Draft No One Has Ever Been Able To Outline the DNA of a Hero Heroism is now and has always been a complex and controversial subject because man has never been able to figure out why humans do heroic acts. What makes a hero a hero? How and why some people become heroes, and others live merely simple unmoved lives. There have been hundreds of studies throughout history in an effort to uncover the signs and behavior traits associated with heroes. What makes an individual take action, risking their own life to save a complete stranger? Despite all the studies and interviews, no one has ever been able to outline or define the DNA of a hero.
In the “Banality of Heroism”, the Stanford University study we are reminded of the “banality of evil”—- that is, under certain conditions and social pressures, ordinary people can commit acts that would otherwise be unthinkable”; studies conducted in the 1960s by Stanley Milgram at Yale University. Could this be the case of the Hero as well? Could unthinkable here resonate for good as well as evil? Would it be fair to say that “under certain conditions and social pressures, ordinary people can commit heroic acts that would otherwise be unthinkable? What if we added the word “heroic” to the phrase.
Wouldn’t the firefighters who saved the people from the burning building of the bombed Twin Towers be an example? Or what about the story of an elderly lady who was saved from her flooded automobile by a 21 year old girl. Or the guy who jumped on the track to cover a person who slipped and fell as the train was coming. Are not all these “unthinkable” acts for most people? Regardless, it is almost impossible to think about heroism and what makes people do heroic acts without consciously or unconsciously thinking about what makes people do evil acts.
These thoughts make the subject of understanding heroism even more complex and opens up an even larger debate. We are constantly reminded every day when we turn on the news. We always hear about someone doing something super courageous and within minutes we hear about someone doing something really horrible. In the movie, “Unbreakable” we witness the parallel between heroism and and acts of evil. The movie personifies the old cliche; “there is a thin line between good and evil”. The movie shows an ordinary person doing heroic acts on a regular basis.
It also shows us that when some people are faced with physical challenges or unfortunate circumstances they can become bitter, angry and do harm to others. Then there are people who use their unfortunate situations to help and improve the life of others. For example, the story of a homeless guy who had lived on the street most of his life and was hardly noticed until he did an unthinkable thing when the streets flooded in Houston. He hopped on an abandoned bus and drove it to pick up all the people who lived in his neighborhood taking them to safety.
He became a hero instantly. We are reminded how strong we are and at the same time how fragile we are. There is no doubt that we are all capable of doing good things and we are all capable of doing something bad. Good people sometimes do bad things. However the questions still remains, are we all capable of doing something heroic, something extraordinary? The song writer, Mariah Carey must believe so, she sang a song that said, “There’s a hero that lies in me and you. In the beginning, early Myths depicted heroes as having some kind of spell on them that provoked them to act.
Many of our Super Heroes have been shown as having a special kryptonite or special clothing they wear that turn them into this strong super power. Making many wonder if heroes have some special force or power associated with them. Some people believe that if any person is thrown into a situation where something terrible is about to happen they would react the same way and attempt to help or save someone’s life. Some would like to say that this is simply human nature. Yet all too often we hear a hero being interviewed after having done a heroic act explaining what happened. He usually starts by saying that it happened so fast.
He explains that everyone else was standing around shocked or crying and he just jumped in without thinking and saved someone’s life. We then have to ask why did the others not take action if it is simply human nature. More importantly, why did the hero take action while others watched? What made him do it? There have been studies by a psychiatrist who feel that people choose to become heroes; that heroism is a choice that we can all make. In the Spider-Man 3 movie, the character of Peter Parker says at the end of the flim, “Whatever comes our way, whatever battle we have raging inside of us, we have a choice. The most common theory is that anyone can be a hero at any given time. Based on who we view as heroes today that may very well be true. However, there are countless of other researchers and psychiatrists that would definitely disagree. Heroes today are everyday people. Some of them do amazing things and others do random acts of kindness. This is so different from the original hero. In an essay titled, “Why Heroes Are Important, Scott La Barge wrote: “The term “hero” comes from the ancient Greeks.
For them, a hero was a mortal who had done something so far beyond the normal scope of human experience that he left an immortal memory behind him when he died, and thus received worship like that due the gods… like Hercules. Originally, heroes were not necessarily good, but they were always extraordinary; to be a hero was to expand people’s sense of what was possible for a human being. Other researchers believe that heroes are a more confident, assured, risk taking group of people who love people and have close knit family ties. Some people believe that heroes have a igher desire for doing something unique or different. “In 2005, researchers ran personality tests on 80 Gentiles who risk their lives to shelter Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, as well as 73 bystanders. Their study revealed: Two interesting commonalities arose among the “heroes”: First, they were more likely to embrace, or at least tolerate danger. Secondly, they were more likely to say they interacted frequently with friends and family” … taken from an article written by Bonhomme Richard, Journal of Personality. There is the theory that heroism may be genetic.
That some people are born heroic. Soldiers, firemen, and others who dedicate their lives to doing heroic acts every day. These individuals live with the fact that risking their lives for the sake of others is their life work. Some of them knew they wanted these jobs as kids. Who are heroes today and what do they look like? I saw a news clip just recently that showed millions of people starving in Africa. They were mostly women and children since all the men had been killed or gone to fight and never returned. Many of the small children were suffering from tuberculosis.
There was this one missionary who refused to leave. He explained that he must stay to make sure the children got medicine and food. He was not afraid of what might happen to him, he would never leave. All of the people around him said he is their hero. The first question that came to my mind was why and how had he decided to be a missionary in Africa. If we are all capable of doing heroic acts what triggers the behavior? Do we all have a heroic breaking point? Is there some light that goes off inside of a hero that alerts them that this is the moment for them to take action?
Are heroes alerted internally to be at a certain place at a certain time? They seem to always just happen to be there when they are needed. What makes an individual take action, risking their own life to save a complete stranger or do a heroic act? Despite all the studies, theories and interviews no one has ever been able to outline or define the DNA of a hero. Researchers, psychologists and scientists will never stop searching for the secrets of what make human beings do heroic acts. They would like to be able to duplicate this behavior…. again and again. Imagine how that would change civilization.