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Has democratizing military history made the term ‘heroes’ increasingly meaningless?

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  • Has democratizing military history made the term ‘heroes’ increasingly meaningless?

    Has democratization of World War histories made use of the term ‘heroes’ increasingly meaningless
    Look maybe it’s just me.
    Maybe the thought of going back to tertiary studies in a couple of years has simply made me deliberately look for provocative potential issues to ‘run’ with and to always question popular perceptions of issues
    I stress, I (boy do I love that word …. ‘I’… it just kinda feels right whenever I use it….. bloody marvellous!) AM NOT repeat NOT posting this as a deliberate wind up or inflammatory diatribe.

    But of late I’ve become increasingly uneasy with the widespread, almost arbitrary use of the term ‘heroes’ when the mass media (at least in the so-called ‘Anglosphere’) refers to the WWI and WWII ‘generations’.

    It struck me most strongly in a recent visit to a local newsagency when I was pursuing the history magazine section.
    There were three genealogical mags and each featured a cover and lead article on tracing family military. Each article had an emotive title along the lines of
    “Tracing your World War II hero ancestors”, “Find your Great War family heroes” etc.

    Other magazines peddle stuff something like: “The hero housewives of Bromley -by-Bow, how they faced butter rationing and working in factories”. Get the idea.

    Anyone else find this stuff a bit galling?

    Then there’s tabloid TV shows featuring segments that, for example in Australia, refer to anything whatsoever to do with World War II veterans as being about “our Aussie heroes”.


    Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that we don’t honour men and women of the “greatest generation” (a very recent term by the way)
    Just that the whole thing is getting out of hand,

    Perhaps a personal anecdote may help illustrate what I’m getting at:
    I remember clearly when visiting relatives in France some thirty years ago and we were discussing grand- uncles etc who had fallen in WWI.
    I told them they surely must be really proud of the heroes.

    They all looked a little aghast and responded, if I remember correctly with something like:
    “Oh, hell no they weren’t heroes. Jean and Pierre just got machine gunned attacking some Kraut trench at Verdun.

    Sebastian was killed when the Germans overran his platoon’s position in 1918.

    A snipper got Etienne when he was cutting some bloody wire on the Somme.
    Cripes just blokes doing their job. Nothing heroic!”

    I was a little taken aback and didn’t pursue it but the story always stuck with me. Things have certainly changed and now days I suppose there would be an automatic assumption that these guys would be heroes.

    What do other posters think?
    Is the term ‘heroes’being overused?

    Regards lodestar

  • #2
    Less "chaff" with the wheat than usual, so thanks for that. I agree with you. This isn't a history problem Lodestar, it is systemic.

    Hero is applied far to liberally to suit me in many areas. Related to it is equating different activities with war. That is especially prevalent in sports.

    You can frequently read lines like "it was a war out there" from an athlete referencing a game. Really? Looked to me like everyone was still alive when the game was over.

    Regards,
    Dennis
    If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

    Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

    Comment


    • #3
      Absolutely, I agree. When everyone in a uniform is considered a hero, what does it make to differentiate the man with the victoria cross from the guy who cleaned kitchens and baked bread for 5 years? In the UK the term has entered the most use in relation not to WWII era veterans (they seem fairly well established enough) but in the popular press in relation to anyone in uniform currently, mostly due to A-stan and Iraq.

      It's like the quote about the word General (I'm paraphrasing)- it lumps together Napoleon and the most pedestrian Pentagon pen-pusher.

      There should be respect for armed forces personnel befitting the Military Covenant, but it does no good to call all involved 'heroes'. The papers, especially The Sun seem to most willing to apply the term indiscriminately. Consistent with other **** ups - there was one article a year or so ago in which a young woman serving in Afghanistan was awarded a 'medal for bravery' - the medal she was listed as receiving and photographed holding was the Campaign medal. She was a logistician, IIRC, - tough job in that environment, not saying I could do it, but it's not in the classical definition of 'Hero' is it? She got the medal for turning up.
      We can't call people 'Hero' for doing their job/duty, because then the term becomes cheapened for people who charge machine gun nests with broken bottles and save their oppos by carrying them through mortar-fire or what have you.
      Where do you draw the line? People who didn't see active service but were deployed to trouble spots ? that's my old man, he'd be the first to say he isn't a hero. There's a man who disdains wearing any kind of tin-wear. How-about former and current reservists? that includes me and a few of my friends and cousins, either TA, RAFR or were in the URNU/ OTC we certainly aren't heroes. Nothing heroic about eating an MRE on a hill in Yorkshire or playing monopoly on a patrol boat.
      ------
      'I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.' - Thomas Jefferson

      If you have questions about the forum please check the FAQ/Rules

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by lodestar View Post
        Has democratization of World War histories made use of the term ‘heroes’ increasingly meaningless
        Look maybe it’s just me.
        Maybe the thought of going back to tertiary studies in a couple of years has simply made me deliberately look for provocative potential issues to ‘run’ with and to always question popular perceptions of issues
        I stress, I (boy do I love that word …. ‘I’… it just kinda feels right whenever I use it….. bloody marvellous!) AM NOT repeat NOT posting this as a deliberate wind up or inflammatory diatribe.

