Our Western civilization, until its recent decline, consistently praised great men. That was not only one of its strengths, but one of its virtues. To praise a great man or woman is to remind yourself of many things:
- That greatness is possible.
- That change and improvement are possible.
- That the individual is more important than the collective.
- That virtues are not only abstract, but can be lived in actual life, including under contrary circumstances.
- That even in bad circumstances, the good can still succeed.
- That virtues can be grown.
- That endurance matters.
These things, and others like them, are crucially important for people to see. And by championing the virtues of another, we are led to partake in them, first in spirit and then in body.
Once people see the virtues of others and praise them, they easily enough come to see that they are possible to themselves as well, leading them to noble goals of their own. By this, praising others ends up improving the world greatly.
If, on the other hand, we believe that greatness is all fraud and illusion, we decline into entropy and surrender ourselves to a nearly impotent mode of life.
Great men and women, then, are necessary, because great men and women give rise to thousands and millions of good men and women. And the proper measure of a civilization is how well it produces good men and women, not political supremacy and not mere creature comforts.
I won’t go through the reasons why great men have been evicted from Western civilization; it doesn’t particularly help us to move forward and I’ve explained it in the past anyway. What matters is that we see the scope of this eviction, and that we start doing something to reverse it.
And as for the scope, I like this example:
In the 19th century, streets were named, often exclusively, after great men. By the late 20th century, that had changed over to streets being named for anything but great men. They were named after hills, trees, ponds, brooks… some animal or some geographic feature. The only time streets are named after people these days is when they get honorary names, for base political purposes.
Ever since I was a boy, the easy path to literary prominence has been to tear down some great man or woman. Heroes, save for those of fantasies and those with political value, have been torn down for fun and profit. Western civilization has been stripped of actual heroes, and it has denuded the culture.
Once, We Had Heroes
Heroes are required, if we’re to have a thriving civilization. People contending otherwise are either ignorant or have bought into the “man may not be a glorious creature” mythology. Can heroes be followed too hard? Sure, heroes can turn into idols, and probably no writer has addressed that more seriously over the past few years than myself (please see issue #110 of our subscription newsletter). But to pretend that great men (and great women, of course) are unnecessary and even impossible… that is flatly false: the real good of human life comes from no one but heroes.
It’s of interest that the heroes of Western civilization always tended to be moral heroes. The various political rulers always tried to make themselves into heroes, but it seldom stuck very well. Jesus has always been the central hero, and he was anything but a great warlord. Likewise St. Peter, St. Paul and all the rest: The original stories that formed Western civilization were theirs, and they were anything but high and mighty.
The heroes of the West were men and women who grasped what was good and true, and held to it regardless of opposition. They triumphed because of their devotion to what was right. And this was the case for scientists, entrepreneurs, fathers, mothers, and more or less all Western heroes.
The new ideal of Western civilization turned the ancient political ethic – that might makes right – on its head, championing stories of precisely the opposite type: Of right making might.
Even to this day, if you want to deceive Westerners and turn them into your tools, you must maintain a cover story that following your prescription the good and right thing to do.
The Return of The Hero
If we want our heroes back, we’ll have to start acting, rather than sitting passively.
That is, we need to force heroes back into the world. Those of us who write must create clear and good heroes, not the usual “flawed heroes.” Those of us who sing can sing a better class of heroic songs. Those of us with means can finance heroic films and other entertainments.
And, of course, we can start naming streets after great men and women, even if its only in our own little areas.
What we need most is to act. The size of our action isn’t terribly important; breaking stasis is.