From 'Slaying Heroes' to 'Saving heroes',WWI & revolution,In the pipeline,Global Entrepreneurship

By Wallace, Alan | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 5, 2015 | Go to article overview

From 'Slaying Heroes' to 'Saving heroes',WWI & revolution,In the pipeline,Global Entrepreneurship


Wallace, Alan, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Tracing how the meaning of heroes and heroism has changed throughout Western civilization's development, Tod Lindberg's new book, "The Heroic Heart: Greatness Ancient and Modern" (Encounter Books, available Tuesday), illuminates how the evolution of those concepts relates to the spread of democracy, freedom and equality -- and how old notions remain perilous today.

Lindberg, who spent part of his childhood in suburban Pittsburgh, is a Hoover Institution scholar, Weekly Standard contributing editor and expert on efforts to stop mass atrocities and genocide. His book spans civilization's arc, from the ancient Sumerians, Greeks and Romans to the present day.

The earliest heroes risked their lives to kill and conquer. The battlefield prowess of these "slaying heroes" enabled them to impose their will on their peoples' political order. Lindberg writes that such might-makes-right rulers were "in effect, a merger: the hero as king."

Today, by contrast, we honor what Lindberg calls "saving heroes," who exhibit what he calls "the caring will" by risking their lives to serve and save others. His examples include selfless 9/11 first responders and, as he wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal column, the three Americans and others who stopped an August terrorist attack aboard a French train.

The book touches on Homer, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Carlyle (who coined the phrase "hero worship") and other great minds, along with pop culture, in tracing heroism's evolution. Closer to our own time, Lindberg says, World War I and the Vietnam War played key roles in diminishing "slaying heroes" and elevating "saving heroes," who "pose no threat to modern political order" and reinforce our principles of democracy and equality.

But, Lindberg warns, it's still too easy for "a slaying hero to pass as a saving hero," saying that "(v)illainy usually flies a false flag." He says that means we must guard against not just terrorist "slaying heroes" claiming they're "saving" Islam from infidels, but against "saving heroes" who offer relief from terrorist threats at the price of our civil liberties and democracy.

Alan Wallace is a Trib Total Media editorial page writer (412- 320-7983 or awallace@tribweb.com).,Alan Wallace,"From the Other Side of the World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places" by Elmira Bayrasli (PublicAffairs, available Tuesday) -- As a college student and assistant to Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke at the State Department, the author believed government had answers for the world's woes. But while working on Bosnia-Herzegovina's postwar recovery, she realized government didn't -- when a Bosnian woman told her work and jobs were needed there, not foreign aid. That led to this book about emerging-market entrepreneurs. She identifies "seven recurring obstacles" such entrepreneurs encounter, including poor infrastructure, monopolies, corruption and weak rule of law. …

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