        But of late I’ve become increasingly uneasy with the widespread, almost arbitrary use of the term ‘heroes’ when the mass media (at least in the so-called ‘Anglosphere’) refers to the WWI and WWII ‘generations’.

        It struck me most strongly in a recent visit to a local newsagency when I was pursuing the history magazine section.
        There were three genealogical mags and each featured a cover and lead article on tracing family military. Each article had an emotive title along the lines of
        “Tracing your World War II hero ancestors”, “Find your Great War family heroes” etc.

        Other magazines peddle stuff something like: “The hero housewives of Bromley -by-Bow, how they faced butter rationing and working in factories”. Get the idea.

        Anyone else find this stuff a bit galling?

        Then there’s tabloid TV shows featuring segments that, for example in Australia, refer to anything whatsoever to do with World War II veterans as being about “our Aussie heroes”.


        Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that we don’t honour men and women of the “greatest generation” (a very recent term by the way)
        Just that the whole thing is getting out of hand,

        Perhaps a personal anecdote may help illustrate what I’m getting at:
        I remember clearly when visiting relatives in France some thirty years ago and we were discussing grand- uncles etc who had fallen in WWI.
        I told them they surely must be really proud of the heroes.

        They all looked a little aghast and responded, if I remember correctly with something like:
        “Oh, hell no they weren’t heroes. Jean and Pierre just got machine gunned attacking some Kraut trench at Verdun.

        Sebastian was killed when the Germans overran his platoon’s position in 1918.

        A snipper got Etienne when he was cutting some bloody wire on the Somme.
        Cripes just blokes doing their job. Nothing heroic!”

        I was a little taken aback and didn’t pursue it but the story always stuck with me. Things have certainly changed and now days I suppose there would be an automatic assumption that these guys would be heroes.

        What do other posters think?
        Is the term ‘heroes’being overused?

        Regards lodestar
        I think you are absolutely right ls, the big majority of us (in my opinion) were just ordinary blokes who through circumstances beyond our control found ourselves in khaki and being shot at! So we did (in the main) as we were told and reacted in an aggressive manner back at 'em. I certainly did not look upon myself as heroic and I do not think that the bulk of my mates did in regard to themselves either. I must admit that I am proud of my service in the Marines,as I am sure they are,but we were 18 year old conscripts when we landed in Normandy,how heroic do you reckon we felt? The word Hero has become far to common overall,even sportsmen get called heroes,now what the hell is heroic about kicking a football about? They get payed well enough for it, and that is one thing the PBI did not get. lcm1
        Last edited by lcm1; 21 Dec 12, 08:13.
        'By Horse by Tram'.


        I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
        " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

        Comment


        • #5
          A better term for people who volunteered for a combat element and fought in a battlefield is 'brave'. Surely, they are more courageous than soccer players and possess inner motivation. But whether or not this motivation collapses in the field due to false preconceptions... one cannot know when and where. So this title can be fleeting.

          I find it interesting to see how many military award winners don't consider themselves heroes at all, but rather lucky survivors. They often refer to how their medal should be shared to their slain comrades. They have a point.

          What's a war hero? Somebody who has seen and done it all, and continues to knowingly serve until their personal destruction.

          Comment


          • #6
            Use of the term 'heroes'

            Originally posted by Selous View Post
            Absolutely, I agree.
            In the UK the term has entered the most use in relation not to WWII era veterans (they seem fairly well established enough) but in the popular press in relation to anyone in uniform currently, mostly due to A-stan and Iraq.

            there was one article a year or so ago in which a young woman serving in Afghanistan was awarded a 'medal for bravery' - the medal she was listed as receiving and photographed holding was the Campaign medal.

            We can't call people 'Hero' for doing their job/duty, because then the term becomes cheapened for people who charge machine gun nests with broken bottles and save their oppos by carrying them through mortar-fire or what have you.
            I'll be in France next year (hopefully) and hope to visit some graves at military cemeteries am wondering if I should raise the matter of the status of the ‘ole grand-uncles in WWI again?
            My cousin was a teacher (including history) for about forty years and would find this discussion very interesting.

            Also had relatives taken hostage and executed by German occupying forces (in retaliation for attacks in the area on German forces) as well as some killed in the resistance (armed with friggin’ hunting shotguns and those bloody awful stens according to family legend!) and never heard them called ‘heroes’.

            And don't get me started about what my mother went through in Poland and as a slave labourer in Ratziland!

            Maybe it’s more a Brit tabloid press problem as you say. Their approach is simply dreadful and certainly debases the whole matter of real heroes.

            Regards lodestar

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by lcm1 View Post
              I think you are absolutely right ls, the big majority of us (in my opinion) were just ordinary blokes who through circumstances beyond our control found ourselves in khaki and being shot at! So we did (in the main) as we were told and reacted in an aggressive manner back at 'em. I certainly did not look upon myself as heroic and I do not think that the bulk of my mates did in regard to themselves either. I must admit that I am proud of my service in the Marines,as I am sure they are,but we were 18 year old conscripts when we landed in Normandy,how heroic do you reckon we felt? The word Hero has become far to common overall,even sportsmen get called heroes,now what the hell is heroic about kicking a football about? They get payed well enough for it, and that is one thing the PBI did not get. lcm1
              Way to go mate......

