Thursday, August 29, 2013

Modern heroes do not fear gender conversion

The prototypes of heroic behaviour come from the twilight of legends. Best known to us are the Greek legends preserved in epos and drama. What did the ancient Greek tragic hero fear most? He did not fear torture and death, or successfully suppressed any fears of this sort. He cared little about his loved ones and not at all about his community. What he feared was showing fear, and he dressed his fear in very specific words: to "turn womanish". As Leonard Moss summarizes in his book The Excess of Heroism in Classic Drama, heroes of Greek tragedies fear "gender conversion" - and so do those of Shakespeare.

Many people believe that every difference between today and once upon a time is necessarily progress. If you subscribe to their opinion, you can cheer the huge progress we have made. Today's people who are regarded as heroes in the West resemble the ancient heroes only by their lack of concern for their nation. Indeed, they sabotage its security and do their best to empower its enemies. The prototype of these heroes is Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. However, a better example is a former US soldier who provided classified information to the WikiLeaks and who was born and known as Bradley Manning.

Unlike the old heroes, this former soldier did not fear looking womanish. Manning not only repented for what s/he had done but, immediately after being found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison, s/he released a statement that s/he "considered herself a woman, had taken the name Chelsea Manning, and would seek to undergo hormone replacement therapy". Here is a case where the stupid politically correct gender-neutral expressions "s/he", "she or he" or "xe" are quite appropriate!

While Manning had had documented gender confusion for years, I agree with those who think that by this statement, s/he hopes to draw leniency. Today, Westerners are so concerned not to look homophobic/transphobic that gender-confused offenders often get only a slap on the wrist in situations that would put a straight offender in very serious trouble.

I may be old-fashioned but when talking about heroes, I prefer those egocentric, brutal men of old whose highest priority was to remain very much men to the end. I should read more classic texts and less news :-).

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