‘Fallen Heroes’ and why we need them


“How do you react to fallen heroes? Call them cheats or consider that they have made mistakes? Say they have been unfortunate or decide that it’s an unnecessary outrage? Possibly, all of of these but then maybe, none of the above”. The topic started a vociferous discussion recently and I realised that there are mixed reactions, as expected because such situations often force us to examine our moral and social stand. I examined mine, over two recent fallen heroes, Armstrong and Zakaria.

One is a cyclist legend, who faces the loss of seven ‘Tour De France’ titles after giving up on his fight against doping charges. Lance Armstrong, is not only a cycling legend but also a cancer survivor and the founder and chairman of Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer support. Deciding not to dispute charges against him, Armstrong said, “I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.” The question is, Is It? If we are sympathetic, aren’t we condoning doping? Our moral dilemma number one begins.

The second hero is Fareed Zakaria; the famed commentator, columnist and TV Host. He was recently suspected of plagiarism and promptly suspended by his employers, CNN and Time Magazine, and then as quickly reinstated. Plagiarism, is a dirty word in the writer’s lexicon and any writer worth his salt will steer away, from it so the question is why didn’t Zakaria? Quite possibly, it was an oversight. Zakaria apologised, admitting his ‘terrible mistake’. Should we accept? Our next dilemma begins.

The point, is not entirely about the deed here, though wrong it still remains, but one shudders to see the alacrity of the judgement passed, the pleasure, many have felt in condemning the great, happy to watch their fall. Fallen heroes are disappointing indeed and so is the human tendency to almost relish the fall of a successful hero. Of course, all’s not hopeless in these heroes’ lives. Both these heroes have garnered enough support along with the brickbats. It’s a tough one, as far as I am concerned, wanting to stand for what is right and yet not agreeing to the way ‘right’ is being carried out by the so-called ‘righteous’, a sentiment shared by few around me but not all.

Society, I noted, often gets divided between those who are sympathetic to fallen heroes and those who feel cheated, their trust broken. Another observation is that the difference of opinions tends to be guided by who you are, how your thoughts were shaped and what you have chosen to identify yourself with, which brings us to the contradictory thoughts and opinions that form a society in the first place. Black and white are often surrounded by patches of grey and these patches give rise to differences of opinions. They are subjective, they make us commit to a stand point and they make us choose sides. Depending on your image of self and society, you will either condone or condemn.

Irrespective of their choice, I also realised that people will continue to choose heroes and so will I. These heroes will rise and fall, confer to our standards of elevated status or disappoint us but, choose our heroes we will, because we all need inspirations and we all need aspirations. When heroes fail, we are forced to note that heroes are human, like the rest of us, and not Gods like we sometime imagine in our frenzied, devoted state. When these people, revered by many, make mistakes, they are not the only ones who learn from it, we all do and that’s another reason, why we need heroes. We not only need heroes, but we need failed heroes once in a while, as well. They warn us with their failures and if and when they correct themselves and bounce back, we forgive, at least partially.

Having examined my moral stand, I concluded that I still condemn cheating in any form but I do understand and acknowledge the complexities of the grey patches in society. I do also believe in learning from mistakes. So, all I can say at this point is that I am retaining my Livestrong Band and still seeking out the sagacious write- ups by Mr Fareed Zakaria.

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