Can We All Just Stop With The Hero Worship?
Hero worship is defined as ‘excessive admiration for someone’, an idea that they are special or perfect, and is commonly directed at people in the public eye, celebrities or people that have made a name for themselves in one way or another.
There are a number of reasons why we do this. Rational reasons for looking for and following a ‘leader’ are hopes of gaining status, power, money or entry into a meaningful enterprise, and fear of missing out if we don’t. Irrational reasons are usually more influential, unconscious and harder to control, arising from powerful emotions in our subconscious that we project onto leaders and our relationships with them.
The problem is, once we raise someone to hero status they have a lot of responsibility placed on them, whether they asked for it or not. It’s easy for us to expect certain behaviours of them and project our own ideals upon them, and forget that they are just people. Just look at the hero worship and downfall in public perception of people like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, who were lauded for their innovation and success but had a sharp fall when mistakes they made were revealed.
Now, this is not to say that we shouldn’t appreciate people’s successes and look up to them, but once you transfer that admiration into a more intense worship of the person themselves, you actually put yourself, and them, at a disadvantage. If you worship someone you chip away at your ability to see them objectively. You start to see them as unable to do wrong, you believe in all their decisions, even the ones that are clearly and demonstrably wrong, unethical or unhealthy. You believe that all these decisions are down to their brilliance, their intellect and aren’t worth questioning. You idolise and trust that person, so of course what they’re saying is true. No matter how wild their claims may be.
And this is a potentially dangerous situation to end up in. In the extreme you may choose to mimic your hero’s choices and live life as you interpret they would, forsaking your own path and your own individuality.
What’s important to remember is that no matter how intelligent, skilled or charismatic the hero is, they likely got to where they are down to some form of luck. Right time, right place, right idea, something aligned to get them to where they are, but behind that they are simply just human. We just need to make the effort to remain impartial and see these people as people.
In vegan, environmental, social justice and animal rights circles there is no shortage of hero worship. We queue up to get our photo taken with someone who publishes videos on YouTube and tell them how much we love them. But why do we love them? They’re doing something many other people are also doing, so why the idolisation of that particular one person?
Perhaps the most worrying trend in hero worship in these circles and movements, is the make up of this elite group of ‘heroes’. They’re mostly white, almost always male, almost always straight. Why does a male activist have more followers and more fame than a female activist doing the exact same thing? Why are our stages full of male speakers, particularly in vegan spaces where the population is made of 73% women? We have got to do better.
The fact that on average women have more empathy than men (perhaps a reason more women than men are vegan) doesn’t mean we should put men on pedestals for doing the same work. Men having empathy and caring about animals and social justice issues doesn’t make them entitled to a bigger badge of honour than any woman in the same position. Our communities are beautifully diverse with many intersections, they are not made up of predominantly cis straight white men, so why do they make up the biggest proportion of the ‘leaders’?
By putting endless line ups of white men on pedestals we’re playing into and furthering the very white supremacist, patriarchal system we should all be fighting to dismantle.
Let’s work harder for less hero worship, and more appreciation for the hard work done by people from all walks of life. Not just cis straight white dudes.