The Monopolization of Heroes by the State

Television and movies are full of heroes. Drama could hardly exist without them of course, but have you noticed that nearly every hero in modern dramas is associated with the state?
Here are dramas playing on TV in my town tonight, with the heroes following: Hawaii Five-0 – Police; Blue Bloods – Police…

Monopolization

Television and movies are full of heroes. Drama could hardly exist without them of course, but have you noticed that nearly every hero in modern dramas is associated with the state?

Here are dramas playing on TV in my town tonight, with the heroes following:

                       Hawaii Five-0           Police

                       Blue Bloods                Police

                       Whistleblower           Government justice officials (retired)

                       Without a Trace        FBI agents

                       Forensic Files             Government justice officials

                       Quantico                     FBI agents

And I haven’t even touched on the endless Law & Order franchise. Even if we venture into the realm of Star Trek, we still find heroes authorized by government. (The Federation.)

The same goes for movies. Here are three showing near me:

                       Mission Impossible            Government agents

                       The Equalizer 2                   CIA operative

                       Skyscraper                           FBI agent

You get the point. Certainly there are comedies and even the occasional exception among dramas, but the heroes of Hollywood are nearly all government authorized. Even when government agents are portrayed as wildly out of control and dangerous (as in Enemy of the State, for example), it’s good government agents who end up saving the day in the end.

When was the last film you saw that featured a heroic doctor or businessman or (gasp) a philosopher or saint?

Government + Violence = Good

It’s all too easy for dramas to major on violence. That’s the most obvious and visceral type of conflict, after all. But to make the violence good in some way, to sanctify it, is essential. If not, we end up writing stories about very bad people who succeed, and that strikes nearly all of us as wrong. (Thankfully.)

Why, then, should the sole agent of sanctification be the state? Historically this is a wild anomaly. Was Hercules state sanctified? Were Abraham or Moses or Jesus?

Were the Wright brothers or Bell or Edison? Or the Curies? Where they not heroes as well?

And what of Sherlock Homes or Huckleberry Finn or Robinson Crusoe or even Paul Kersey?

And yet Hollywood produces almost no heroes without also presenting the state as the womb in which heroism is formed. Honestly, it’s an artistic disgrace… a sycophantic sellout.

Two Big Reasons

There are many reasons why this is currently the case, including things like, “The first cop procedural made money, so everyone’s copying it.” Beneath these, however, are two big drivers:

  • US government agencies are major players in Hollywood. The Independent found that the Pentagon backed more than 1,100 movies – 900 of them between 2005 and 2017 – including Flight 93, Ice Road Truckers, and Army Wives. The book, National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood, catalogs many more and shows that the government suppressed plot lines about illegal arms sales, the CIA dealing in drugs, creation of bioweapons by the military, the interaction between private armies and oil companies, the treatment of minorities by the government, torture, and the failure to prevent 9/11. Matthew Alford and Robbie Graham cataloged still more in 2009.

  • Democracy has supplanted Christianity. As I’ve noted recently, it used to be that people looked to the Bible as a moral standard. Over the past couple of centuries, however, Christianity and its book have been removed and replaced with nothing at all. Filling that void has been DemocracyTM, which isn’t really democracy and which has simply become an idol. At one time the governments of the West had to show themselves legitimate by supporting and honoring the Bible or at least a Christian religion. Now they show themselves legitimate by lauding the amorphous “democracy,” which really amounts to lauding themselves.

So, we have a situation where government is all in all: There is no outside standard by which to judge. “Democracy” is both the government and the justification for government at the same time. But since logic is no longer taught in school (and since it is scary to insult power) nearly everyone accepts this as “The way things are… don’t make trouble.”

In this situation, why wouldn’t a government manipulate the stories people consume? Who’s going to complain? A few angry heretics?

And given all of this, are we really surprised that Hollywood turned into a den of abuse?

We desperately need an outside standard by which to judge the world. Our lack of one is becoming glaringly obvious.

I can survive with the Bible as a central reference, so long as no one gets a monopoly on interpretation. But if most people don’t want the Bible, that’s okay with me too, so long as we get some outside standard.

Anything that’s basically benevolent and separate from power will do.

* * * * *

TheBreakingDawn

A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:

  • I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.

  • Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.

  • There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.

  • Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.

  • Get it at Amazon or on Kindle.

* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg
www.freemansperspective.com

The Truth About War Heroes

war heroesFor the past dozen years or so, Americans have been deluged with talk about “heroes,” and especially “our brave soldiers.” I was at a funeral recently, and was shocked to see the funeral director conduct a ritual: he had all past or current members of the military line up and touch a flag for the deceased.

This is not only stupidly out of proportion, but it is deeply damaging to the “heroes.”

As I’ve said before, I understand how young people get pulled into the military, and I do not think that they join because they want to kill. (Though some small number may.) So, let me be very clear on something:

The vast majority of war heroes are victims.

As it happens, I talk to military people, sympathetically. And I know the other side of the war hero story – the side that they don’t show on TV or when worshiping uniforms in churches, schools, or at sporting events.

Point #1: No one leaves battle whole.

Don’t ever imagine that soldiers come out of battle in any way better than when they went in.

No normal human can kill people without damaging themselves. Perhaps if you’re 50 years old and have to shoot someone who is clearly in the process of killing others, you can come out of it without permanent damage. At that age your character is already developed, and if you can honestly reassure yourself that it was necessary, you may be okay.

But if you think a 19-year-old kid, shooting at people he has never met before, who are simply driving down the street, will be okay afterward… forget about it – that kid will never be whole again.

And the same goes for the soldier who sees his friend get his leg blown off. Or, just having to go into situation after situation where that could happen at any time.

Crowds can chant “hero” all they like, but the soldier who was in battle has something torn in his soul.

Point #2: The soldiers know it.

Can you imagine the kind of internal conflict this hero worship inflicts on the 22-year-old ex-soldier? He’s praised as a hero endlessly, but he’s torn up inside, and sometimes when he’s alone, he cries and shakes.

This is what really happens:

  • The big, tough soldier hides in a bathroom and cries, because he can’t face going out into a crowd.
  • He wonders what was in all those pills they were ordered to take before going into battle.
  • He’s unable to make decisions for himself.
  • He has post-traumatic stress in spades but dares not tell the VA, because that would prevent him from owning a gun, and that’s the only thing that makes him feel safe.

And all the while, the soldier is paraded in front of crowds and publicly praised as some type of superior being, god-gifted with bravery. Could you live with that?

Is it any wonder that US soldiers are killing themselves at a rate of 22 per day?

Point #3: They are abandoned.

I recently had a talk with a friend who spent a full 20 years in the military, and we discussed these subjects.

One of the things that bothers me most is that these young men and women are sent into the hell of battle and then ignored by the Veterans Administration when they get back. I’m certainly no fan of government or its programs, but if you send a kid into death and destruction, you’re also honor-bound to help them recover if they make it out.

The VA is abandoning these former soldiers. I expressed this complaint to my friend, and he told me that it was worse, and more callously malicious, than I knew.

My friend is a decent man, and he does his best to help returning soldiers because no one else does. We discussed this at length, and I was pleased to know that he sits down with whatever few soldiers he can, and says this:

Yes, you’re fucked-up. After what you’ve been through, that’s what you’re supposed to be!

So far as he knew, no one associated with the VA was helping the returning soldiers one-to-one, only him and a few others.

So…

American hero worship is torturing ex-soldiers. It’s driving them to suicide. This mindless worship is good for the State, but it’s hell for the kids who were actually in battle.

Don’t follow that script. Have some compassion for the kid who was immersed in death and hell.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

The Recipe for Heroes and Saints

9/11There is nothing inspiring about rules. While they may produce order, they don’t elevate anyone to heroism and greatness. But I know what does, and I discovered it in the rubble of 9/11.

The story began, as such stories do, quite innocently. I was scheduled to be in New York for a convention in early 2002, and I sent an email to my old friend Jack. The text was along the lines of “Hey, I’m coming to NYC. Wanna get lunch?” His reply was simple: “Sure, but first I’d like you to come see my new project.”

Jack’s new project, as it turns out, was the restoration of the old New York Telephone building, now called the Verizon building. It was notched into the World Trade Center site, inches from the destroyed Building 7. This building was badly damaged on September 11th, but it didn’t come down. And it was extremely important that it did remain in service – nearly every phone line serving Wall Street ran through it.

Lessons from a Disaster Zone

It was a cool, rainy, hazy day. Fitting, I thought. Most of the debris had been removed by the time I arrived, which gave everyone on the job a clean view of what was missing and how much work lay ahead.

