Twice in the same day I saw the concept of the “heroic” badly misunderstood. When that sort of thing happens, I figure it’s time for a RIR post. The first was in the context of the passing at the age of 81 of Texas songwriting legend and larger-than-life wild man Billy Joe Shaver. “Trigger” the keeper of the excellent blog SavingCountryMusic.com, opined that:
Billy Joe Shaver wasn’t just a musical legend and icon, or an “Outlaw” as we like to call the artists who work outside of the Nashville system. He was a hero, in both music, and in life. What is a hero? A hero is someone who illustrates a level of bravery well beyond what most would be willing to. It’s someone who stands up and charges forward when the rest of us would sit down or fall back.
A commentator called “Paddy” replied:
Your definition of a hero leaves a lot to be desired. Basically what you are saying is behave like an idiot and sometime in the future someone will call you a hero.
Trigger had it right; Paddy had it wrong.
A bit later, Rullman scouted up a new tome on the Hudson’s Bay Co. by Stephen Bown. Of course, that sent me plunging down a rabbit hole, and I ordered The Company and another one of his books on what Bown calls The Age of Heroic Commerce. A reviewer was bent that Bown used the term “unironically.” Ugh. Irony is often trotted out as a gold-standard for intellectual self-awareness by the hip and holy of our culture — but I tend to view it pretty much like one of my heroes (yep), Jim Harrison did:
“I like grit, I like love and death, I’m tired of irony…”
“The world was bad, and all men were fools—but there were men who would not be crushed. And that was a thing worth telling.”
If you must have your irony, here’s one: The Heroic Age of Commerce paved the way for an age of bland convenience. Bold, mighty, destructive fur trappers, miners and cattlemen made the world safe for Apple and Wal-Mart. So there ya go. And let’s not even go into the current state of country music…