A hero (masculine) or heroine (feminine) (Ancient Greek: ἥρως, hḗrōs) refers to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity. This definition originally referred to martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.
“Last chance to be a sober hero!” said the advertisement that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, accompanied by an irritating looking man in a green cloak, an ‘S’ emblazoned on his spandexed upper half. “Take the 31 day challenge and Go Sober to raise vital funds for MacMillan cancer support.”
Now, is it just me or is the order of sequence here a bit awry? The term ‘hero’ is attached to the idea of being sober, rather than donating funds to a deserving charity. Of course, this is deliberate on behalf of MacMillan, who are using the country’s widely reported alcohol problem (thanks again, Daily Mail!), to appeal to the perhaps younger generations, and instilling in us the idea that by putting down that jagerbomb, and subtracting the voddy from that bru, then we are displaying an all-singing, all-dancing HEROIC ACT.
Of course, it is clever advertisement. Everyone likes to be given the opportunity to be able to carry out a good deed publicly, hence the outstanding success of the no make-up selfie, followed a few months later by the ice bucket challenge, both of which were endlessly documented on the all encompassing stage of self publicity that is Facebook. Both were in order to raise money and awareness for breast cancer and Motor Neuron disease respectively, with the perk of Value Added Fun.
The Sober for October campaign is appealing to the same strand. These self-appointed “sober heroes” can now upload endless hashtagged photos of diet cokes or orange juices for the rest of the month, advertising their own heroic self-sacrifice. Hooray. Sadly, the fact that the self-applause outreach has vastly increased in number due to social media platforms, is why charity fundraising is now considered to be more of a ‘trend’ as opposed to a conscious act of good. If we have learned anything from sites like Facebook, it is the that the ‘sheep’ factor in human nature well and truly exists. And is going strong.
Indeed, it is this very factor that has helped to raise thousands and even millions of pounds more for charities that would never otherwise have gained such recognition, which is of course a fantastic thing. However, donation should not be coupled with humble smugness, or the background notion that you are some sort of champion of the charity skies. It should be done because there are people out there who are, fundamentally and indisputably, in need of our help. Not because you wish to display openly the dizzying heights of your own moral excellence.