They say everyone loves a parade, and every parade loves its heroes. When you come right down to it, we all needs heroes in our otherwise unheroic lives. Someone larger than life who we can identify with in our private dreams. Trouble is our kids rarely have the same heroes we do, just as we rarely have the same ones our parents did.
Lets be honest. The definition of a hero is a moving target. There were those times when Buffalo and Indian killers were considered heroic. So were gunslingers, railroad tycoons, and whale hunters. Today each would be considered the dregs of society. For a long time Columbus, the Conquistadors and General Custer were hailed as important men. Today we see them far differently. As for entertainment, carnival geeks and hucksters have surely lost whatever appeal they once had; although some of today’s rappers and dancing-with-the-stars make you wonder how far we’ve really come.
Talking about heroes, Capitalism comes to mind. Throughout the 19th and 20th C, to be a freewheeling Capitalist was pretty much the American Dream of every man. The heroes in that pantheon were the likes of Kit Carson, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J. P. Morgan, Henry Ford, GM’s hard-fisted Charlie Wilson and of course Broadway’s lovable con man Professor Harold Hill. In time the bible of American Capitalism become the best-selling how-to book in history:”How To Win Friends and Influence People.”
The whole trumpet-blaring idea came down to one thing: Caveat Emptor, buyer beware, because I’m coming through on all cylinders!
These days our children seem far more aware of Capitalism’s con and mad men. They tend to see more grays in between the old backs and whites. Instead of ruthless entrepreneurs, they admire the more sophisticated Capitalists like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. And yet, in an ironic twist, our kids have re-writtens some of the rules. For instance notice how what we once called vanity is now cheered as confidence [see the strutting vanity of Donald Trump as an everywhere-you-look example]. Also notice how modesty often gets dismissed as lacking initiative [they have therapy and pills for guys like you!]
Bottom line, heroes may change and our expectations of them may grow greater, however, every generation seems to love the rogue in them. We can’t help a grudging admiration. Only we should always remember never turn our back to them, because you never know which pocket they plan to pick.
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