Charles Zhang

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It is no longer possible for a society to regard any living man or woman as a hero in the modern age.

Because the reputation of anyone who is subjected to media scrutiny will eventually be diminished. It is really hard for the celebrity to keep a nice image to the public.

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    May 2 2012: To me a hero is someone who stands up for what is right, or who takes the right action, in someone's defense, when that is difficult. There is room in the modern age for many such heroes. Perfection in all dimensions is not part of the definition that is meaningful to me.
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    Apr 25 2012: Your statement comes from the assumption that a hero must be perfect and spotless. Having lived in Japan, I understand where you are coming from as the Japanese Society expects nothing less than perfection from its leaders and figures in positions of guidance and hierarchy (a clear example is the fact that Japan has had 16 Prime Ministers since 1989, 7 since 2005 as they have to resign as soon as proof of any wrongdoing, lack of good judgement or mistake becomes publicly known).

    But heroes are not gods, supernatural beings and much less perfect individuals. They are often ordinary people who rise to specific challenges and overcome them in particular conditions. In other cases they are people who have particular strengths, values, beliefs and exhibit special abilities, tenacity and commitment. In any case, outside the particular environment or framework within which they are to be considered heroes, they are people like the rest of us, with "luces y sombras" (lights and shadows), positive and negative qualities, weaknesses, failures and the occasional lack of judgement.

    It is important to understand that a hero's weaknesses or mistakes outside the framework of his heroicity or heroic acts have no relation to it and should not, in most cases, affect his/her hero status and the inspirational value and recognition of their accomplishment and achievement.

    I would think so, in most cases at least.

    Such is the case of most real life heroes, and even some mythical ones too.
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      Apr 27 2012: Thanks, Carlos!
      I got your point.
      Admittedly, in the East Asia culture, Hero means perfect. The god is perfect, every great people or non-people is perfect.
      So I think maybe the schism of definitions on heroes is one of the reason.
  • May 3 2012: There will always be heroes, it is just our perspective changes who we regard as a hero. For me, hero is someone who views life from a higher perspective and certainly not from a point of view of personal gain. For Martin Luther King Jr it was equal rights for all Americans. For Mother Theresa it was a home for all children. For Nelson Mandela it was the end of apartheid. For Steve Irwin and Jane Goodall it was preservation of animal species and their environments. Whatever the cause, it was a cause greater than themselves to which they surrended their every effort and in some cases their lives.
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    Apr 29 2012: Heroes are those who stand in the face of adversity, and still find the drive to accomplish their goals with good intentions. The media and the rest of society will attempt to put labels on your actions whether they're good or bad, call it what you want. It's ultimately up to the supporters of a hero to maintain a heroes legacy truthfully through the tainted opinions.
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    Apr 24 2012: True heroes stand the test of time. The media is a trend machine and trends change so the media's assertions or assessments may not stand the test of time. True heroes are timeless, even if forgotten. All true heroes have/had flaws and they know/knew it. Hero does not = flawless. Heroes do not have to be BIG in any way. Everyone is capable of experiencing being a hero in some small way at some time in their lives. Consistency is the hard part. Consistency in aspiration, with and despite difficulty, is the stuff of true heroes.
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      Apr 25 2012: I really like your definition of heroes. True heroes stand the test of time.
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    May 3 2012: Heroes have always had flaws, a Hero will always be someone who stands to do what others do not dare, mainly because society pressures.
  • Apr 23 2012: I was taought that a celebrity and a hero were two totally diffrent things.
    A hero is one that acts without media endorsements.
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      Apr 24 2012: Yeah, it is true that. a celebrity is not necessarily a hero. However, in the modern society it is nearly impossible for a hero to be a recluse. And if someone is a well-recognized hero, in another world, the hero to the public. First comes the fame. And then the gossips and scandals follows. As nobody is perfect, even the heroes are included. I think it is surely, Finally, the public heroes will be inundated by the permeating media.
  • May 6 2012: As someone said below "heroes are not of the past". They are still around. Grant it they don't have super powers or millions of dollars, but they still will lay their life down for the greater good. The media doesn't show these heroes. To the media they are not interesting enough for the public eyes.
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    May 4 2012: It is no longer possible for people to think about cheese sandwiches! Crazy. Right? Substitute "have heroes" for "think about cheese sandwiches." Still crazy, right? No one can control what another person's inner thoughts are. Sure the media thrives on scandal and is very good at searching it out. Sure everyone has skeletons in their closet. But I think you are wrong about living heroes being a thing of the past.
  • May 3 2012: As long as people keep their common sense, it is possible to see through the propanganda Prime example right now: Bradley Manning is more of a hero than any other man in the US Army: he, at great cost to himself, has dared to expose widespread fraud and illegal activities in the military, which secrecy seems to be entirely employed by those in power to mislead the public about our various "Wars". He is said to be tortured , in solitary confinement, denied any kind of hearing , etc. When you read about the excuses for all this, it is sickening. See Glenn Greenwald, Salon for some good reporting.
  • May 3 2012: This is a GRE issue, isn't it? I think firstly we have to define the word "hero". Just like the requirement of analyzing a figure in history, only in the particular circumstance could the man or woman be evaluated. In this case, therefore, during the very period of establishing the Republic of China, Mao was definitely a hero for Chinese because he emancipated them from poor and exploited; however, in his later life, especially in the Cultural Revolution, while he was idolized as the "hero", actually he was pulled down from the heroic throne.
    There are always heroic stories, and the protagonists of which are heroes. Nevertheless, these heroes are also ordinary human like all of us, and they would also make mistakes of even be evil in other circumstance.

