Saturday, August 2, 2008

Post-Heroic America?

Vicksburg, 1863
D-Day Heroes
Two genuine heroes, Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and SGM Basil Plumbley
The Dark Knight-Post-Heroic Icon?

An excellent post by Pat Porter on the blog Kings of War caught my eye today. The topic looks at the current perception of war in Western World.


Porter begins:

I’ve always been a little uneasy with the notion that we in the West wage post-heroic war because we live in post-heroic societies.

The argument goes like this: several converging influences have made traditional heroic world views redundant. Western societies that don’t live in almost a permanent state of emergency (like, say, Israel) are increasingly distant from the military.

They live in times of affluence and material plenty without precedent. They are very casualty averse.

This is a very thoughtful essay and speaks volumes about how war has come to be viewed by most of the Western World. Porter lays out the conventional arguement that we are living in a post-heroic society.

Hence the way we prefer to fight wars: low-casualty (or even bloodless for our own side, like Kosovo in 1999); a preoccupation with force protection over risk-taking heroism; a preference for air power-driven strategies over ground operations; an obsession with media-management and public relations; no conscription, compulsion and hardly any mobilization of broader society (the Marines are at war, America is at the mall); and a judicialisation of warfare, so that some victims of malpractice in our expeditionary wars are given a hearing and compensated.

Then he goes on to deconstruct that argument. Here are a few snippets for consideration.

Its true that civilians are more distant from the military. Its true that we enjoy unprecedented levels of comfort and peace. Its true that our mass media does make great moral demands of our war-making. But the appetite for heroism is not dead.

Opinion polls provide little evidence for the stereotype of the self-absorbed, casualty averse West.
Our world of popular entertainment, despite all of the social patterns above, reflects not a post-heroic culture but a lasting attachment to primordial ideas about heroism, evil and moral struggle:

“The Dark Knight,” then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year’s “300,” “The Dark Knight” is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

What seems to be happening is something more complex: policymakers reckon on a post-heroic society, and then their policies are interpreted as evidence of the existence of post-heroic society.

This essay is fertile with ideas that resonate and stir ones inner conscious mind and beg reflection as we continue to face the reality that war, is still a part of the human experience.

An Example of Heroism

This blog has posted often about the people we send in harms way. It is appropriate revisit one site and the ongoing battle being waged in a hospital room to save a young mans life. Attention was called to this young man by the post Broken Arrow for Kaboom Readers! Matthew Wheeler who was burned over 60% of his body in a fueling accident in on June 22, 2008 continues his struggle to recover. For those of you who have not followed his progress, here is the link to a daily blog by Matt's mom, who to me, exemplifies the best in motherhood. ( It reminds us that heroism is not confined to the battlefield.

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