Rejecting the Heroic

By Badb Catha

The Hero’s Journey (aka The Monomyth), as outlined by Joseph Campbell

Culture may be described as a product of both logos and mythos, with both modes of interpretation and understanding working in synthesis, or with one as a product of the other. Artists, musicians, poets, philosophers, theologians, political theorists, statesmen and others rely on the tools of logos in order to create their own works of mythos. While some my favour and utilise one to a greater degree than the other, the realm of culture is a playground of both the concrete and the abstract, the rational and the intuitive. The academic study of mythology itself may be best understood as the application of logos to the products of mythos. This is nicely illustrated by the term’s etymology.

A theme of particular prominence and endurance in the mythological canon is that or the hero and his journey. The hero, upon hearing the call to action, typically embarks upon a dangerous journey into the unknown. Often, this journey is a descent. Often, as with Psyche, Horus and Christ, it is a descent to the very bottom of the pit, down to Hades, the Egyptian underworld, to Hell. Christ shares common themes in the unlikely form of Dionysus, who, like Shiva and many other deities, exemplifies the long tradition of the dying-and-rising God of life-death-rebirth. The hero who returns from the underworld expresses a number of eschatological themes, with the cyclical nature of time and existence being one of the most prominent.

“In imitating the exemplary acts of a god or of a mythic hero, or simply by recounting their adventures, the man of an archaic society detaches himself from profane time and magically re-enters the Great Time, the sacred time.” – Mircea Eliade

Post-Heroic Progressivism

Societies who reject the heroic (be it in part or in totality) generally strive for purgatory on earth; a kind of meaningless rabbit utopia in the style of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, infantile and insipid, dispassionate and tedious. No more struggle, neither tragedy nor joy, and subsequently, no desire for transcendence. This world, were it possible, would be an artless and tuneless one, euthanasia of the spirit being a prerequisite. This utopian vision is markedly passive and inert. Contrary to the biblical myth of paradise as Eden or the heavenly realm, the materialist peace cult of equality and humanism is devoted to the incarnation of eternal peace on a purely temporal level. This, in keeping with their mythos of a particular and specifically leftish conception of earthly Elysium, is to be achieved through the political and cultural power of the masses. The archetypal hero of tradition, being an active, impressive and independent force, is not a figure apt to be revered. Until such times, heroes and villains (of a sort) are still needed, least our would-be rabbits find themselves struggling to sell a cause without any clear explanation or purpose behind it.

On an external and material level, the active is superior to the passive. Activity correlates positively with physical and mental balance. A clinically depressed person is recommended to take exercise, to move, to plan, to engage in any kind of work or recreation with some goal in mind. Depression is not so much a state of sadness, but rather one characterised by listlessness, apathy, and anhedonia. Initially, even the smallest application of will feels laborious. After a while, it is merely tedious. In time, it may become somewhat rewarding. The day that the depressive recovers the desire to act is the day he is cured. It is easy to see that introverted and introspective individuals lean closer to passivity than activity. Many such personalities have well developed creative and intellectual faculties, a modest number of exterior attachments, and a strong sense of independence. Rather than being ‘in the world’ the default position is, naturally, that of an observer. While the progressive may idealise passivity, his own disposition is highly reactive, if not rabidly histrionic. Like every other breed of leftist, he is essentially a mass mover; over-socialised, peer-dependant, and prone to fashionable mimicry (be it slogan barking, hashtag-solidarity slacktivism, or childish outbursts). The person who acts only for the sake of acting, driven by flights of emotion and a high degree of impulsivity, is little more than a toddler. Unlike the ascendant hero, who has embraced action after a period great hardship and deep contemplation, his forcefulness is not a product of his will. He is compelled not by truth and obligation, but by a slavish devotion to the force of his own emotional needs.

