No More Heroes Any More?

JPR Williams at the France vs British Lions Classic match in Mont de Marsan
JPR_Williams.jpg: markhodginsderivative work: SilkTork, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The recent death of JPR spurred me on to complete an article I started a few months ago on the subject of childhood heroes.  I know for many JPR was a proper hero in the true meaning of the word.

Growing up in the 1970s I was acutely aware of the achievements of many British citizens (real British, not British Passport holders) and how we were encouraged by their efforts to take an interest in becoming a better person through hard work and effort.

They featured in everyday life from sports to science and engineering and beyond.  Heroes of my childhood included Chris Bonnington, Steve Ovett, Sebastian Coe, Brian Trubshaw, Bob Willis, Ian Botham to name but a few.  They were all down to earth characters who genuinely achieved something in their lifetime and were held up as examples of excellence to aspire to.  Their achievements were not in pursuit of fame and money; they were driven by a desire to be the best in their field.   Decades later very few of them turned out to be something other than they were presented as in my youth.  Contrast this with several modern-day high-profile examples; when things don’t go their way they resort to throwing around accusations of racism (I’m looking at you Lenny (Henry) and you Mr (Azeem) Rafiq).

Looking around today I see little evidence of similar British characters to inspire the youth of today.  What I do see depresses me greatly.  Foreign influences, social media and the mainstream media have changed the landscape completely.  No longer are the youth encouraged to look up to those with some degree of life experience and achievement (real not imagined).  Instead, they flock like moths to the flame to (mainly online) platforms where their modern day ‘heroes’ are just children themselves with little of substance or value to offer their audience.  Even those adults who we are supposed to look up to have achieved very little of worth and almost all of them are more than happy to push the latest thing, presumably because they are concerned that those who really hold the power will cancel them if they deviate from the approved script / agenda.  I suspect that many modern-day heroes are more interested in making money than to set a good example to society.

It should therefore come as no surprise that many in their late teens and early twenties appear to have little pride in being British.  I doubt that few of them could explain what being British really means, other than white British persons, especially those over 50, are evil and racist and responsible for all the problems in the world.  You can understand why Andrew Tate has such as huge following – like him or not he has filled a void.

Of course, times change and Britain today as a country is very different to the one I grew up in.  Even 20 years ago seems like a very different world to me. Out of interest I asked Master Reggie who his school put forward as examples of British heroes when he was at infants and junior school.  He cited James Dyson and David Beckham as two examples.  Fair enough, I suppose. At least they achieved something with their lives.

At some point reality must intervene and bite these mislead souls.  Some may even be bright enough to recognise the way in which they have been manipulated but for many it will just lead to (greater) resentment of the world around them and perhaps a feeling that something important was missing in their lives without being able to put their finger on what it is.

100 years ago the heroes of the time would have included well known military figures, members of the Royal family, engineers, authors and scientists.  All worthy of the label ‘hero’ in my opinion.  Look how many of them stood the test of time. Could we say the same about the current crop of ‘heroes’?

Perhaps I’m being overly harsh on the youth of today and my assessment of the current situation is more downbeat that than it is.  I hope so because it would a dammed shame if children growing up today had no one setting a good example for them to aspire to.  I worry more about who chooses the heroes in modern-day Britain and what they really stand for.

© Reggie 2024