Should heroes be exemplary anymore or is it for the masses to decide

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Should heroes be exemplary anymore or is it for the masses to decide

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Subhayan Dutta

11/09/2018

Getting compared to Sachin Tendulkar every week surely makes Virat Kohli, whose cavalier attitude and invincible batting has seen the millennials religiously idolizing him more than any cricketer ever, a hero for the masses. But, unlike his batting, his character flaws might not be worth idolizing.

It is paradoxical really how people have reacted to the age-old idea of “hero” over the ages. While one could relate to a cold-eyed Sherlock telling Watson, “Don't make people into heroes, John. Heroes don't exist…” one would also agree with Don Draper coaxing the hippies stating, “People want to be told what to do so badly, that they will listen to anyone.”

Literature might be thousands of years old but the only thing older than that is the idea of “hero”. One of the oldest forms of literature, the extant heroic poem of the Norse sagas had “Beowulf”, the dragon slayer, who had to kill the dragon, and in the process sacrifice himself, to save his people. While the conditions and prerequisites of being a hero have changed over the years, the very idea of an exemplary savior has never left the human mind.

Heroes have come in many forms over the ages. From the gung-ho ones, who were brave, self-motivated and always committed to the adventure like Tarzan, King Arthur, or Sachin Tendulkar, to the tragic heroes - whose inner flaws would finally bring their end but the public could empathize with his/her inner demons eventually, like Darth Vader, Brutus or in the modern day, Steve Smith. One other kind is the catalyst hero, whose heroic acts don’t affect much all the time but they get the best out of others – the suitable example of them could be Robin Williams John Keating in Dead Poets Society, or in the modern era, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

There are others as well like the unwilling heroes, the anti-hero, the lone rangers, and the group-oriented ones, but the primary aspect among all of them has been the influence they have had on the masses or the people that looked up to them. Heroes have come in thick and fast and people have worshipped them all at some point of time or other. Interestingly, one would struggle to categorize Virat Kohli into one of them.

He has bits and parts of almost every one of them – the self-motivation of a gung-ho hero, the inner demons of the tragic hero, and the pomposity of an anti-hero as well. But, Kohli seems to be missing the most important element of the idea altogether – his impact on others. Yes, Kohli wasn’t born with this burden of being a national example and it still remains largely his choice to not be so, but heroes are not labeled after consultation, do they? They just become one. 

Hence, it went pretty much unsaid that with every one of his heroic knocks the onus got placed more and more on Kohli to become an example both on and off the field. But, while his aggressive and condescending nature on the field might get India over the ropes on most occasions, the same person doesn’t look like an ideal leader in person outside of cricket.

It wouldn’t be wrong to state that Kohli has been one of a kind here for if we compare him to Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in football, or a LeBron James in Basketball, or even Aaron Rogers in NFL, all of whom have supremely excelled in their genre, but have also shown humility as an important forte. And there is a good reason for that. Literature, like history and religion, has never failed to remind mankind that “pride hath a fall”. 

Through Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and many more, we have been indoctrinated by the idea of “hubris”. It hasn’t been always as true as it has been philosophical, though, for we have lived in the age of Mohammad Ali who was always over-brimming with pride and it hardly affected his work in the ring. And either for his lack of literature knowledge or excessive self confidence, but Kohli hasn’t abided by the philosophy either. Now, don’t get me wrong but if like Green Lantern, whose ring gets stronger purely by harnessing willpower, Kohli might also get his consistency and supremacy by exhibiting pomposity and aggression, in which case it is not his fault to begin with, but the responsibility definitely stands on us to choose our heroes.

The incident that spurred this discussion occurred during Kohli’s app launch where a cricket enthusiast commented that he thought the Indian skipper’s batting was overrated as he/she found English and Australian batsmen better. To which, Kohli’s response was rather scathing and, to an extent, illogical. 

“Okay, I don’t think you should live in India then … you should go and live somewhere else, no? Why are you living in our country and loving other countries? I don’t mind you not liking me but I don’t think you should live in our country and like other things. Get your priorities right,” he said.

His statement has brought a lot of flak on the Indian skipper with many stating him to have fallen into the “intolerance” trend that the nation is currently going through, while others have also accused of losing the perspective off the field. However, a closer look at the initial statement by the individual was actually mean which prompted the controversial repartee by the Indian skipper. This isn’t the first time that Kohli has lashed out at someone. The skipper had quite indecently asked a reporter to keep his opinions to himself in the press conference prior to India’s fifth and final Test against England in September earlier this year when the reporter had disagreed that the current Indian team has been the best in the last 15-20 years. 

People by their design are fair to question that isn’t it the job of a hero to lead by example? Maybe it is not anymore, for it would be unfair on our part to expect a pretentious self of him outside the field, for we very much enjoy his indignant and condescending self while it helps India beat others in cricket. But, then again, maybe Kohli isn’t the hero India deserves but the one that the nation needs at the moment. Whatever it may be, the post modern age doesn’t demand heroes to be exemplary anymore, hence, it is upon us, the masses, to pick the right one.

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