Progs as Endlings

The emergence of armed agents of chaos point to the main problem of worldly eternal ‘peace’ – It is a state preserved by a rigid and sterile status quo, resistant to any form of dynamism, be it of the creative or destructive variety. Post-heroic cultures are zombie cultures, characterised by the replacement of honour, passion and sacrifice with ego-indulgence, material pleasures and temporal prosperity. Many a person born and initiated into such a culture tends to measure his success by the consistency and degree of his pleasures and comforts. That anyone should be denied such happiness is an injustice. Denial and suffering are the things which trouble him the most. Indeed, they are almost synonymous. In his world, God the Father and Satan the Adversary have been quietly exiled, and for this, he is most grateful. Perhaps, one day, we might send death in the same direction. If there is such a thing as evil (reluctantly, he still feels compelled to define it), then surely evil is all that is morbid, since death appears to be the ultimate manifestation of both denial and suffering. Why anyone would embrace such a thing is beyond the reaches of his imagination. Notions such as martyrdom, born from the heroic, associated with war, religion, creed and violent instinct, tend to be upsetting, confusing and threatening. Other cultures with flavours of the pre-heroic and pre-modern both intrigue and terrify him. Some elements he perceives as quaint and colourful, while others are far too uncomfortable or inconvenient to dwell on. Our stereotypical lib-left bourgeois-bohemian picks over the buffet, idealising and sanitising as per his wants, while also disposing of anything he finds particularly challenging or problematic. The noble savage; gentle and victimised? “Charming!” Exotic and ancient wisdom; embodied by counterfeit gurus and illustrated in self-help bestsellers? “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one… If it weren’t for those unenlightened Nazi bigots…” Should someone really take him to task on these issues, his Plan B will be to attribute any inegalitarian values of ‘the other’ to a lack of education (most likely denied to him by various systems of oppression), or claim that these values were, at some unspecified point in history, forced upon his ancestors via white supremacy.

Liberal Humanitarians: Thirsty for prosecco and back pats

Since his ideological gingerbread house is built upon a foundation of fairy dust, he is forced to engage in mean feats of intellectual gymnastics in an attempt to distract from obvious contradictions and inconsistencies, although he is just as likely to be found arguing among his fellows over which flavour of confectioners icing is the better one. In such debates, many will voice their concerns about gingerbread being too eurocentric an approach. Others question the vegan credentials of this particular building material, which in turn raises issues of specism and eco-misogyny. A considerable number will even insist that a foundation of fairy dust is inherently homophobic, and only the most radical of revisions will suffice. True to form, confused and fractured people make for confused and fractured movements. It’s little wonder that the left has more branches and than one could ever care to count. Internal fracases within movements intent on splicing elements of liberalism with various off-shots of Marxist doctrine are even less surprising.

The Post-Heroic Society at War

“It needs but one foe to breed a war, and those who have not swords can still die upon them.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

The tragedies of twentieth-century also conspired against traditional notions of heroism. After the advent of mechanised warfare, memories of the trenches and death from above made the celebration of gallantry and glory considerably less appealing. Earlier still, the scientific, technological, and political revolutions of previous centuries had already dealt an enormous amount of damage to the mores of the old world order. Egalitarianism is, in part, designed to prevent the emergence of Great Men, Artist-Tyrants and Philosopher Kings, least such a character rise to deal the death blow to democracy.

And yet the culture that rejects the hero is not without some degree of awareness of self and of other. No matter how peripheral, the forces of dissent, both foreign and domestic, aren’t giving up without a fight. But open confrontation must be held off as long as possible, and so the first phase is the marginalisation of antagonists within all areas of social and cultural influence (media, education, law, policy et al). Of course, this is merely the tip of the iceberg. This war is one fought on two fronts, as post-heroic societies stand surrounded by those of both the pre-heroic (or primitive) and the heroic kind. The dream may be one of peace and universal tolerance (at the cost of any diversity or distinction), but mere survival requires some degree of aggression and/or defence. When the rational man has exhausted his resources of diplomacy, compromise and appeasement then, against his fragile will, he is compelled to throw punches in equal or greater measure. If he cannot or will not, then death is due to come knocking.

