No More Heroes Anymore?

Posted on February 24, 2012

There have been a couple of instances this week that have had me wondering about what defines hero status and why, as we get older, we idolise people less and less, except perhaps our own children or parents. The incidents that triggered these thoughts were very diverse, but in their own professional circles they were lavished with similar praise. Firstly there was Reading football manager Brian McDermott signing a new contract after overtures from a Premier League club, then, shortly afterwards there was the death of Marie Colvin the war correspondent for The Times who was blown up in the dreadful situation evolving in Syria. Comparing the two appears quite witless, but hopefully you will get my sentiment.

The Reading fans forum HobNob Anyone has lavished praise on McDermott for showing morality and loyalty in turning down a job offer from Wolverhampton Wanderers for their management position after they recently sacked their own former hero, Mick McCarthy. Don’t get me wrong, I like McDermott, but it is not like he has just been offered a job by Arsenal or even Aston Villa, Wolves appear to be a rudderless ship that no one wants to manage, except Steve Bruce who lies in bed with his mobile phone on his pillow waiting for a call as the tenth in line to the throne. McDermott quite rightly used this job offer as a lever to negotiate a new, presumably lucrative deal at Reading, one he deserves for his achievements so far, but he knows better than anyone that a volatile Russian billionaire could fire him out at any time and if at the end the season a team with better prospects than Wolves come knocking, he will be off, no longer a hero but a Judas. McDermott is not a hero in my eyes, he is a good football manager on the career ladder that could be a single step from a Premier League five year contract that would set him up for a life of financial security. Who could blame him?

The tragic death of Marie Colvin was far more serious than the hero status of a football manager, but then, after analysing her career history, I did wonder whether she would ever be entirely happy until she was dead. What is heroic, what is stupid? What is bravery, what is bravado? I can’t help but wonder if the biggest challenge to Colvin was to have number one status in the weird world of war correspondents rather than being on a mission to give the world independent journalistic views of the worst civil wars on the planet. After all she worked for Rupert Murdoch and The Sunday Times. The designer eye patch (after an injury in Sri Lanka) also had an air of “look at me” about it (excuse the pun) and there is no doubt she liked to be noticed whenever possible. Like many war correspondents Colvin had a bizarre personal life, marrying and divorcing the same guy twice and having another husband who committed suicide, I bet she was a pain in the arse to live with. War correspondents appear to be incredibly self centered, I suppose they have to be to do what they do, but bravery is to stand up and be counted and walk the walk, to fight a cause for others, whilst bravado is the desperate need to be seen as a hero, it is a search to be recognised for personal glory or heroics. I think that is the difference, though everyone has a their own take on it. However, if it wasn’t for war correspondents, we would know nothing about what is going on in the world, I guess you can’t be anything else than selfish to do such a high risk job.

So who are my heroes and who are your heroes? Sadly, I don’t have any and I suspect many people my age are the same, heroes seem to start disappearing sometime in your twenties and by the time you are forty they have gone forever. A glance at some of my former heroes is a bit of an embarrassing one to admit, I no longer hold any of them in particularly high regard. They include Paul Gascgoigne, Joe Strummer, Paul Weller and John Lydon. It took me years to realise that life isn’t the gospel according to Paul Weller and seeing him (he is 54) marrying his twenty three old “soul mate” whilst sending his multiple batch of kids to the to best public schools in the country makes me squirm at the fact that I once, rather naively, held him in such high regard as the ultimate man of the people. His latest list of gigs are being advertised in The Mail on Sunday for goodness sake, he is now a WadFather rather than Modfather. Former rebel rouser and Sex Pistols front man John Lydon is now advertising butter, Paul Gascoigne is stark raving bonkers and Joe Strummer died in 2003, which sad as it was, probably saved us from a Clash re-union tour sponsored by McDonalds. Many of my choices of heroes are nothing to brag about, they might as well have been Shakin’ Stevens, at least he hasn’t changed his views. Though to be fair, he probably didn’t have any views other than beating himself up over what secrets that lay behind a Green Door.

