Phillip Zimbardo and Zeno Franco have really produced something exciting with that paper on the banality of heroism. It’s a presentation of ideas that they plan to study further, and frankly, I can’t wait to see more. Hopefully a lot of the ideas are familiar to those who have been reading this blog for a while.
The basic premise is that we are all potentially heroes and that the status of hero is not reserved to a special few. This is important in combating the tendency for inaction in people. When people think heroes are rare and more likely to be wearing tights, it is much easier to fall into “the trap of inaction”. This trap is why people are told to yell, “Fire!” instead of “Help!” if they are attacked. The fear of fire is much more powerful than the call to action – or call to adventure.
This paper describes the core of heroism as a “commitment to a noble purpose” and accepting any consequences attached to that purpose. They further expand by describing four requirements for the heroic ideal.
- There must be a quest
- There must be sacrifice or risk
- It can be passive or active
- It can be a short or long period of time
Finally, the authors describe how important it is for people to have heroes as examples and to practice heroism every day. They call it a “personal habit of heroism”. When you think about being a hero every day, you’re more likely to step up when the circumstance calls for it.