And so our post-heroic societies are compelled to develop new methods and strategies. By replacing overt aggression into a model of covert repression, the sword is exchanged for a poison chalice. It is a pantomime of politics, finance, drones, technological and chemical carnage, deceit, and shady dealings. One speaks of ‘humanitarian interventions’ and ‘the international community’, and of a responsibility to ‘stand against tyranny’ or ‘defend human rights’. Subsequently, the global peace experiment remains a project in the nascent state. And paradoxically, such societies are constantly at war.


Refugees Welcome


The justification for this is the supposed historical sins of Western nations, and yet it was from within the West that the entire concept of human rights was developed and imported throughout the entire world. Among the many cultures and civilisations with imperial and colonial histories, it is only those of a European inheritance who insist on offering a never-ending stream of apologies, confessions of inherited shame and guilt, and the endless funnelling of reparations. For those current day ‘victims’ forced to live under the yoke of white hegemony, our ethnomasochists and cultural flagellants point piously towards compensatory positive-discrimination, compulsory diversity training, special legal protections and a general policy of enforced tolerance. It is the idea that Western nations have imposed their values on the rest of the world that makes today’s victims the new heroes, and yesterday’s heroes the new villains. It is ironic, then, that the globally-minded liberal-left inherits a modified and codified form of imperialism. Racially and culturally, it walks on eggshells, not quite sure of itself, in a constant state of anxiety and self-doubt. Economically, it thrives on the acquisition of human capital via mass immigration, as well as the outsourcing of cheap labour. In the case of the former, those in less wealthy and less stable nations lose many of their most productive and promising citizens. With the later, those born and breed in developed nations face an increasingly competitive job market, where all involved endure the consequences of fractured and shifting demographics, incompatibilities, hostilities, and (often violent) multicultural backlash. As for the cost of human life, the fight for democracy, equality and humanity tends to look much like a meat grinder. When the international legal system fails to squash national laws considered to be in breach of the UN Declaration of Human Rights or any other such treaty, it is then the responsibility of the most powerful states to intervene on behalf of the victims. Naturally, bullets and bombs are often considered the most effective items in the toolbox, humanitarianism and notions of ‘human dignity’ notwithstanding. Soldiers return from active duty to meagre applause. And from the state, they will often receive little in the way of gratitude or accolades. It is only when they resurface as victims, claiming compensation or homeless and living on the street, that they receive anything in the way of an enthusiastic ovation.


The Post-Heroic Future

With the next donor heart sharing an ice bucket with the vintage reserve, our so-called elites may or may not succeed in ushering in the new age. At any rate, Imagineland would most likely take the shape of an authoritarian one-world government; always striving towards a world without countries, religions, possessions, and anything else that could possibly be considered worth killing or dying for. The hero had been deconstructed long ago. “God is dead”, said Nietzsche. Indeed, neither heroes or gods are needed, only politicians, holy victims and ‘extremist’ anti-villains.

The issues we are discussing today have their roots in every genus of human culture. It is the conflict between two timeless narratives; that of the exalted man’s inspired individual heroisms and the profane man’s meaningless collectivist nihilisms. As in so many of our heroic narratives, the triumphant hero’s journey very often involves the joyous return back ‘home’. That is, back to origin and to status quo ante.

Whether our mythic heroes be gods or mere mortals imbued with their wisdom and thunder, these mythological figures are manifestations of a folk’s true consciousness; symbolic of our capacity of character and inspiring an indomitable spirit. They also stand in contrast to the notion that man is distinct and apart from nature and the divine, or that our instincts can be manipulated, tweaked or altered to suit some fickle utopian whims. We would be wiser to live in accordance with what has been mapped out for us, basking in the glow of ancestral wisdom and the memory of origin. If we do not, then we must continue as nobodies in a world built on nothing. This is turbulent and disruptive for the individual, but nothing less than a spiritual, psychological and physical death sentence for an entire people. Nothing is a pit, and the journey requires a ticket. Thankfully, the choice is a simple one; single or return?

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