I’ve been thinking from a surprisingly philosophical standpoint recently, and this very question popped up into my head. Some recent events in the gaming community started turning the wheels in my head and brought about some fascinating revelations, some of which I’d be glad to share here for anyone interested in hearing the rambler’s ramblings.
For those who are unaware, there’s essentially a neo-nazi campaign going on over at Twitch. People (or bots run by terrible people) are raiding streamers, particularly targeting people of color among others, by spamming threats and other awful things in their chat. I found out about this just last night, or at least, the most recent occurrences. I’ve been aware of this happening before; this is most certainly not the first time something like this has happened. But it seems to be getting worse, and of course, Twitch isn’t doing anything about it, because it seems like they hardly give a shit, honestly.
Back to the point, when I found out about this, my initial knee-jerk reaction was to feel a mix of intense sorrow, fear, and despair. It reminded me of the sorrowful state of the world and thrust me into a spiraling feeling of dread. Until I remembered something incredibly important that I should have remembered sooner.
The whole reason these neo-nazis are acting so brazen and always have been is because they want the rest of us to fear them and to despair in their presence. Those negative feelings give them power, and that’s just what they want. The moment I realized that, I couldn’t help but laugh. It reminded me of my own strength: my relentless optimism and hope despite the terrible things we see, hear, and experience every single day. Parts of me wonder how in the world I can experience such feelings with how terrible things are and have been for a long time, and I’m sure many people reading this may wonder the same thing. Those feelings are incredibly difficult to come by these days, aren’t they? And the reason for it is because I have kept my heart softened to the hardships of life.
I feel emotions in a very intense manner, and when things bring me down, they often bring me down quite a bit. But as of late, though I still carry a soft heart, I have been steadily increasing emotional resilience. Living life with the mindset that I know who I am, I know what I can do, and the little mistakes I make will never change that. Our failures do not define us unless we let them. With that in mind, I recalled my successes in life, few though they may be, celebrated them, and reminded myself of how much there is in the world to look forward to.
There’s a lot of practice that goes into feeling this way, believe me. It’s taken weeks, if not months, of mental conditioning to even get this far. I’ve done plenty of reading about patience, optimism, and other such things to put them all to practice, and it’s paying off. Patience and practice go hand-in-hand, so once you have one, you can put the other to work.
With that preface out of the way, it brings me to the next realization I had after last night.
We are essentially in a war right now, a war of ideals being fought with words and actions rather than violence. Much like the tropes in the Danganronpa series, we’re part of a battle between hope and despair, when you really think about it. People use fear to bring attention away from certain things. Social media has made this all too easy for those who truly wish for people to sink into despair and/or nihilism. People harden their hearts to handle the terrible things they see every day instead of finding another way.
Personally, I feel like nihilism is sort of a means of running away from your problems. For some people, they feel as though it’s the only thing they can turn to in times like these. Hell, I used to consider myself somewhat of a nihilist as well; it felt comfortable to just not care about anything and remember that our world is merely a speck of dust in the endless expanse of the universe and that none of this matters. But it does.
We humans only get a certain amount of time to live. If we live in complacency of the terrible things people like these neo-nazis are doing, then things will never change. And that’s the thing—we all have to live in this world, and we have our whole lives to spend here. Future generations are impacted by what we do now, as it has always been. So why not make a better world for everyone and their eventual descendants?
Sure, there’s only so much one person can do, but even one person can make a huge difference. With that being said, once I realized that the only weapons I need in this “war” we’re fighting are optimism as my sword and hope as my shield, I felt a thousand times more confident that even someone like myself could make a difference in this world, even if it’s by inspiring just one person.
These feelings are difficult to come by, like I’ve said. So many people I’ve met are essentially afraid of feeling happy because every time they feel good in life, something comes around to tear that happiness down. Instead, they just let themselves wallow in sorrow and self-pity so that when that next thing comes around to try tearing their happiness down, there won’t be anything to tear down; it’s a means of self-preservation. I’m normally rather gentle about my opinions when it comes to people’s feelings, but here, I must admit that I think it’s a bunch of bullshit to feel that way. Life is a series of ups and downs, man. We’re always going to have good times and bad times regardless of your perception of life. Whenever I say this, people always say things like “well, where are my good times? My whole life has been nothing but bad times.” It can’t help but make me wonder if those people are people who have simply never smiled. There had to be something that, once upon a time, made you happy. People who say there wasn’t, or that they simply don’t want to put in the effort to make a difference, can’t be helped, I fear.
But everyone, and I mean everyone, deserves to be happy without that happiness requiring any sort of pain, either to oneself or to others. You can’t be afraid of being happy because of what might happen. At the same time, you must remember that getting these feelings takes time. Be patient with yourself and apply yourself to your practices.
All that out of the way, it brings me to the official answer to the question at hand: what makes a hero?
The answer is simple: I believe a hero is someone who has the capacity to give someone hope, even if it’s just themselves.
We live in a world where hope is scarce and hard to find. It takes a lot of strength to get up in the morning and face the world. But you know what? Every single one of you who are able to wake up in this awful world is a goddamn hero in my book. I want you to just think about that for a second. We are all amazing in our own respects, and we are capable of so freaking much. Never let the agents of fear and despair tell you otherwise. Fight this war the right way: with love, hope, and relentless optimism in your hearts so the enemy can’t get their way.