The Perception of Heroism

Sometimes I wonder what the fine line is between celebrating heroism and punishing or shaming similar behaviour in certain situations.

For example, if a lady running late at night for exercise was abducted, commentary may run along the lines of personal safety and the opinion of “well, she shouldn’t have been running out that late anyway”.

However if say, the same lady aspired to be an athlete and ran at night “so she could train as often as she could, or when others weren’t” people may instead see that as inspirational.

What is the difference?

Another example may be the heroics of civilians in dangerous situations – a non fire fighter running into a burning house to save a child: if he comes out safely with the child, he is often lauded as a hero, whereas if he is injured or puts others in danger, again the commentary will be quite different.

Perhaps our current society’s emphasis on personal and individual heroism is at fault – it makes people believe they need to be the ones who make the difference, the individual who inspires or is the hero, regardless of how that may affect the people around them or the risks that they take in the interim.

Isn’t it almost selfish? To want to be the “hero"?

…or is it simply human nature?  Simply a way of finding meaning for our lives?

On another scale, when does fighting for a cause, such as overthrowing a government (think Arab Spring) go from “crazy” and “putting yourself in undue danger” (because of the likelihood of capture and torture) to becoming “heroic” and acceptable…and “worth it”?

Is it different because it is a cause?

Or is heroism just in the eyes of the society of the day, or the society that matters to you?