What does it take to be a hero?

Today, the 11th November, is the day when the world commemorates Armistice day and honors the brave men and women who have died in the line of duty since the First World War. The armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed in November 1918, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The armistice brought an end to four years of fighting; today the world pays homage to our fallen heroes.

This Is your Quest - Author Joanne Reed
Armistice Day – Remembering our fallen heroes

World War I & World War II cost the lives of millions of men and women who fought bravely to combat tyranny. Heroes are admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or their noble qualities. They may be exhausted, but they persevere. They may be fearful, but they face danger courageously; still they do not quail in the face of countless obstacles and danger. Heroes are undeterred by profoundly insurmountable difficulties and most of all they don’t allow themselves to be intimidated by dangerously potent antagonists and destructive forces that cross their paths.

Don’t want to be a hero? Become a demi-hero

Andrew Bernstein explains in his book ‘Heroes, Legends, Champions – Heroism matters‘ that the majority of us lack the motivation or ability to become a hero. But, just as mythology is populated by almighty gods but also by less powerful demi-gods, it is perfectly feasible to contemplate the concept of a demi-hero.  A demi-hero may lack the courage to dodge a hail of bullets but can cultivate a value system and commit to staying on course even when the obstacles that confront them are immense.

This Is Your Quest - Author Joanne Reed
To be or not to be a hero?

As Bernstein explains in his book, we all want to be good, but being good or doing good is not an easy undertaking.  Those on this Quest will be slowed by obstacles and impediments, but by keeping strong and struggling courageously, they increase the chance of defeating the opposition. Such actions are undoubtedly heroic.

If you have the capabilities and willingness to become a hero, become one. If you lack the abilities to become a fully-fledged hero, not all is lost, become a demi-hero.

True story of real-life war heroes.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. We often associate bravery with some physical accomplishment but sometimes brain-power and the use of proper intelligence can save lives. British Intelligence did just that during the second world war, they defeated the Luftwaffe thanks partly to the ‘Carrot Myth.

This Is your Quest - Joanne Reed
To be or not to be a hero? The Carrots Myth

According to conventional wisdom eating lots of carrots will enhance your vision. There is a little bit of truth in this, but British Intelligence Service stretched that concept to the extreme by starting a campaign (unbeknown by the enemy) of disinformation using carrot as the main actor in the subterfuge.

During the 1940 Blitzkrieg , the Luftwaffe often struck and bombarded London under the cover of darkness. At night time, the British Government issued city-wide blackouts in order to make it more difficult for the German planes to hit targets. The Royal Air Force (RAF) was able to repel German fighters in part because of the development of a new secret radar technology. The on-board Airborne Interception Radar (AI) was invented and first used by the RAF in 1939 and had the ability to pinpoint enemy bombers before they reached the English Channel. To protect their secret weapon, British Intelligence invented a propaganda campaign that claimed that British pilots could see in the dark because they ate a lot of carrots!

There is no denying the fact that carrots are good for your eyes by virtue of their heavy dose of vitamin A; but this truth was stretched to a great extent by the Brits by granting carrots the “superpower” of improving British pilots night vision giving them the ability to spot enemy planes in the dark! The truth is that eating carrots does not help you see better in the dark any more than eating blueberries will turn you blue. That said, the carrot campaign of subterfuge helped hide a new technology that was critical to the success of the Battle of Britain against Hitler, a major campaign fought entirely by air forces.

Information and Disinformation can make you a hero or a villain.

Where does human behavior come from? Behavior comes from our perception of an event or a situation. Where does perception come from? Perception comes from information received, be it from personal experience, newspaper or media.

Controlling human perception can therefore become a weapon used to control what people think. The best way to do this would be to filter or censor the type of information that the public receive, or by using deceptive tactics such as subterfuge, propaganda or misinformation to make the public believe something that is not true.

We are constantly bombarded by streams of information (and sometimes disinformation), making it very difficult to know what and who to believe. Hoaxes, hysterias, misinformation and scams have been around a long time. Con men and Ponzi schemes are in every corner of recorded history. You might think that our access to vast oceans of information on the internet would change that, but it hasn’t. In fact, humans are just as gullible and easily led as ever. Skepticism is just as rare as any other time, and most people are willing to believe something they read on the internet, heard second or third hand, without subjecting their curiosities to even the most basic fact-checking.

It is important to remain skeptical. Some people may dismiss you as a cynical, but that’s likely to be the person who’s actively trying to influence you. There are no awards for coming to a conclusion the fastest, so take your time, and don’t form an opinion based on emotion. Here are some quick ways to keep yourself in check:

  • Check your sources
  • Understand the difference between opinion and fact
  • Beware of anecdotal evidence
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Question your beliefs
  • Turn to history for clues

Skepticism is healthy. Be discerning about the information you receive and the medium through which it is transmitted, they are skills worth developing and those skills or lack of it can make you a hero or a villain and determine whether you will find yourself on the right side of history.

And this, my Dear Companion, is Your Quest!

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6 Comments »

  1. It is important to read widely, to not take media reports at face value and become critically aware so that we can become better informed. Propanganda is not alwata a relic of history but is often now hidden in clever marketing strategies.

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