    Sorry I might neglect the problem about media, but that's something I think about hero.
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    May 2 2012: All heros are falsified in the eyes of others.
    They are falsified by worship, and they are falsified by villification.
    What is a hero?
    Nothing more than a behavioural ideal that some choose to follow.
    All ideals are false.
    But by action, we might become a hero to those we love.
    And they will perfect it.
    • May 3 2012: I disagree that all ideals are false. If people didn't believe in ideals, great things would not be accomplished.TED itself was created with the very idea that if you could bring some of the most creative minds together of people who could imagine together what an ideal situation could look like, then they will have created an ideal environment for inspiration and creation. Without an ideal endgame in mind, an idea is just that, an idea.
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        May 3 2012: Leonard,

        I have said All ideals are false.

        I have not said to abandon the quest.

        As you follow it, it becomes more and more like a creature.

        And .. then you become that creature.

        Have you not done this yet?

        We are not a perfection - we are a path.

        We follow or we lead.

        Leader and follower are perfection in progress.

        To rest is to fail.
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        May 3 2012: Hi Don, you missed the final concept about perfection.

        By definition, all first steps are wrong.

        The hero is he/she who dares to take that step.

        It s in the lovers f the hero that the second step is often taken.

        And perfection might take many generations of love.

        But it does not die.

        Now - can you call me hopeless?
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        May 3 2012: No, I cannot see how unpacking the final stanza of my statement extends to new logic.
        It is consistent.
        (btw - this is all in good spirit).
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        May 3 2012: HI Don,

        I stand corrected.

        And many thanks!

        So, now on a more stabilised basis - can you explain "seemingly hopeless"?

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        May 4 2012: Hi Don,

        This is quite a valuable gift - I am homoured.

        I've also started working throough Zimbardo's Social fittness Challnege on his website.

        Best regards
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    Apr 27 2012: True heroes are ordinary people,young or old regardless of sex.Twice i have been saved by people who you wouldn't even think capable of such acts,heroes are born of the moment.Sadly a lot of them die trying to save people.

