Active Thinking Topic 25 -  Everyone is a Hero in Their Own Movie

Tuesday 15 February 2022, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: ZOOM online

Focus Questions

* note: This topic is closely related to an earlier topic, "Fake It 'Till You Make It", so rephrases some of the same discussion questions]

1. What is a real hero ... and, um, what is a coward?

2. Are real heroes (whatever that means) born, trained or accidental?

3. Imagine you had to write your own obituary (= report about your life after you have died [typically in a newspaper]). Probably you want to interpret your life in the best way possible, and maybe not the whole truth - you, the hero. So what is your heroic report? [Thor, comment: ha ha, this was my most failed assignment ever when I gave it to a group of Masters university students in China. Chinese culture avoids talking about death].

4. At what point does deliberate deception (e.g. "fake it 'till you make it") become fixed self-deception?
[Thor, comment: I remember a high school history teacher who told me that propagandists are always their own first victims. They come to believe their own bullshit]. Examples?

5. How many people who show public low self-esteem secretly rationalize themselves as superior or heroic in some hidden way? [e.g. One of the most famous novels in pre-communist China was Lu Xun (1921) "The True Story of Ah-Q". Marxist archives @  ). Ah-Q was an archetypical man of the secret superiority complex type. In China's case, it was no accident that Mao Zedong in 1949, reflecting resentful, popular feelings, declared "China has stood up"]

6. Individuals, marriage partners, companies, and even countries sometimes continue to strike heroic poses long after their lies & failures have become clear to everyone, and it is equally clear that they will never 'make it' as per their claimed status. Examples? Why do they persist with the charade when it would work far better to just start over with some sober reality?

7. Young adults by definition are still finding a foothold in the human world, so a large proportion of them feel chronically insecure. Some show it, often to their own disadvantage (that was surely me). Others 'fake it 'till they make it' in various disguises. The marketing profession is expert in satisfying a need here. What are some of the ways in which this shape-shifting can occur? At what point does the faking become toxic and self-destructing?

8. The preference for status (or 'appearances' as it is often called) and its close relative, hypocrisy, is strongly influenced by personality, upbringing and culture. However, some occupations are a natural home for the 'fake it 'till you make it' syndrome. Some other occupations leave little scope for posing. Can you identify examples of these two categories of employment? Where do you fit personally on the scale, and how has it influenced your outlook?

9. What kinds of status are important to you? Are you satisfied with your level of status? How does the status you value match or mismatch with the society around you? Is this matching important?

10. Why does heroism play such a huge part in mythology, ancient and modern?


Extra Reading

Kendra Cherry (May 14, 2020) "The Psychology of Heroism - Are Heroes Born or Made?" VeryWellMind website @  [Quote: " the key to heroism is a concern for other people in need—a concern to defend a moral cause, knowing there is a personal risk, done without expectation of reward .."]

Wikipedia (2022) "Hero's journey". @  [Quote: "In narratology and comparative mythology, the hero's journey, or the monomyth, is the common template of stories that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed.]

Clare Wright (May 19, 2016) "Who will be Australia’s future folk heroes?" The Conversation @  [Quote: "The Bryants famously fled from their captors on the moonless night of 28 March 1791, when along with their two young children and seven other convicts, they escaped the penal colony {of Sydney} in the governor’s six-oared cutter. Only one of their number had any navigational skills. Their destination was Timor. ... they landed at Koepang on 5 June, after travelling 3254 miles (5237 km) in 69 days on an epic voyage in which they found coal, probably near Newcastle, discovered many of the islands of the Barrier Reef and crossed the Arafura Sea. ... Before being finally captured, Mary’s husband and both of their children were dead. Mary and the remaining escapees were returned to England, tried and sentenced to death. The English press and literary titan, James Boswell, took up Mary’s case for clemency. She was pardoned."]

Wikipedia (2021) "Fake it 'till you make it" @  [Quote: ""Fake it till you make it" (or "Fake it until you make it") is an English aphorism which suggests that by imitating confidence, competence, and an optimistic mindset, a person can realize those qualities in their real life and achieve the results they seek." ... "In the Law of attraction movement, "act as if you already have it", or simply "act as if", is a central concept: How do you get yourself to a point of believing? Start make-believing. Be like a child, and make-believe. Act as if you have it already. As you make-believe, you will begin to believe you have received".]

Thor May(2018) "The Ambiguity of Courage". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "I am not brave. Can you be brave without being afraid? A madman rescues a child from a burning house but feels no fear. Is he brave? I don't know. I do know there are lots of things that I fear - boredom, a painful death, missed opportunities ... Most of all I fear cowards. They'll do you in every time, just when you have stopped looking. I fear my own cowardice, but not always enough to be brave."]

