Kill Your Heroes

Composed on the 1st of February in the year 2009, at 6:14 PM. It was Sunday.

So, to begin with a disclosure: I was once worshipped. Not by anybody I still keep in touch with, but it happened.

Not as a god, sadly. No virgins brought to my doorstep, no 10% out of pocket at my temples. Just a totally undeserved level of admiration from someone I knew. Now, I deserve quite a bit of admiration, and I will freely accept a surprising number of accolades, but despite the tall order of trumping all the ego I can acceptably put on the table, it was done.

I use worship in the very specific sense that it didn't seem to matter what I did or said. It was cool because I did it, as much as I did anything in between his speeches about how fabulous I was. I realized the less I did, and I did do less and less, because I knew I wouldn't be called on anything, the more he could imbue me with the insanely unlikely aspect he concocted between prescription pills.

The theory is it's nice to have someone else blow your horn. The fact is that's only true for the sidekick half of that double entendre; having someone go on about how great you are is sort of unpleasant after a while. Some people like it. Those people aren't my friends. The average recipient finds himself having to backpedal silently or vocally, and the extoller always ends up sounding slightly desperate, if not nuts.

One specific moment, I'm all about. If I did something awesome, I will tell that story for eons. A single event can have a communal awesomeness: witnessing something incredible gives everyone a shock, hearing about it makes someone remember that shock, the sort of surprise that blanks your mind for a second. Amazing events have an egalitarian nature, told properly. Good or bad, happened to you or someone else, a good story is worth telling.

Of course, most people tell them as if that lucky break or occasional achievement makes them something superior to an "average person", which is a phrase I've finally decoded: "average person" is a hypothetical construct signifying someone less interesting or important than whomever is using the phrase. That's understandable. Everyone needs to believe they're worth not killing when the revolution comes.

Worshipping someone else is so alien to me I feel like an anthropologist when I see it happen. Subject F places his hero above him. Subject F is not aspiring to be his hero, he's aspiring to be near him, or similar to him insomuch as Subject F is honoring him through imitation. Subject F doesn't expect to achieve what his hero's achieved, and he's not interested in trying. Subject F doesn't see his hero as an example of a what can be done, but as an embodiment of qualities Subject F has given up trying to cultivate.

It's not to be confused with admiring or being impressed by someone's achievement. Hero worshippers will feel like they've accomplished something just by being acknowledged by their hero. I mean, what? They revaluate their worth based on their proximity to their fantasy, and come up with exactly the wrong result. Worship is a form of subservience. God forbid I believed in God, an omnipotent being is someone to whom you want to show a little deference, but watching another human being do something, deciding there's no way I could ever do that, and then deciding I'll be a better human being by not trying and just hanging around this person who did it in the first place is nightmarish to consider.

Hero worship is a pale substitution for aspiration, and a frustrating imposition on the hero. I remember, a long time ago, hearing a coworker say she wouldn't vote for Clinton again because he was a bad example for our children. First of all, if you need the president to be a role model for your child, you are a bad parent, and furthermore, why do we expect the leader of our country to be the dumpster of our dreams? Presidents get a default hero expectation, and they shouldn't. They should run the fucking country, preferably away from the ground. Dubya is still considered a hero by some; this doesn't surprise me. The hero image is composed of disassociation from the reality of your own life, and the need for someone else to wear your broken delusions of grandeur. The hero has to live up to this, but gets a lot of help from the worshipper's mind, and the image can survive years of rationally unarguable realities, until the hero does something that is personally violating for the worshipper.

The whole image in hero worship is immune to meta-analysis: another observer could always be a liar or a spook. Only a direct, personal affront to the worshipper will shake their faith. Once shook, it collapses like the champagne pyramid on a skateboard that it is.

I don't understand investment in a sports team. I don't understand why famous people are more important than I am, or why they should be held to a higher standard, or discussed beyond what they present in doing whatever it was they got famous for. I don't understand picking somebody I happen to know and saying they are somehow better than I am because they've done something I haven't. I don't understand why anyone would decide to both wish they were someone else, and decide they can never be as good or as full a human being as that person. It's disservice to oneself to cling to a discarded hope, and disrespectful of another to wrap them in an ideal.

Second only to the tuba in un-sexiness.

Hi there! You should totally go buy my book for the low low price of 6.66! It's like buying me a beer at an out-of-the-way dive bar in Brooklyn! Not in Manhattan. Manhattan prices are ridiculous, though there are a couple of decent Irish dives where you can snag a drink for five bucks. Otherwise, you're looking at a two or three book beer.