    A heroe of astronomy for me is Halton c Arp,he dared to push his conclusions against the flow.
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      Apr 28 2012: "heroes are born of the moment.Sadly a lot of them die trying to save people."
      I can understand this as it is quite close the requirement of a standard East Asian hero. however, i think this criterion is a little bit our-dated.
  • May 3 2012: Again, that is an ancient observation that goes so far back there were no such things as father's or husbands because the human male could not survive living high up in the trees of ancient Pangea.
  • May 3 2012: The comment is an ancient quote made millions of years ago. I certainly didn't originate it but I support it emphatically.
    • May 3 2012: You stated the following arguments some nine hours ago: "The human female has never needed nor ever had a single male hero; Neither will the human female ever need or ever have a single male hero.
      The only entity the human male can ever be a hero to is the human male."

      The cliche voices "Never is such a long time" This quote is saying that its author had a timeless knowledge of history and consequently can predict the future. I do not intend to pass judgement to what you advocate but parting from the present and coining a meaning of hero, isn't a father his child's--girl or boy--hero? Doesn't a mother think of a particularly successful son as a hero?
      Please let know the author to whose wisdom you emphatically support.
  • May 3 2012: Our society is more unique than most people recognize. We have managed to internalize this Greek idea of "the sovereign Individual" as the basic unit of humanity to such an extent, that it is not easy to see that this could be a profound error with serious side effects. Thus it is easy to talk about "EviL" in a "Few Rotten Apples". Or alternatively, how a finy fraction of Wall St. actors are so incredibly productive, that Yes, they DESERVE Billion dollar bonuses. But suppose for a moment, that the actual case is that a "Group" has a valid claim to being the basic unit. In that case, it is the whole group that has become "rotten", to some extent. (Evil is a theological term that should not be used) And there is no great value in scapegoating, such as the Abu Gharib case, or Lt. Calley, in the Vietnam War: that has the effect to making any reforms hopeless: sinc e the scapegoat is killed, and the problem seems solved. But it isn;t. By the way, heretical as this idea of humanity may sound , from the latest information from Biology, it is probably going to win out; it answers a lot of questions , and solves a lot of pseudo-prpblems.
  • May 2 2012: Using and tunning Forest Gum words: a hero is someone who does heroic things.
    There are thousands of people who do heroic things on daily basis. If we are afraid some people may judge the person why not talk about the deed? After all, the superheroes in comics keep their identities for a reason...
    For mostly all the people, everywhere, saving a life, fighting with peace and flowers, teaching, getting up after a horrible experience, discovering a cure,... are heroic deeds; and as the world need so much good examples and hope, shouldnt we spread this news?
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    May 2 2012: I think that's true. Perhaps a group of people within a society may, but for an entire society to feel such a way is out of the question. The reason I believe that's true is similar to something my father once said. That is, the internet allows the uninformed to express their opinions & ideas as though they are absolute truths; other uninformed people regard much of this misinformation as truth. For this reason, there are too many people who doubt excellence, creativity, pragmatism, and logic, be it with or without reason. Perhaps we need a way of validating what's true/untrue.
    • May 3 2012: You're right: we certainlly DO need a way to tell the true from the un-true. But that should be the purpose of Education. Personally , I'm a sort of old fashioned "Enlightenment" fan, but it is certainly true that some people, especially women, prefer to cut through the BS by just sensing it, without Logic or Science. Both are valuable.
  • May 2 2012: Here is an observation that may be millions of years old:

    The human female has never needed nor ever had a single male hero;
    Neither will the human female ever need or ever have a single male hero.
    The only entity the human male can ever be a hero to is the human male.
    • May 3 2012: What is your justification for saying thiis?! It is certainly not obvious. And does that mean that women cannot be heroic?!
  • May 2 2012: Did you hear about Rajinikanth?
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      Apr 29 2012: Hi, Mr. Wesley.