Since Jack and I are old electrical guys (my classical training), we began by examining the power systems. And thus began a day of epiphanies. Each new piece of information brought others to mind. Every fact implied a lesson. I thanked God for a good memory; scribbling notes in the rain was not going to work.

The first item on the agenda was the 13,000 volt electrical service to the building. It was running over an aluminum scaffold, inside of a plywood box. Now, you may be thinking that 13,000 volts in a plywood box on a metal scaffold doesn’t sound very safe, and you would be right. There’s no way this installation would be acceptable in any normal circumstances.

But in this case, there wasn’t much choice. This was a disaster zone and an “approved” installation wouldn’t be possible here for months. (They couldn’t even get the right kinds of wires.) So, the rules went out the window and Jack’s crew had to come up with something that would work and that wouldn’t kill anyone. Otherwise, Wall Street would shut, and half of New York would have no telephones. The rules were simply overridden by reality. I couldn’t help thinking of an old quote, attributed to the Dalai Lama:

Learn the rules well, so you will be able to break them properly.

But the big story of the day came after our inspection. At lunch, Jack explained that after Building 7 initially fell on 9/11, other partial collapses continued for quite a while. Each time, clouds of dust and debris filled his Verizon building.

On one particular day, the FBI vault in the basement of Building 7 caved in under the weight of yet another collapse. “And I swear to you, Paul,” Jack assured me with bulging eyes, “twenty- and fifty-dollar bills came floating through the site!”

Free money… it’s hard to imagine a better setup for a moral dilemma.

I made some comment about the guys being very happy that day. “No,” Jack said, “they wouldn’t touch them!”

I looked at him and waited for some elaboration. Finally he spoke up again. “They said ‘that’s not our money; it belongs to other people.’ And they wouldn’t touch it. They wouldn’t allow anyone to touch it. It just sat there until the FBI guys came through and picked it all up.”

When the lure of free money fails, I pay attention. This was clearly no ordinary event. Here were dozens of construction workers who refused to take free money – a lot of free money – when there was no enforcer looking over their shoulders or threatening them.

I looked at Jack again. He was stone serious, as serious as I have ever seen him.

So I was left facing a serious question: A large group of construction workers were turned into what we used to call stand-up guys… into exemplary stand-up guys. But what was it that turned them into these paragons of ethics? Obviously it had everything to do with 9/11, but exactly how?

I began analyzing the event, starting with the participants. I’ve known New York construction workers, and not many of them had any abiding interest in the study of ethics. But now these same men were acting with deep ethical convictions. Obviously it was the change of situation that mattered, not the basic nature of the men; one’s nature does not change in a moment.

Then I understood:

These men had never lacked basic decency; what they had lacked was a clear choice! This was the first time in their lives when the difference between right and wrong was this clear.

Having clearly understood right and wrong, it would have been stupid for these men to take $50 bills belonging to others – their conscious sense of righteousness was worth far more.

For the rest of their lives, these men will know that when it counted, they stepped up to the task and performed it with honor. And I would bet large that, on their death beds, this fact will pass prominently through their minds. They will feel honorable, and they will have earned it.

What this Means

This means that one can act with confidence only when he knows, clearly, what is right and what is wrong. It is moral clarity that makes men and women good.

I know that we’ve all been taught to freeze up at questions about good and evil, but it really isn’t hard. Here is the answer in two very simple statements:

  1. What is hateful to you, don’t do to anyone else.
  2. Do not encroach upon anyone or their property, and keep your agreements.

Number one is the “Golden Rule,” and number two is the essence of the common law – more or less an extension of #1. And that’s all that we really need.

Sure, a professional philosopher can come up with weird exceptions, but that’s not a serious concern. Send the one-in-a-million scenario to a judge and get busy with the other 999,999.

Yes, life is complex but that’s no reason to say, “We can’t know right from wrong.” Act with integrity and I guarantee you’ll do the right thing 99.9% of the time.

The Lesson

The events of 9/11 were obviously very stark, and we certainly don’t want to rely on such things to set our moral compass. But the lesson is clear: It is moral clarity that turns us into heroes and saints.

So, if you want to see good conduct, talk about integrity, self-honesty, and the courage to make individual judgments. Require this of your children. Oppose people who try to cloud moral choices.

I leave you with a few lines from a song called The Hero, by David Crosby:

And the reason that she loved him,
was the reason I loved him too.
He never wondered what was right or wrong,
he just knew,
he just knew.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com