Beyond Hero

On Easter, the networks dutifully searched their archives for larger-than-life movies like Ben-Hur to fill their air time. From the Beat Generation to the Beatles, anti-hero started to emerge, like in “Rebel without a cause” (the knife-fight at the Observatory between leader of the black leather gang and James Dean in white T-shirt). Since then, anti-heroes, like at My Lai Village, Vietnam, or Nixon, after Watergate, got choppered out of the White House (premonition of the last chopper out of Saigon two years later).

Fast forward to recent James Bond character. He had to be reigned in by his female boss ( the trend with female CEO now prevails at HP, IBM, Xerox, Yahoo).

Riding that trend, in Mission Impossible, Tom Cruise is also portrayed with more psychological depth. In short, more human, as opposed  to  super hero in Ben-Hur (whose showing was at outdoor theater, with viewers “parked” in Chevy convertibles).

Today’s gen Y have their own version of villains and heroes: their Lab-created Avatars, in 3-D, descendants of  comic heroes like Batman, Spider man and Iron man.

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, drones are the new heroes (while pilots who remote-control them can go home in Nevada unharmed; all in a day’s work).

Welcome to the digital age, where commerce, coupon and combat are all conducted online.

We use Search before Select. Parent used to be consulted on almost everything large and small. Now, it’s the screen.

Most of us grew up observing and imitating our dads: shiny shoes and the must-have watch. I used to shine my Dad’s shoes while he groomed.

From that vantage point, he was a towering figure in L-size clothing. He was never afraid to defend our home against robbers (or in my case, bully). He had only low tech (no surveillance camera or motion-detector flood lamps) to rely on. One night when I was about three-year-old, I woke up with a start, just to see a thief sticking his long pole, with hook  on end, trying to fish my mom’s purse.

Before I realized what had happened, I heard footsteps running, pole dropping and my Dad charging out after having thrown his kitchen knife with all he had. Quite low tech defense!

His world was simple, and his concept of security unambiguous.

Unlike the world I now live in.

Unlike the movies I now see .

Unlike the Bond characters which have come and gone. Remember Q?  Bond’s in-house gadget expert ? His expertise is needed to gear 007 up for mission.

It might be a self-driven BMW, or a self-destruct briefcase.

No heroes today can hold up just a staff and look to the sky, waiting for water to part. Yesterday’s low-tech movies,  even with larger-than-life  heroes, couldn’t hold the water in today’s split screen and split attention.

I need a hero, like Bonnie Tyler sings, but more than that. In today’s machine-driven world, we need to go beyond Hero.

Heroes who use high-tech and are hyper alert. Heroes among us. TIME magazine featured YOU as Man of the Year a few years back.

It’s only fitting that YOU who invented Social Network, surveillance and surgical instruments are to be cheered.

My Dad, who died roughly at the same age as Andy Rooney (92), who couldn’t stand those two-prong plugs in a three-prong society,  remains forever my low-tech hero in today’s high-tech society.

P.S. I wrote this a week before the Sexual Abuse Scandal broke at Penn State, my beloved alma mater. In this vein, I now have to move beyond “JoePa” image of a hero.

It’s not enough for good men to stand still and do nothing. We have laughed at the YouTube viral video showing two vehicles ran over a child in China with no bystanders’ intervention. Now we found out it could happen anywhere, and ironically, in Happy Valley. Still memories are always soothing, whether when we were 3 years old or 30 years old. Towering figures that have served as guideposts for us are now gone by attrition, while automation, esp. in Japan, is filling in the gap. Where man failed (inconsistency) becomes an opportunity for machine to rise. The net result: children don’t know what they are missing, for instance, the tears and agony many of my classmates were experiencing while the scandal unfolded in State College. We, Penn State alums all of a sudden, share that sense of solidarity and determination to make a better tomorrow , and the school a better place to learn . I admire the tenacity of some emerging writers there at the Collegian. David Brooks calls them “the Emperical Kids” i.e. validated before venturing.

Go Penn State, Go. Beyond Hero, beyond ourselves. Let not complacency win again this time.


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