Last week I asked a guy if he regarded himself a hero and he said no. I followed up with another question asking why he thinks that he is not worthy of being a hero and he said it is because he has not done anything heroic in his life and he is not ‘well known’. Interesting huh?
So who exactly qualifies one to be a hero? The oxford dictionary defines a hero as a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. In the past, heroes were mostly agents of good; they inspired people to goodness and great deeds. Heroes were courageous and strong. They set the bar high on standards of behavior, being compassionate, generous, and humble.
Most importantly, heroes always did the right thing; they protected the weak, fought for common good and set things right. Growing up I knew the likes of Sam Nujoma, Nehale Lyampingana, Samuel Maharero and the rest of the historic icons as heroes. I was taught that these icons fought during the liberation struggle. I was taught that they fought selflessly and sacrificed their lives for the freedom of every Namibian.
But 27 years later, post-independence, I ask myself: Who are the political heroes that we will tell our children about? I look at the iconic figures of today, the leaders that we see on television and newspapers, and I have a hard time finding anyone whom I can call a hero. Most of those in the forefront these days appear to be far from heroic because we have politicians who are self-enriching and fighting against each other and corporate leaders who are greedy and corrupt.
Most people nowadays possess values that are unheroic, such as selfishness, dishonesty, disrespect, irresponsibility, greed, cruelty, and violence. Most people we regard as heroes are also not genuine either. We see them as heroes because they’re attractive, rich, and famous and not for any redeeming qualities they may have.
There are exceptions, of course, there are people in the world who should be seen as heroes, but they rarely get the attention they’re due. There just aren’t many people in the public eye today who can be taken to the history books for the good that they have done, unless we write about them as leaders who only fought for their own good and ethnocentric leaders. Our leaders are simply not worthy of emulation.
However, there are few personalities in sports, business and entertainment who we can name as genuine heroes and heroines. And these are the people who have made records internationally and are recognised for their extraordinary work. The heroes that emerge in a generation are the living manifestation of the spirit of the times and looking at our current situation of economic crisis and tribalism do we have people who we will be emulated by the coming generation as the heroes of our time? Heroes from the past generation have fought for freedom, so let us also fight for a stable economy and become heroes of our time.
I believe that there is enough room for each and every one of us to be a hero or heroine. Not necessarily an unbeatable incredible awesome hero, but some kind of relatable figure with generous amounts of goodwill and personality.
Happy Heroes day Namibia!