joan of Arc,
[01:10.42]or other great men and women of the past
[01:12.51]were not told that their hero had bad breath
[01:16.23]or disliked his mother;
[01:17.52]they only found a description of his great accomplishments
[01:21.37]and their admiration was strengthened.
[01:23.98]In fact, early biographers didn't hesitate
[01:27.91]to make up an admirable story or two about their hero.
[01:31.65]The man who wrote the first biography of Washington,
[01:35.58]for instance, invented the cherry tree;
[01:38.30]he admitted later that there was no truth in it,
[01:41.82]but he said that it was in character
[01:44.10]and that it would give young men a good example to follow.
[01:47.06]His readers didn't seem to object;
[01:50.45]the book was reprinted eighty times
[01:53.20]a tremendous success in those days.
[01:55.92]Modern biographers do not invent such stories,
[01:59.74]they respect the facts,
[02:01.61]as indeed they should.
[02:02.93]But we pay a price for their truthfulness,
[02:05.98]for in their efforts to show the whole person,
[02:09.48]they tell us more than we really need to know
[02:12.80] about private lives, family secrets, and human weaknesses.
[02:17.03]The true greatness of a fine man
[02:20.64]is often forgotten in the display;
[02:22.40]and people lose not only their admiration for him,
[02:25.66]but their willingness to trust any other star completely.
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