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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

Coronaviruses: unsuspected heroes emerging from adversity

Fri, 03 Apr 2020 09:52:00 +0000 Published in Alto Aragón Newspaper


We live in a society orphaned of heroes, in which heroism is ceasing to be considered as a value and a reference letter for an honest life.

Thomas Carlyle laments the demise of hero worship: "Ours is a society that denies the existence of great men, and does not even aspire to have them".

Society was founded on the cult of heroes. The true history of the world is the biography of great men and women; with their example of sacrifice and self-improvement they invite us to grow in the face of difficulties.

The oblivion of heroes is causing an inner emptiness in those who are in the age of great ideals (the young). This causes a lowering of their level of aspiration, thus leaving the way open to settle for fashionable anti-heroes. Conversely, reading biographies of great heroes often elicits admiration for their positive, value-based rebelliousness. The same teenagers who are bored listening to theoretical lectures on human virtues are often excited when they discover these virtues embodied in a hero.

Professor Juan Luis Lorda stresses that the fulfillment of duty in situations of extreme difficulty has an exemplary value that is decisive in the Education of young people:

"There are circumstances in life where human dignity may demand great sacrifices; that is, heroism. Sometimes, duty leads us to face pain and death rather than give in to what is unworthy of a man (.). The history of all cultures is full of exemplary gestures of men who have been able to sacrifice the staff before duties that they considered higher: for the good of their homeland, for the love of their parents, their spouse or their children, for friendship. (.). These are admirable deeds that awaken the desire to imitate them. They have served in all cultures as guidelines for the Education of youth".

Many heroes were forged in adversity, growing in the face of difficulties-challenge that invite them to give the best of themselves. García de Leániz, affirms that "they let themselves be made by hostility", and gives as an example many anonymous men who in the First World War revealed themselves at the front as great soldiers: "The maximum adversity of the battlefield stimulated a fund of heroism that they themselves were unaware of. They were heroes surprised by their heroism". This attitude was shared by some people during the sinking of the Titanic.

On the night of April 14, 1912, the ship struck an iceberg, and as it sank, in the panic the orchestra began to play. The music was a balm of comfort to which many passengers clung.

The collision with the iceberg occurred at 11:40 p.m., and the orchestra was still playing at 1:15 p.m., when the ship's inclination was already totally unstable. At 2:10, with no light on deck, no lifeboats, and no hope of survival, the orchestra's director released the musicians, but they continued playing until the moment the ship sank. According to the testimony of a survivor, Mary Hilda Slater, the last song they played was "Nearer, My God, to Thee." (Nearer, My God, to Thee).

The musicians were not the only heroes. They were joined by some passengers who gave up their boat to other people.

On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic comes the global pandemic of the coronavirus. Many people are reacting with the same altruism, courage and solidarity as the ship's passengers. They are exposing their lives to save the lives of others. I am referring to healthcare professionals, pharmacists, journalists, cab drivers, bakers, deliverymen, policemen, military, supermarket employees, etc.

Volunteers deserve a separate chapter. Some give home concerts from balcony to balcony and selflessly offer to take care of lonely children. Others offer to help the elderly, who live alone and are unable to do their shopping. All this is happening in a society with a reputation for lack of solidarity. Once again, heroes emerge, stimulated by adversity, to give the best of themselves unconditionally.

I hope that this attitude will be generalized and maintained when the coronavirus is defeated by science together with the many prayers that are being made, because the root and the solution of the evil transcends the human. And without forgetting that every day there are reasons to live solidarity and altruism in many small things, for example, smiling at the sad or those who bother us and listening to those who are shunned for being annoying.