Good and evil nature of people is an issue for various philosophical, psychological and ethical discussions. It is quite obvious that some people can behave in a good or bad way depending not only on personal characteristics, but also on outer circumstances. However, the exceptional good implies a sacrifice and value of other people’s lives and feelings over personal ones. Hence, it should be closely associated with a deeply suppressed feeling of selfishness and the ability to make one’s choice in favor of others. Primarily the fact that selfish behavior is in nature of all humans predetermines the existence of a few people who become heroes and the majority of those who remain faithful only to their personal interests. This paper will argue that a hero is a person, who is strong enough to struggle against personal feelings and hence to put the good of others over the personal one. However, it is wrong to consider doing good an obligation of those who can do it due to the fact that heroism cannot be considered as such without real devotion and appropriate personal disposition as well as the inner feeling of the necessity to make some definite sacrifice.
It is impossible to estimate actions of a person regardless of circumstances that accompany it. In many cases, the situational approach can let define whether a deed can be estimated as heroic or not. For this reason, the situationist perspective offered by Zimbardo (2004) deserves particular attention in the current discussion. According to Zimbardo (2004), a person can be engaged in evil deeds if circumstances make him or her do so. If people are not born to be evil, they are also not born to be good. A choice is made throughout person’s life and experiences and due to some definite social situations. However, it is the choice of each person. The same approach can help to prove that heroism is not an obligation, but a choice predetermined by the social situation and the mental state of a person. To begin with, it is necessary to refer to the notions of heroism, obligation, and situation. The first is mostly associated with real commitment to humanity, while the second is a moral duty and strong motivation to do something. In case of heroism, it can even harm the beloved people or self. Hence, one’s devotion and moral determination are crucial to make a person ready to become committed to humanity. However, there is also the notion of situation, which predetermines the context and accompanying factors of any deed and decision. Moreover, referring to the good and evil, it is necessary to understand that these are intentional actions of people (Zimbardo, 2004).
Doing good is not a moral obligation of people, but a choice. Calling heroism and good an obligation is as wrong as making charity an obligation. These actions are predetermined by moral values and principles, but are dependent on a conscious choice influenced by situational and psychological aspects. However, heroism has to be associated with strength and resistance to outer factors. Heroes manage to overcome the compelling pressure that they face and follow their moral directions and life priorities (Zimbardo, 2004). A one-time decision to commit a heroic deed makes a person be perceived as a hero for the entire life, at least by those who have been saved due to such decision. Hence, a hero is not obliged to do a definite number of deeds to keep honor. The perception of heroism is dependent on circumstances and benefits resulting from actions. In fact, any deed is a conscious decision of a person that is made more or less quickly.
However, understanding of what is good and bad sometimes is quite ambiguous. If saving someone’s life and fighting for the native land is good for the government and the safety of citizens, the same actions can be a real tragedy for the family of a military man, including his parents, wife, and children. Moreover, the death of such soldier can be hardly perceived as something good, even though it will be considered as a heroic one. People have to wish an equally good life to others as they do to close people (Franco & Zimbardo, 2007). However, a sacrifice for others is not always justified, and choosing the welfare of a group of strangers is not always a correct decision. Moreover, there are situations, when military men, who used to be good, become agents of destruction. It makes their heroic deeds fade against the background of new circumstances (Zimbardo, 2004). Consequently, not only the situation, but also the perspective influence the evaluation of what is good or evil. For this reason, the obligation to do good cannot be considered as a necessity to act in some definite direction. In reality, doing good implies a conscious and aware approach to the situation and further readiness to help others or not. In such a way, heroism is something that anyone can perform depending on the situation. However, it is necessary to make people realize the difference between good and evil, as well as heroic and non-heroic deeds.
