By Garth A. Rattray
Every so often, especially at this time of year - around our National Heroes Day - spontaneous calls surface for there to be a new national hero or several new national heroes. Perhaps a modern-day national hero, representative of the changing times in which we find ourselves, is needed.
However, if the need for such a hero is seriously entertained, we may find ourselves choosing from popular but shallow celebrities or politicians. And, as far as politicians are concerned, if one among them is chosen, there will certainly be a demand for the counterpart from the other political party to be likewise elevated in order to maintain equity and political harmony.
The way I see it, choosing one or several new national heroes will come down to one salient question - have our worthy potential candidates been heroes, Neros or zeros?
In this circumstance, a national hero is someone who has made great personal sacrifice, grand achievements, is a brave and noble person whose life was pivotal to our nation's development.
Some would no doubt feel that their favourite personality is, or was, directly responsible for changes that set our nation on a positive path. But, would most agree that the chosen personality is, or was, noble (decent/righteous)?
A true national hero needs to fulfil the criteria of being brave (performing a duty in spite of fear of harm, failure or political backlash), selfless (doing things for this country without the expectation of any reward, honour or a legacy), and noble (honest, honourable, upstanding, moral, virtuous).
Although someone's action(s) may have brought fame to our island home, we must, at the very least, seek to fulfil the criteria of unselfishness (deeds done for the benefit of the nation without any thought of reward) and of high moral standards (scrutiny of that individual's ethical life must stand the test of worthiness of emulation by our children). After all, national heroes must be iconic on several fronts.
Then, there is the question of the Neros among us. We must ask ourselves if any of the potential candidates ignored imminent or emerging social or economic conditions that could disrupt our society or lead to undue hardships for our citizens.
This particular criterion is relevant to our politicians, some of whom have, in the past, turned a blind eye to serious problems because it was the politically expedient thing to do, even though the effects on our people was devastating in the long run. Metaphorically speaking, such individuals fiddled - participated in the usual fare of frivolity and/or business as usual - while all around them things were falling apart and people were suffering.
There are more subtle Nero politicians who climb into bed with characters of dubious integrity and feign ignorance of their nefarious shenanigans because it gets them political benefits. These politicians never participate in any criminal activities but they are fully aware that some among their supporters are criminals, and they do not rebuke them or withdraw totally from them. Certainly, no one in that position can qualify as a hero.
And finally, we have people who are only full of fluff and show and have no substance to them - they are, indubitably, zeros. These are the socialites who know how to play the game and who advanced themselves to become popular, albeit by networking. They may look and sound admirable and their achievements may seem Herculean, but it is all a shell of icing on an illusionary cake. Many popular people fit this bill, so, evidently, finding a national hero will be a daunting task after all.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.