June 17th, 2007 10:33 EST
I Can Has New Hero?
Our technological, social and cultural conditions are rapidly changing… much faster than most people realize… faster than we are able to properly or adequately adapt. We would do well to pause and consider the implications and applications of these changes on us, and by us.
When society changes, our conceptions must change to adjust. And when our conceptions change, society has to change with them.
The time has come for us to envision and encourage a new kind of hero.
Our conceptions of gender, and therefore of heroism, are grossly skewed with a male bias innate to and indicative of a male dominated culture. Male is classified as strong, hard and active; female is classified as weak, soft and passive. This false characterization is represented and reinforced by the Yin and Yang precept.
However, this model seems to depict a cause when it is actually signifying an effect. It does not describe our nature, but social trends exaggerating. Gender roles and behavior as we know them are based more on culturally prescribed attitudes than on biological templates. If women are made weak or seen as weaker than men, it is because our society has instilled that impression. And individuals have foolishly allowed this pernicious meme to continue. I do not believe a woman needs a man to change the tire on her car. I do not believe a woman is fundamentally incapable of doing it herself, simply because she is female. If she depends on a man to do such things, she has made herself weak, and helped to make all of womanhood weak by strengthening the stereotype. A woman can open her own door and carry her own bag; to assume otherwise is demeaning to women.
Due to this perpetuated fallacy, to portray a strong woman we typically show her fighting; we make her act tough, like a stereotypical “man“. The presumed female and feminine is transformed and subsumed into the presumed male and masculine; the female is thought of as inherently weak, and cannot be strong without becoming or appearing male--- by ceasing to be female. If a woman is physically strong or assertive or rough, we perceive her as masculine. If a man is non-violent and emotionally sensitive, we perceive him as feminine. This is not only insulting to women, but to men, for believing it.
The ways of the past are not, and cannot be, the ways of the future; we should alter our behavior and beliefs accordingly. We must evolve, or die.
And so, we need a new model of heroism that doesn’t rely on violence and fighting as the primary or standard means of problem solving. Heroism is not defined by or limited to fighting, and we should stop treating it as such. In action/adventure movies and TV shows, in superhero comic books… to be a hero seems to mean a prowess and proficiency in some style or method of combat.
Fighting is not only typified, but glorified. What do our stories say about us and to us?
Our heroes are commonly contrived, renown and admired for their ability to beat people up, destroy things or kill to resolve conflicts. No diplomacy, no negotiations, no rational and sympathetic dialogue.
The axiom of “Actions speak louder than words” is much too dangerous to be taken literally or as an absolute. There are times and circumstances when it is better to think before you act, look before you leap, to pause and reconsider, and to wait or even do nothing. And “action” does not necessarily mean or have to include violence.
Indeed, we need a new model of behavior that pursues causes rather than effects, by which violence becomes impractical, undesirable and obsolete. Violence is not the only viable form of action, and not required to make things “interesting“ or exciting.
Also, it is better and more efficient to neutralize an opponent or a threat before violence-- or war-- occurs; before it “needs“ to occur. We should learn to peacefully and smartly solve a problem by stopping it from ever really becoming a problem, removing any opportunity to resort to violence.
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu advises: Therefore, the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.