The Need To Choose Our Heroes More Carefully
Rosa Parks. Lech Walesa. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. Martin Luther King. – ordinary people who arose to do extraordinary things.
They opposed injustice and dedicated themselves to achieving equality for all, not just for a few. They were imperfect, not saints and each, in their own way was an activist although not in the manner that has become so prevalent today. They did not support the idea that the ends justifies the means nor did the condone violence. They had courage and they had dignity. They marched. They spoke, often quietly and sometimes they simply stood firm.
I’ve been thinking about them over the past few days as we watch, once again, as the Idle No More protests continue.
I was thinking about how clearly stated their objectives were in contrast to the confused and often contradictory statements that have been coming out of the aboriginal protest movement and from other groups like Occupy.
I was thinking about them as I watched Theresa Spence make a mockery of what they did and what they accomplished with her self-serving and pretentious hunger strike and I was thinking about them as I watched people like Maude Barlow pay lip service to that dishonest and pointless melodrama.
I was thinking about them as I read countless uninformed social media messages spewing forth opinion in support of Idle No More and aboriginal issues from people who have no more understanding of those issues or their root causes than a fruit fly understands where bananas come from.
Mostly I was thinking how sad it is that we, at a time when we most need one, don’t have anyone like Rosa Parks. Nelson Mandela. Lech Walesa. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or any of the thousand of others like them who accomplished much without the need for violence and anger.
Does anyone remember who led the Occupy Movement or what it accomplished?
Maude Barlow, head of the grandly titled Council of Canadians, is returning her Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal to the government. She is doing it to protest:
“the actions of the Harper government in recent months have been so extraordinarily anti-democratic and just plain wrong for this country, that I and many other Canadians are having to find whatever means we can to protest.”
It would appear that Ms Barlow had strong feelings about the current government long before she accepted the medal so the obvious question is: if she was so opposed to those actions, why did she accept the medal in the first place?. Perhaps she was just happy to be one of many who were presented with the medal, just one more honour to flaunt or perhaps she recognized it as a future opportunity to use in yet another 15 minutes of fame media grandstanding moment. Whatever her motives, she is sending it back.
She hasn’t sent it back yet, mind you, she needed to make a public statement and garner a little attention first but she is promising to send it back on Monday.
I seriously doubt Her Majesty, The Queen or anyone in the government will be all that concerned.
Ms Barlow can do as she pleases but it is precisely this kind of empty gesture that we see too often these days. She and The Council of Canadians are working with Theresa Spence, as she put it, and that got me thinking that we aren’t very selective about who we pick as heroes these days.
Theresa Spence has done pretty well for herself up there in Attawapiskat. She has a Cadillac Escalade, makes a very handsome six-figure tax-free income along with her boyfriend and all at a time when she was castigating the government for the her people; the people for whom she was responsible but ignored.
That doesn’t matter to people like Maude Barlow and many in Idle No More. They aren’t concerned about the plight of people living on reserves. If they were, they would be as outraged as are most Canadians over how monies dedicated to the benefit of the many is misspent and misused by a few.
Theresa Spence came to Ottawa knowing that the Deloitte audit would be released and staged a phony hunger strike in an attempt to deflect criticism from her failed leadership and it has worked to some degree. She has become a hero to those who put gestures ahead of leadership; celebrity ahead of integrity.
Celebrity is the new religion these days and anyone can become a hero if they have enough celebrity star power. It doesn’t even have to be for doing good.
Within days of being arrested, websites started to appear honouring accused serial killer Luca Magnotta, a man accused of not only murdering his lover but of having dismembered his body and mailing parts of it to various organizations.
Increasingly we are seeing mass shootings by those who will take any form of celebrity they can get even if it is for being a murderer of the innocent.
Anonymous, the infamous online hacker group which has had some of its members hack government web sites, steal the credit card data of millions and posted hate-filled anti-Semitic messages is considered a Robin Hood by some.
