Thursday, July 19, 2007

Entitlement Kills Heroes

I'm catching up on back editions of the Henry Rollins Show on my DVR and just put on the May 25 episode, where Rollins starts off the show by talking about heroes: how we love to set 'em up and how we love to take 'em down. It occurred to me that while the reason humanity needs heroes is something we learn about from the first fairy tale we here, there might be a socio-cultural reason (or two) why reality TV and tabloid news give us as Americans the scandal we all seem to crave so much: our taught-from-birth sense of equality demands it.

We're a country that prides itself on believing (on the surface, at least) that liberty is an alienable right, that anyone can make it big by trying hard enough and everyone is on the exact same level playing field. Our legal system codifies justice based not on our social status or economic wherewithal but on our standing as citizens. Our government promises us all an equal piece of the pie - a pie that our society names to be sweet and juicy with a flaky crust that anyone can enjoy. We learn these values in school along with our ABCs and state capitals and we know, deep inside, we're just as worthy as anyone else to get what we want out of life.

This extreme individualism helped the United States succeed on the global stage. It helped build our way of life. However - and here's my point - with that same individualism we're more than happy to take any of our heroes, no matter how much we need them to guide us, down a peg or two when we can. We even revel in the idea and the execution, taking pride in our judgment as those we once held high are laid low. We do these things, I think, because deep down inside we never want anyone to forget: we don't just want that piece of pie, we don't just need that piece of pie, we deserve that piece of pie. Entitlement kills heroes.

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