What is a hero?

Here is a Skype chat my father and I had this morning. My dad is a historian and long in the tooth. Our day and age is full of icons and screen stars and celebritites, but really what are they worth? Are they just lucky? I am not saying my opinion is the same as his, but is may be an interesting perspective to you:

Jonny : dad – do you have a hero from history? i heard that quite a lot of people in powerful positions have a kind of muse from history, and when they don’t know what they would do, they ask themselves what so and so would do.. ?

Peter : hmmm, not really

Peter : my trouble is, I know that all hero’s have feet of clay

Peter : they’re just human beings, like the rest of us, who happen to have been in the right place at the right time, where their particular strengths have been shown to good effect. But in other situations they make the same mistakes as the rest of us

Peter : Mum’s over my shoulder, and said, “I thought Nelson was your hero”. Well, actually, if I do have a hero, it’s him. But I know all too well that he definitely had his weaknesses and faults

Jonny : people are not just in the right place at the right time, they make the place the right time and they have their eyes wide open to opportunities. Yes, maybe a lot of it is luck, but there is also ambition and drive and passion.

Peter : Yes, ambition, drive and passion – but you can have all those and fail. Examine any hero in detail and what you get is a frail human being like anyone else – but one with particular qualities that,in certain times, really come to the fore.

Peter. : Take Winston Churchill – he’s the great national hero, and quite right too – but, where it not for the Second World War, he would have been a failure of a politician – and, oddly, that would have been quite right too; because he really was a failure until very particular circumstances arose

Peter : Do you have a hero?

Jonny : only Alan Shearer but he doesnt do much good for my business and general life strategy

a hero or a sports star

Jonny : Bobby Robson.. ?

Jonny : no, I have been looking for one

Peter : why Alan Shearer? Is he more than a very talented sportsman?

Jonny : he came to his home town club to try and win something and single handedly scored all the goals for years. and he didn’t give up when it was obvious it wasn’t going to happen. But it was just a bit of a joke comment

Jonny : the only other people I see are the Dirk Struan types from the Tai Pan and Shogun books who work everything out and play their cards in a subtle and totally accurate way – but that’s fiction

Peter : yes, sadly, that’s fiction. In reality, people only have a very limited capacity to truly shape events

Jonny : i think that is a defeatist attitude

Peter: defeatist and cynical, but nearer the truth, I feel, than the idea that individuals can make a huge difference. BUT – actually, not so defeatist and cynical. Firstly, I am overstating my case – I think individuals CAN make a difference, sometimes a very great one. And also, the corollary of what I’m saying is, we can ALL make a difference, little by little; and indeed we do – for good or bad


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