Nonetheless, the main counterargument to the discussion above is that not so many heroes can fight the evil, and evidence of that can be found in news. Hence, fighting evil is an obligation of a person who can do so. If minorities who actually have power do not help the humanity, then who should do it? In such case, there are good reasons to get back to the reflections of Zimbardo (2004) and his emphasis on the situation in the process of shaping a hero. There is too much banality in the belief that heroes are few powerful representatives of humans, who are strong and can fight for the sake of people. The reality is that heroism is a reflection of a particular moment (Franco & Zimbardo, 2007). Circumstances can be organized in a way to lead one to some deeds, and it can happen with any person. However, for different people, the situation that leads to heroic deeds may vary. For an adult person, saving a life can become a heroic deed, while giving food to a homeless peer is also a sacrifice for a child on some level and can be evaluated as a heroic deed. Hence, not all heroes are reported in the media. They can live their everyday lives and do good by making regular choices to help others and stay unnoticed by the majority, but remain valuable for those who get their help and support even in smaller things. However, the counterargument above is insufficient, since no one is obliged to fight evil without devotion sacrificing his or her loved ones because it may often be in vain.
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As far as intellectuals are concerned, they are viewed as a group within society, which is psychologically strong enough to control governing processes and ensure all issues have been solved properly, are obliged to realize the differences mentioned above. Hence, they are decent representatives, who should teach people. However, the ability to differentiate between good and evil is not the main characteristic of good leaders. Hence, intellectuals have to help to govern society together with those who have good leadership skills. At the same time, the main counterargument is that even with a governing intellectual, the evil and good can remain ambiguous: one’s point of view may be alien to others’ one, hence, even this case may cause numerous arguments. For instance, some consider President Obama’s policy not very positive, but others perceive it as a fresh look and the application of new ideas (Dyson, 2010). Similar arguments have arisen even over the matter of race, which is very delicate. However, the counterargument above is invalid since in the flow of discussion, Dyson (2010) claims that modern intellectuals are loyal to their nation, no matter what color of skin the President has. In such a way, the ruling of intellectuals makes people pay attention to problems in society in a particularly wise way. At the same time, they inspire persons to see that everyone can do good deeds. Taking into account a growing improvement in relation towards the blacks and their rights, the tendency is very promising, and the main point is that intellectuals support the initiative (Dyson, 2014). Furthermore, intellectuals governing society can help to solve the issue of gender, which is of significant value as this is also a point of numerous arguments due to various inequality situations, where women feel uncomfortable being deprived of the same rights men have (Dyson, 2014).
Being an intellectual is a notion that can be ambiguous: a person should be smart and acknowledged, but it is crucial to be socially active. Hence, those who are in power and claimed as leaders are people, whose activity is devoted to a certain area or sphere. The most influential individuals in the USA are people mainly belonging to economic or military spheres. Intellectuals of America today voice their thoughts and can persuade a significant number of people, however, this is not the only thing they do (Dyson, 2010). There are no longer clear standards of how an intellectual behaves. It is difficult to determine what is responsible for evil being present in one’s mind. Hence, envisaging how an individual will grow, good or evil, is practically impossible. Dwelling upon the presence of evil within a person related to the authority and government, certain issues may be considered as causes. A person exercising power may become what is called evil due to the inability to cope with the responsibility, power and significant role he or she has obtained. One’s performance may become either worse or placed on others who are under the reign of such leader. Speaking about “the concept of an authoritarian personality syndrome”, Zimbardo (2004) has analyzed the reasons of holocaust and fascism to point out that there should have been certain individual behavioral patterns and factors presupposing the establishment of fascist mentality. Among other factors that may have an impact on an intellectual turning into a destruction machine, there is likely to be propaganda coming from the media or other people with influential views (Zimbardo, 2004).
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To conclude, one can state that a hero is a person, who is strong and intellectual enough to realize the difference between good and evil and make conscious and aware decisions. However, doing good is not an obligation of those who can do it due to the fact that heroism cannot be considered as such without real devotion and appropriate personal disposition as well as the inner feeling of the necessity to make some definite sacrifice. The main idea that lies behind being an intellectual is remaining polite and wise and having equal attitudes towards various events, clear mind and an ability to analyze and, what is most importantly, to differentiate between good and evil. Hence, intellectuals can be those who teach social norms and influence the situation. However, in order to govern effectively, they also need to be able to explain their position to others. In other way, intellectuals can become exceptionally effective to assist leaders to create situations that will favor good deeds instead of governing independently.