“We don’t need another hero, We don’t need to know the way home, All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome”. These are lyrics from Tina Turner’s hit song We don’t need another hero. The song was written and released in 1985, a time when the world faced the risk of a nuclear meltdown due to tensions between the West and the East.
The American-born artist advocated for a post-nuclear world based on love and compassion, saying that nuclear weapons were not an assurance or security for peace. Critics have said it is an anti-messiah song that declares the world does not need “someone” to stop the impending catastrophe; that global peace is both an individual and collective right and responsibility. But truth be told, America, and indeed the whole world, are in search of heroes.
That is how many of Hollywood’s blockbuster movies over the years have been based on a single person (actor), who emerges to save a world faced with doomsday crisis. Examples include Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Men in Black (Will Smith).
In a world that has lost values of humanity due to unbridled materialism, we desperately need people who see things devoid of covetous lenses. Generally, a hero has been defined as a person “who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength, often sacrificing their own personal concerns for a greater good”.
Such a person is a rare breed whose selflessness and service to others borders on martyrdom. So it was not surprising that recently there was uproar in the media after the government released a long list of Kenyans to be awarded various State commendations in recognition of their exemplary service to the country. The list included artists, politicians and government officials.
While there were obvious nominees that attracted universal consensus on their role in fostering national unity, there were those who drew derision. Kenyans felt some of the so called heroes were awarded for simply being darlings of the powers that be.
Some were simply opportunists who inadvertently found themselves in uncanny situations, and exploited the limelight to full effect, taking choreography to new heights in search of self-seeking publicity.
In fact, today there is a thin line between genuine heroism and role acting. The Kenya Heroes Act 2014 provides for, among other functions, the recognition of heroes, establishment of criteria for the identification, selection and honouring of national heroes, provision of categories of heroes, and establishment of the National Heroes Council.
However, in the absence of the council, it appears its functions are still undertaken on ad hoc basis. The identification of national heroes is too critical to be politicised or cheapened. It touches on the soul of a nation. It sets the tone of how citizens relate with one another, and the extent to which individuals are ready to go to alleviate the challenges faced by their neighbours.
Actually, we would rather have a short list of national heroes, than have a long one whose composition betrays those who have genuinely sacrificed their lives for others, at great inconvenience to themselves.
Democratically mature countries such as the US hold their heroes in awe, even reverence. They establish halls of fame and erect statues so that progeny can learn from those who made the US the most powerful and rich nation on earth today. Western Europe is also speckled with statues and museums in honour of their leaders and other heroes.
Monday is Christmas Day and many of us are already salivating at the prospect of great fun with family and friends. But as we spoil ourselves during this annual ritual, let us be a hero to someone.
Spare a moment for those who have totally nothing to celebrate about. Meet them at their point of need, whether material or not. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2018 devoid of empty politics! The writer is the executive director, Centre for Climate Change Awareness—[email protected]