I don't remember the first time I was let down by something I put my faith in. I don't remember the first time I discovered a hero to be flawed. I do remember the instinctual need I had as a child to define myself by a variety of surface level ideologies. This a very common sort of tribal tradition, the youth test the waters of different personalities through affectations like what kind of music they listen to, what kind of after-school programs they attend, the clothes they wear, etc. Every character archetype in The Breakfast Club can find their source somewhere in the tastes they exhibited. While it might seem like we leave these things behind once we graduate and there isn't any lunch tables for clique segregation, we still manage to find our little camps. We use our political beliefs, our eating habits and what brand of computer we own as barometers, and if those totems aren't enough, we can use our unmitigated dislike of those who have opposing beliefs to unite us. This often becomes the focal point of why we believe in what we what believe, because it's easier to prove the superiority of our beliefs by scrutinizing and uncovering the inferiority of any other option. It's not okay for people to disagree in a civilized manner or simply choose different things because we tie our choices to who we are. The person you voted for in the last election is now a password for either ridicule or a fist bump- that is until the second password- your opinion of the movie Avatar, is given. This polarizing of people through opinions is obviously nothing new. But with the advent of the internet, discovering varied and increasingly intimate ways to break people and ideologies down in an effort to build another up has gotten easier. At the same time it's made deciding exactly what you believe a convoluted trick question. Arbitrarily picking which contrasting fact to believe is a bit like deciding which skewed propaganda to follow. Being educated on disputed facts has become more and more difficult and thus, seemingly more pointless.
Maybe we've all gotten cynical, or maybe it's just me getting older but in the past few years it seems as though everytime something sparks even a momentary flame of inspired excitement, it is quickly snuffed out. I remember seeing the Occupy movement as being the first time that my generation decided to actually stand for something… defining that "something" became more difficult and now everything about the movement seems to have become at best a cautionary example and at worst, a sad joke- the punchline being the hubris of anyone foolish enough to think that a difference could be made in the first place.
The question I have is, are we concerned at all with the fact that we're not going to leave our children with any heroes? Are we concerned that as each generation discovers the futility of believing in something, we create an ever deepening cavern of apathy to get lost in? I don't know. I can only speak for myself when I say that I try my best to define what I believe in through a constant mental and emotional inventory. I do my best to keep an open mind to new ideas, to not take offense or become self righteous with those who disagree with me but at the same time, am unafraid to defend my beliefs in a civilized manner. If the things I believe in crumble in my head under a few difficult questions than perhaps I should reevaluate why I embraced them in the first place. I try to temper my passion with compassion, to never lose sight that my beliefs are my own, arrived at through my own contemplation and life experiences. Could someone find flaw with some thing I believe in? Of course. Like I said, that's what the internet's for. But if we share ideas in a safe manner, we can accept our contradictions without fear of the judgement we'll receive for forgiving them. Because WHY we believe in something always has a deeper root in who we are, that isn't arrived at through statistics.
We may not be given much to believe in, but maybe that just gives us an excuse to boil down and send through the fire our philosophies and see what makes it out the other side. Maybe it's better if we don't all believe in our president as an infallible hero or a sinister villain, but rather universally adopt another way of thinking- a way to live life and treat people, a way to behave, to care for others, to worry less about ourselves and whatever bumper sticker we have and more about how much we're listening- just listening and not waiting for our turn to talk. We can all believe in different things or different versions of the same thing, all have our own opinions and lifestyles but I think that everyone should believe in, and live out, very simply: kindness, respect and humility. If we could start there, maybe believing in something might not seem so… unbelievable.