Mega Download promoted and facilitated the online theft of intellectual property but when the owner of the web site was arrested and charged, many in the online community were outraged at what they tried to claim was the undermining of freedom and open democracy. He was instantly transformed from being a self-indulgent thief into a hero by a thoughtless, self-serving online community.
And then there is Julian Assange, founder and CEO of WikiLeaks.
As almost everyone knows, WikiLeaks has published classified documents of governments, particularly the United States Government, without concern for their veracity or the damage that may do to the national security of nations. I don’t take particular issue with that. The mainstream media would do much the same if it could get their hands on similar documents and they didn’t show the political party they support in a bad light.
My issue is that he is wanted in Sweden to answer allegations of sexual assault that have been brought by two women, allegations he refutes but lacks the courage or the dignity to return to Sweden to face. Instead, he hides like a coward in the Ecuadorian Embassy in England.
Nonetheless, he is considered a hero by many who turn a blind eye to the serious questions about his character because he is – well – an international celebrity.
We live in the era where celebrity trumps everything: character, integrity, ability and even common sense.
If Oprah Winfrey announces that vaccinating your children causes autism – it must be so regardless of what the Surgeon General of the United States or the World Health Organization claim. Even after the entire claim about vaccinations is exposed as having been a fraud committed by a single medical researcher in Great Britain, many still refuse to vaccinate their children exposing them to the risks of polio, tuberculosis and smallpox because Oprah once said vaccinations cause autism.
Recently, Al Gore, the darling of the climate change community sold his television network. Mr. Gore came to prominence, after his stint as Vice-president of the United States where he basically engaged himself in busy-work, for his power-point presentation turned video about the ravages of global warming.
As fright-theatre it ranked even higher than the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the environmental movement loved it. The Nobel Committee even presented Mr. Gore with a medal and he catipaulted his celebrity into a multi-million dollar enterprise incuding the acquisition of a small television network.
Mr. Gore has just sold that network to – get ready for it – Al Jazeera the television network that is bankrolled by Qatar, one of the world’s leading producers of oil, that fossil fuel Mr. Gore was warning us about. So committed to his principles of egalitarianism is Mr. Gore that he rushed the sale through before December 31, 2012 in order to avoid any tax increases in January that might arise from the fiscal cliff negotiations or their failure to come to a conclusion.
So much for principle.
No greater example of the triumph of celebrity over fact has occurred recently than the last Presidential Election in the United States.
Barrack Obama was and remains a celebrity. He was considered cool, hip and hung out with other celebrities. The facts about Benghazi were irrelevant and ignored as were high unemployment, having an Attorney General charged with contempt of Congress, the inability to produce one budget in his first four years in office and an annual deficit that was twice as large as that of his predecessor and in half the time.
He was reelected based on his celebrity and his promise to ensure the wealthy paid their fair share and that he would not raise the taxes on the middle class. The election is over. The fiscal cliff negotiations have resulted in a 1.3% increase in taxes on the uber-wealthy and a 1.7% increase on taxes for those making between $30,000 and $200,000 annually. The President’s friends and campaign donors in Hollywood are exempt from any tax increase.
Celebrity can be very expensive for those of us who are not celebrities.
There are real heroes in the aboriginal community, just as there are in the broader community of Canadians but you won’t hear much, if anything about them. Instead we will hear about Theresa Spence, Pam Palmater and others who will be quickly forgotten as new celebrities arise.
In the broader Canadian community we will hear about Justin Trudeau, Pat Martin, Maud Barlow and countless others who have accomplished nothing to help resolve the complex and serious issues we face other than to advance their own celebrity.
We will continue to hear about them because too many choose their heroes carelessly based on celebrity rather than character and ability.
It is said that when a people most need one, a hero will arise but it seems that may no longer be true. We have no real heroes anymore. There are no Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, Lech Walesas or Nelson Mandelas these days.
Instead, we have celebrities and personally, I think we need to start choosing our heroes just a little more carefully if we ever hope to move forward as a people, as a nation and as a planet.
© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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