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by lodestar View Post
                I'll be in France next year (hopefully) and hope to visit some graves at military cemeteries am wondering if I should raise the matter of the status of the ‘ole grand-uncles in WWI again?
                My cousin was a teacher (including history) for about forty years and would find this discussion very interesting.
                The trouble lies in gauging your activities/information - it is still necessary to be respectful when even making a valid point - no one would appreciate an out-of-the-blue lecture on why their granddad wasn't a hero. Odds are he did something requiring more fortitude, character and bravery than you or I from our safe vantage point at our computers would do.

                Does it make him a hero? no it might 'just' makes him a soldier, and there's no dishonour in that. Not every man in khaki is Achilles, thankfully. Most are hard working sweats doing the duty they've committed themselves to and, even when acting above and beyond, will seek to evade anything more than a respectful thank you.

                Also had relatives taken hostage and executed by German occupying forces (in retaliation for attacks in the area on German forces) as well as some killed in the resistance (armed with friggin’ hunting shotguns and those bloody awful stens according to family legend!) and never heard them called ‘heroes’.
                Heroism is defined by actions and deeds, created by circumstance and context - being there doesn't make you a hero, acting in a heroic fashion whilst being there does.

                Maybe it’s more a Brit tabloid press problem as you say. Their approach is simply dreadful and certainly debases the whole matter of real heroes.
                Pin it on the British tabloids if you will but I think it's an observable trend across the western world, the citizens of the Great Republic do it just as much as the Sun if not more so.

                Tangentially, here's another piece of fawning crap by a red top; http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage...of-honour.html

                Did some of those people listed there do something news worthy? yes, did they do soemthing brave? yes, heroic? quite possibly. Do we need The Sun to make this comic book BS tribute? not on your life.
                ------
                'I would rather be exposed to the inconveniencies attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.' - Thomas Jefferson

                If you have questions about the forum please check the FAQ/Rules

                Comment


                • #9
                  If I am permitted to have an opinion, I would say that it is an overreaction to the treatment of the military during the Vietnam era. I read of many shocking things done to returning veterans by antiwar protesters, and I think that radical fringe, contrary to their intent, angered the vast majority of Americans at any rate, to go out off their way to be respectful to the military. My father speaks of sitting nest to an Army captain on an airplane flight in 1968, and on finding that he was just back form the Nam, of his pleasure and surprise when my father told him of how he admired him. My father was 4-F for vision, so he felt and feels strongly about this..
                  Will no one tell me what she sings?--
                  Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
                  For old, unhappy, far-off things,
                  And battles long ago:
                  -William Wordsworth, "The Solitary Reaper"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Desiree Clary View Post
                    If I am permitted to have an opinion, I would say that it is an overreaction to the treatment of the military during the Vietnam era...
                    Perhaps, but it doesn't explain why this phenominon is happening in places like Canada and the UK.
                    Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Desiree Clary and right of opinion...lodestar ponders

                      Originally posted by Desiree Clary View Post
                      If I am permitted to have an opinion,
                      I'll be the judge of that!
                      lodestar

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by lodestar View Post
                        I'll be the judge of that!
                        lodestar
                        Thank you, oh mighty one.


                        Will no one tell me what she sings?--
                        Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
                        For old, unhappy, far-off things,
                        And battles long ago:
                        -William Wordsworth, "The Solitary Reaper"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Heroism??

                          Originally posted by Selous View Post

                          Tangentially, here's another piece of fawning crap by a red top; http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage...of-honour.html

                          Did some of those people listed there do something news worthy? yes, did they do soemthing brave? yes, heroic? quite possibly. Do we need The Sun to make this comic book BS tribute? not on your life.
                          This Sun article is precisely the kind of asinine puerility I’m talking about.

                          regards lodestar

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
                            A better term for people who volunteered for a combat element and fought in a battlefield is 'brave'. Surely, they are more courageous than soccer players and possess inner motivation. But whether or not this motivation collapses in the field due to false preconceptions... one cannot know when and where. So this title can be fleeting.

                            I find it interesting to see how many military award winners don't consider themselves heroes at all, but rather lucky survivors. They often refer to how their medal should be shared to their slain comrades. They have a point.

                            What's a war hero? Somebody who has seen and done it all, and continues to knowingly serve until their personal destruction.
                            Hi CI, now that is a perfect description, 'lucky survivors',which brings to mind one of my own sayings,'No winners only Survivors'. I survived without a scratch.Plenty of discomfort but no damage. (Try being on one end of a stretcher when things are a bit hairy)!! No doubt about it there are Heroes but to call us all that, makes me cringe!! It is not a term peculiar to just the UK,it is also used ad/hoc by the media in Australia as well. lcm1
                            'By Horse by Tram'.


                            I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
                            " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I don't even like it when they say "Thank you"... but I smile, nod, and try to look pleased with them.
                              It seems to mean so much to some folks, and I can't be a jerk to people who are just trying to be nice.

                              Comment

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