However, all is not lost, there are a few people who are relatively unknown to middle England who still hold status with me, if not hero status. They are singer Billy Bragg, politician Tony Benn and former Housemartins and Beautiful South singer/songwriter Paul Heaton. This is not entirely because of their political view, but because that their stance and views have never altered, despite insults to their intelligence and spiteful vilification in the mass media, particularly in the 80’s. Some might say that their political views or ideals are deluded, but no one can say that they have changed during their careers. Paul Heaton’s stance over political and corporate greed has appeared on his music since Flag Day in 1986, right up to Acid Country in 2011. Whether you like him or detest him, you can’t accuse him of inconsistency, never has his stance on “fighting a war on greed, not poverty” been more relevant than it is in 2012, you only have to Google “RBS Bonuses” to see that. Billy Bragg has not got the best voice in the world, but he sings with a passion that is in my opinion, unrivaled in a world that where we are bludgeoned with headlines about Adele being the best female singer since the birth of Christ. I am sure Adele is very good at what she does, but the media seem to want to elevate her to Biblical status before ultimately discarding her as yesterday’s chip paper. Elevated status it seems, is the order of the day in modern Britain.

Flag Day by The Housemartins

So what, in my eyes, was the most heroic moment that I have experienced first hand? I have to take you back to 1997 and Weymouth sea front at the height Teletubbie mania. Somehow, as the toy shops shelves emptied of Tinky Winky, Didpsy, LaLa and Po, my elder brother managed to purchase a Teletubbie for my eldest son George (who was one and a half) which in its own way was a heroic act, such was the scarcity of the toy. However, what was about to follow was in my eyes, an act of heroic courage. Looking down in to George’s pram we noticed that Tinky Winky was missing!! George always held Tinky Winky tightly, so it soon became apparent that some bastard had stolen this incredibly sought after toddlers toy, it was an awful moment. Despite his distress, I was prepared leave it and accept that Tinky Winky had gone forever, contenting myself that this was an early lesson for George to prepare him for the roller coaster of the life that lay ahead of him. Then, several minutes later, my ex-Wife spotted a rough looking family with a similar looking Tinky Winky in their possession, but they looked like the type I didn’t want to have a fight with, especially as there was no direct evidence to suggest that they had stolen it. To accuse a family of scumbags of theft was, in my opinion, littered with potential violence and the headline “TELETUBBIE DAD BATTERED TO DEATH” was flashing in my minds eye.

Then, putting his personal safety last, my old mate Mark (Cunningham) stood up to plate and said in the loud and bullish voice he is only capable of “EXCUSE ME MATE, BUT IS THAT YOUR TINKY WINKY?”  I was impressed by the forcefulness of Mark’s words especially when you consider that they revolved around a Teletubbie, but a glance at the family he was quizzing left me expecting an imminent eruption of full scale violence. For my small child to lose a Teletubbie and witness my head getting staved in all on the same day, may have been too much to take. It is also worth noting that Mark’s son Charlie (the same age) was also on the scene and susceptible to similar trauma. Was this heroic, or was it stupid, the equivalent of a man drowning attempting to save a dog on an icy lake?  Then, the family crumbled under pressure, the woman desperately claiming that they had found the toy on the floor before she sheepishly handed it back to a delighted George whilst I looked on totally emasculated and slightly jealous of Mark’s actions.

To stand toe to toe with a family of chavs who have stolen a Teletubbie is what it means to be a real hero and whilst Mark Thatcher remains a Sir, Mark Cunningham remains without Knighthood.

Where is the justice in that?

1 Reply to "No More Heroes Anymore?"

  • Karen Edwards
    February 24, 2012 (3:14 pm)

    Maybe you can start a petition to be sent to Downing St ‘Sir Mark Cunningham’ I’ll sign it, what a hero!!

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