One of the major themes you’ll find in my writing is that words have lost their meaning. Words today have become both vague and specific, and we rely on connotation and equivocation instead of definition. In this vein, everything today is considered “heroic”: soldiers, politicians, activists, black men from urban areas who graduate college, cancer survivors, and unwed mothers. Everybody who is “good” can also be given the label “heroic.”

But what is a hero? For the purposes of this article, I’m not trying to define it in a strict definition as held by the ancient Greeks, since the word has evolved over time. It seems that in our society, the connotation of the word is “someone who does something good that is beyond what is expected of them.” By definition, there is nothing heroic about being average. That is not to say that being average is a bad thing, and truly, many of us want an “average,” boring life. But I can’t claim to be heroic for merely doing what’s required of me. Therefore, are these people heroic based on those two elements? We shall judge the above categories based on whether they are “good” and “beyond.”

Soldiers

Some soldiers go to battle because it’s their only employment opportunity. Others go because of social pressure. Some are drafted. I would imagine very few today go because of patriotism, but they still exist.

Regardless of why he signs up, once the soldier is there, he has no choice but to do what he is told. Perhaps he had a different expectation when he signed up, but once he is there, he takes orders and nothing else. There is a saying in the military “never volunteer for anything.”

Yet many soldiers do go above and beyond. You hear stories about soldiers who left safe cover to save another soldier or to kill an enemy with a strategic position, even when everyone else in their group stayed where they were. People talk about adrenaline and the rage of war, but risking your life for a great cause when nobody would blame you for staying put is above and beyond. Therefore, although some soldiers are average, many are heroic.

Politicians

People think a politician is heroic for standing up for what he believes in. Though I seriously doubt this in the modern day, in the spirit of generosity I’ll assume this is sometimes true. There are rare politicians who vote based on their beliefs, knowing that it will cause them to lose the next election. This is more of a character trait than an individual choice, and so these people are never elected president. So although a few politicians are heroic, [your favorite president in all of history] was not a hero, except for maybe George Washington. It was John Adams who invented the smear campaign, and that tradition has continued on to this day. Perhaps he and Jefferson started off as heroes, but all that waned once they tasted sweet political power and bent their morals to hold onto it.

Activists

Today activists write articles on a blog, but in the past, there were actually active activists. Consider the civil rights movement, when black people would march through the streets knowing they’d be assaulted by government officials. Even that Carrie Nation bitch who would destroy bars with a hatchet did so knowing the consequences. Today if a woman attacks someone, there is a good chance she will not be prosecuted. Even if a person bombs a building for a social or political cause, there’s something backdoor about it, and you can’t say that needlessly killing innocent people is good. Therefore, activists used to be heroes, but today they are not.

Note: I’m not advocating or condoning physical force of any kind, but neither am I necessarily condemning it.

Black Men From Urban Areas Who Graduate College

Just because opportunity is easily accessible doesn’t mean that it’s easy to accomplish something worthwhile. (Yes, I realize that sounded contradictory.) If everyone around you tells you that to read a book is to betray your own people or to act like the opposite sex, then it’s unrealistic to say that you have the same accessibility as someone like me whose whole family graduated from college.

Ostracizing yourself because you know it’s in your best interest is a hugely difficult thing, and therefore black men from urban areas who graduate college are definitely heroic.  This feat also involves relearning the way you talk. I had a crippling speech impediment as a child, so I can at least partly empathize with that. This heroism also applies to men and women from all bad socio-economic backgrounds, but for urban black men, I imagine there is the most social pressure to fail.

Cancer Survivors

There is nothing brave about doing what the doctor tells you to. Yes, it’s painful to endure chemo, but it’s a survival action in the same way that a rabbit chews off its leg when caught in a trap. You just plug in the cord and suffer. Furthermore, labeling cancer survivors heroic implicitly labels those who died as cowardly. My grandmother wouldn’t have survived cancer no matter how hard she fought. Sometimes, life’s a bitch, and you do the best you can.

For more information on the negative effects of cancer propaganda, watch the movie Pink Ribbons, Inc. It was on Netflix Instant last I checked.

Unwed Mothers

Commonly known as “single mothers,” these are women who raise children but do not have a partner that lives with them. Obviously raising children can be a good thing, but do these women go above and beyond?

Because of their work schedule, they are unable to provide as much attention to their children as a stay-at-home mother would. This is a simple reality of time management. Not only do these women work, but they also do all the housework children are unable to do. School can only provide so many hours of free daycare, and summer provides none. Furthermore, the attention of one’s live-in parents will always be more impactful than that of a paid caretaker.

Unwed mothers feed their children, give them a place to sleep, and interact with them when they have the time and energy, which is the most basic definition of “raising children.” Perhaps there are some unwed mothers who go above and beyond, but having such time and energy restraints makes this virtually impossible. An unwed mother is only able to do the bare minimum. Therefore, there is nothing heroic about being an unwed mother.

A few divorces happen because the man was physically abusive, but they are a small minority. Let’s consider all the others, since “hero” is applied to all unwed mothers. Do you know what’s really heroic? Staying with a husband you hate because you know it’s in the best interest of someone else (i.e. your children). Did your husband cheat on you with the secretary? I offer my condolences. He’s a prick. But it’s in your children’s best interest to stay with him. If you want to be heroic, then stay with him until your children graduate high school. Do more than what’s required, and you’ll be a hero. People will shame you and say you’re weak for staying with a terrible husband, but doing the right thing despite all social pressure is one of the most heroic things you can do.

Producing offspring is a biological function that is usually not even a direct choice. Providing your children with decent meals, telling them you love them, and having enough money for a good Christmas are the bare requirements for decent parenting. Perhaps someone has been arguing all along that a hero is someone you should emulate, but do you really want to be an unwed mother? Do you really want to have that kind of hardship? In no definition of the word is an unwed mother heroic by virtue of her difficulty.

Therefore, be wary of the word “heroic.” It no longer means anything. Raising children all alone is in no way equivalent to risking your life to save a friend. If a word denoting excess is applied to the masses, then it is no longer a word of excess. By calling all unwed mothers or all cancer survivors heroic, they have made it so none of them can truly be so.

Read More: Fat Single Mothers Are Child Abusers