For our generation that grew up in front of the TV the word hero invokes memories of Batman, Superman or Captain Planet. It can also mean the hooded vigilante in the TV series Arrow. In short, it all points to a person who rises to save the people at a moment of crisis.
We have just celebrated Heroes Day which, according to the calendar, is a national holiday. No disrespect to true fallen heroes like Joshua Nkomo and heroines like Sally Mugabe who lie at the hilltop but I feel the word ‘hero’ has a skewed meaning in Zimbabwe.
First, the notion that heroes are those buried at the Heroes Acre or other national shrines only is misleading. What of the likes of Lookout Masuku and Ndabaningi Sithole who have well documented contributions towards the struggle? Besides, does the Heroes Acre sanitize some of the crooks that bootlicked their way to the hilltop?
What makes one a hero? What does it take one to be regarded as a hero? Is it about joining Zanu (PF) and singing ‘revolutionary songs’ like Eliot Manyika that makes one a hero? Surely, we cannot take up AK47 rifles to become heroes. We are past that. By now, we should be past the archaic practises of toy toying in the suburbs and villages terrorising peace-loving citizens just to be regarded as patriotic and dedicated cadres. There is no heroism in harassing people.
Logic says the status of a national hero is conferred by a statutory body enacted by parliament and that follows set guidelines and well defined selection criteria, however, logic has little room here, so the decision on national hero status remains the private business of one political organisation even when the state bears the costs of the funeral procedure. Even when we are disgruntled, it does not make sense to seek to set up a parallel system when we are pressed with other more important issues.
To me a true hero is the teacher, nurse, artist or citizen trying to make a positive impact in their community. What matters is rising up at a time of crisis to save the people like the heroes on TV. It is not about being praised in state media or buried at the national shrine, it is about leaving a mark in people’s hearts. Whatever work you are doing with the aim of bettering humanity makes one a hero.
Do not fret over the hero status, concentrate on the good work you are doing and derive satisfaction from your works rather than to seek approval from elsewhere. In other words, be your own hero.
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