Thor May (15 September 2001) "Dead or Alive?" Thor's Korea Diary @  [Quote: "....suddenly a young woman rolled onto the floor with a thud, and lay inert. She had come from a spot opposite me, and several meters towards the front of the train. I started, but hung on the edge of the seat, unsure of what to do. Clearly something had to be done, yet for a moment I was paralysed by cultural distance and the enclosing silence of having no common language. .. I looked around the carriage, and a chill went through my body. Of all those passengers, not a single one showed the slightest signal that one of their number had collapsed, and might be in mortal danger. The bodies remained lax, the eyes unfocussed, the woman on the floor invisible to their attention. It was surreal..."]

Thor May (2014) "Fakes, liars, cheats, deceivers, animals in the forest". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "It’s all around us. From face lifts to luxury cars on hire purchase, from inflated CVs to exaggerated job titles, from company publicity material to the spin that governments put on their failures and deceptions. At what point does fakery become fraud? Would the world be a duller place without it?"]

Thor May (2014) "Crime without Punishment – the journey from means to ends". The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "In the real world of events, as opposed to philosophical statements of “should”, decisions about ends and means always come down to who, if anybody, is responsible for consequences. Where consequences are not clear for actors, and especially if consequences are not personal, almost any ends can be argued for, and almost any means might be rationalized". ]

TV Tropes (n.d.) "Hero Wannabes" @  [Quote: "Hero wannabe - A specific form of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism and the Wide-Eyed Idealist. A Heroic Wannabe is a person so intent on the idea of becoming a hero that that person is willing to do just about anything, and can tend not to think about what being a "hero" really means or what you have to do to become one. Darker cases may suffer from Black-and-White Insanity, or more seriously from being a Heroism Addict.]

Annabel Crabb (31 October 2021) "Morrison's climate 'plan' reveals a spectacular new model of political leadership in Australia". ABC @  [Thor, comment: I have no idea what your political preferences are, but if you track through the details of this analysis it is a classic illustration of "fake it 'till you make it" in politics ... except that it is not clear (yet) whether the hero of this saga will make it through the next election]

Niclas Aznares (2019) "A booming market for charlatans". El Pais @  [Quote: "Charlatans and conmen have always existed. They are scoundrels who, leveraging their skills for persuasion, manage to sell some type of product, remedy, elixir, business, or ideology to unsuspecting people who believe that the charlatan will – without much effort – redeem their sorrows, alleviate their pains, or make them wealthy. Lately, the market for quackery – especially in politics – has reached new heights. The demand for (and supply of) simple solutions to complex problems has skyrocketed. Demand is being driven by one crisis after another, while social networks are boosting the quacks’ ability to supply simplistic solutions to large audiences".]

James Adonis (April 21 2017) "This is how easily you're deceived." Brisbane Times @  [Quote: "Researchers from Harvard University have conducted a series of studies and experiments, which have culminated in what they call 'paltering'. Paltering is when people use factual statements to mislead others. It then becomes very difficult to accuse them of lying when they can justifiably say they were telling the truth. It's just they did so in a manipulative way". ]

Lu Xun (1921) "The True Story of Ah-Q". Marxist archives @  ). [Thor, comment: This is one of the most famouse novels in modern (pre-communist) Chinese literature. Ah-Q was an archetypical man of the secret superiority complex type. In China's case, it was no accident that Mao Zedong in 1949, reflecting resentful, popular feelings, declared "China has stood up"][Wikipedia quote (   ): "The story traces the "adventures" of Ah Q, a man from the rural peasant class with little education and no definite occupation. Ah Q is famous for "spiritual victories", Lu Xun's euphemism for self-talk and self-deception even when faced with extreme defeat or humiliation. Ah Q is a bully to the less fortunate but fearful of those who are above him in rank, strength, or power. He persuades himself mentally that he is spiritually "superior" to his oppressors even as he succumbs to their tyranny and suppression. Lu Xun exposes Ah Q's extreme faults as symptomatic of the Chinese national character of his time. The ending of the piece is equally poignant and satirical".]

Zawn Villines (April 27, 2018) "What are delusions of grandeur?". Medical News @

Wikipedia (2022) "Messiah complex". @  [Quote: "A messiah complex (Christ complex or savior complex) is a state of mind in which an individual holds a belief that they are destined to become a savior[1] today or in the near future.[2] The term can also refer to a state of mind in which an individual believes that they are responsible for saving or assisting others."]

Jamie McKinnell (2 February 2022) "Ben Roberts-Smith shot Afghan captive in the back, SAS member tells defamation trial". ABC News @


Everyone is a Hero in Their Own Movie  (c) Thor May 2022

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