Mars, Venus, and the Heroic Heart - A Transatlantic Conversation
On March 7, 2016, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a Transatlantic conversation with Tod Lindberg, a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, and the author of the newly published book “The Heroic Heart: Greatness Ancient and Modern”. The discussion was moderated by Ian Lesser, senior director for Foreign and Security Policy, and executive director of GMF’s Brussels office, and the audience was comprised of various policy makers, and public servants from Brussels interested in the matter of heroism in the modern world.
Lindberg, acknowledged expert on international prevention of mass atrocities, genocide, and a member of the American Bar Association's working group on crimes against humanity, discussed the quality of heroic greatness and the transformation of the heroes in the modern world. He emphasised the fact that heroes of today can be found in many different places, and in many different forms, but foremost they do not assert any claim of superiority over others, which is the result of the egalitarian, and democratic world we live in. Lindberg’s research shows that there is an unquestionable consensus on the fact that the firefighters who were working on the grounds of 9/11 tragedy are the heroes of our time. Such men embody the set of virtues that allows them to be heroes and are at the same time compatible with the egalitarian order of today. In a conversation that Lindberg had with Lesser, he also emphasised the heroism that arises from generosity and leadership. Such combination can be found in sport coaches, teachers and mentors, who make a lasting impression on children by giving of themselves. Modern heroic hearts serve, and save others, and they are willing to risk their life for the pure inner sense of greatness.
The audience followed up with some intriguing questions about the possible emergence of heroic hearts among the leaders of terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State Group (ISIS), and Al Qaida. They touched upon the heroism that is currently played by American presidential candidate Donald Trump. In comparison to that, participants observed a certain kind of suspicion about the great leaders in Europe after their experience from the past centuries, where the rise of a heroic character was often a threat to the rule, and order on the continent. The discussion concluded by addressing the changing process of the hero creation. The participants agreed with the author that the social media and the pace, at which the news are generated today, influenced the perception of the heroes among the public.