      I think it is rather hard for me to answer the question in short. Let me have a try!
      Evil or heroic, I think in different cultures there are different criteria. Mao is a legendary or even god-like man. However, the tragedy is that, the mass took him as the god, the only god. So there is no doubt can be cast on him. That is a crime to all Chinese, while the criminals are also Chinese. Evil or heroic? Who knows.
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      Apr 27 2012: Thanks for your link, Mr Wesley!
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          Apr 28 2012: Watching the talk, I just thought about the Chinese Culture Revolution. The power of mass.
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    Apr 24 2012: It is no longer possible... If you choose to listen to the media... Or if you choose to suggest that anyone with flaws isn't a hero. Luckily, the media isn't a credible source of information... and there are still heroes out there, blemishes and all.
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      Apr 24 2012: What I think quite interesting is that, the media are creating or fabricating heroes, meanwhile they are ruining the heroes.
      I come up with a idea where to find the heroes. Perhaps the last heroes are who control the media. But I am wondering, does the men exist?
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        Apr 26 2012: I would suggest that there is one true hero of the modern world, that could have stood even todays media scrutiny, the one... the only... Nikola Tesla. Not just an insane dedication to making the world a more powerful and interconnected place, but historically screwed over and left poor enough to instill pity. On top of all that, much to the loss of the human race, his breeding standards were just a bit too high for his own good. Told to have died celibate.

        I agree with Phillip Zimbardo on how everyday people become heroes or villains, given circumstances and conditioning. I think there are also slightly larger heroes than just the everday folk who do good when they get the chance.

        I think there are national heroes, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Michio Kaku would qualify in America nowadays, because they bring science into peoples living rooms. Barack Obama wrote the rhetoric that proved that, at least in the realm of president, most people no longer judge a man by the color of his skin.

        There are artistic and cultural heroes, Howard Zinn who just left us recently, HH The Dalai Lama regardless of religion has written some brilliant work, Akira Kurosawa The Master... The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. His Holiness Jon Stewart.

        Lots of people on Ted are heroes. The people who invented the eyeglasses made with water, the rolling water jug, the straw that can drink anything. Really what's going on right now in the modern world though... is a bit disturbing... I can't name those three people off the top of my head... and part of the reason why, is because I can always look it up now, I can probably even find a way to contact them... So I don't have to remember there name.

        Culture, in America, but also I think in the greater digital world, is not doing it's job. Real artists, real cutting edge science, really honest and enlightened philosophical thinkers... Inventors, engineers... We're not watching, or demanding television, or stadium tickets for them anymore.
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        Apr 27 2012: Gotta read the whole thing "It is no longer possible... If you choose to listen to the media... Or if you choose to suggest that anyone with flaws isn't a hero"... Those are big ifs. If you think a sexual quirk, temporary problem with drugs or alcohol, or other very common human flaws, make a person incapable of being a hero, you won't find any. In a world where the media has a microscope on peoples lives 24/7 their flaws will come out, we all have them.

        It's peoples good behaviors we should idollize, not the people themselves. Making idols out of people, just doesn't work in general, but even more so nowadays. People are rarely entirely great people, but they often do great things.

        As far as Zimbardo, while I agree with his findings. I disagree with the prescription. I think we have enough heroes like the Zimbardo ones... We don't have enough heroes actually engaged in leading people, or solving problems. To me the lesson of Zimbardo's experiment, is that one psychopath with too much power, can destroy the psychology of hundreds of people, in almost no time.

        He doesn't seem to want to teach that part of the lesson. There are an unacceptable number of sadistic and insane people in control of our world, and being prepared to save someone from a train, isn't going to save us from them. My certainty comes from the culture I grew up in, or rather, the complete lack of culture I grew up in. The way we're living is abhorent and utterly impossible to sustain. It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time. You can be a productive, and impressive person, but also stop to help people in need.
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        Apr 28 2012: Scolding is always easier than arguing...

        You obviously didn't read most of what I wrote, because I did not put down Mr. Zimbardo at all, and I've already favorited his stuff. I don't need thumbs up, and I have no intention to lead anyone... I like writing. I'm eccentric, and crazy, and wrong about all sorts of things, but it's fun to express that honestly.

        The fact that in a forum where there is a limit of 2000 characters, you find my "explanatory comments are just too long and too many"... Is disturbing, on so many levels. I think most people agree with you. Does everyone have the attention span of a goldfish? I'm sorry, I don't tweet.