15 December 2019
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Why we need freaking fantastic heroes!

Lately I’ve been perplexed about why we’ve been driven to support wild, weird and wacky political leaders and have so little regard for the ‘cream of the crap’, sorry, I meant to write ‘cream of the crop’ politicians from the major parties.

Many of us wanted Malcolm to step up as a Prime Ministerial hero. Unlike most of his life, however, with this subject, he has been a slow learner. That said, he is getting better and this week’s tax cut win should put more much-needed heroic winds into his sails.

I’m not saying I’m necessarily a Malcolm fan but given Bill Shorten’s challenges in the inspiration caper, I think our nation really needs a fantastic political hero more than ever.

And believe it or not, psychologists actually agree with me.

All this hero and politician preoccupation stuff got even more perplexing when I was walking up High Street, Armadale in Melbourne last week and was confronted with Clive Palmer doing his best impersonation of Donald Trump, telling us he’s up for “Making Australia Great”.

Not surprisingly, one wit added “er” to great as a satirical response, while another ‘yellowed out’ his face. To some, it was what Clive deserved. To others, it could have been hero degradation!

During this week, I was singled out by an angry keyboard creep who piled into me for my ‘objective’ look at what Donald Trump had done to the stock market and my dividend growth fund that’s listed on the stock market under the ticker code of my nickname — SWTZ!

To be accurate, I added Donald’s tariff tweeting to the bank bashing of the Royal Commission, to the hopeless showing by Telstra, to explain why a ‘stock’ that listed at $2.50 and had been as high as $2.63 had slumped to $2.42 at the height of the Commission’s revelations, and Donald’s tariff threats to China, the EU, Canada and Mexico.

It couldn’t have been anything else because the Oz economy has been powering along brilliantly, the budget deficit is tumbling lower and company earnings are better than expected.
And I get it that Donald is the master of the ‘art of the deal’, as his book is called, but this former casino owner-turned-US President is gambling with his trade war taunting and my super fund and my clients’ faith in me, and my fund was suffering!

By the way, this Donald-lover who couldn’t take my ‘objective’ analysis, clearly has ignored that I’ve praised the guy when he’s got it right — for example, playing hard ball with Kimmy in North Korea, Syria, Russia and cutting US taxes. But when you’re in the commentary business, I know it’s old world, but I believe in not being biased to the right or the left.

Clearly, I had riled my subscriber to my Switzer Report to such an extent that this guy actually put aside the very good stock calls this Report has made (which should have boosted his super fund’s income) to back slam me for being rude to his hero. Coincidentally, I had the pleasure of seeing a clip of the great David Bowie singing his classic Heroes song, where he inspired us to think that “we can be heroes, just for one day.”

As the words filtered through my head and tingled into my blood, I recognised how important heroes are. It’s the kind of thing that has even made me cry in my crazy life.

Alisa Camplin, our gold medal winning aerial ski acrobat had the same effect on me, when I saw her video where her Mum was in the crowd (as a surprise) when she won her medal. And Stephen Bradbury had me tear up when he told me his story and showed his clip of ‘getting lucky’ for gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

High achievers and hard workers easily qualify as heroes for me. After a couple of days of looking after my beloved grandchildren, I know Mums and Dads at home with young kids are heroes because the job is hard but so important.

You don’t have to be a psychologist to understand that it’s fair to say that we have a need for heroes. And one man’s hero could be another’s villain. I guess that’s where Donald Trump, Pauline Hanson, Andrew Bolt, Tony Abbott and other seemingly divisive heroes fit into the hero category because they provide inspiration to those who relate to their causes.

Writing in www.psychology.com, US psychologist, Dr Scott T Allison explained why we actually need heroes. Under the headline of 5 surprising ways that heroes improve our lives, he says they heal us, transform us, and connect us with others.

“People need heroes because heroes save or improve lives and because heroes are inspiring,” he tells us. “Heroes elevate us emotionally; they heal our psychological ills; they build connections between people; they encourage us to transform ourselves for the better; and they call us to become heroes and help others.”

I largely support Doc Allison’s summary although I think while some heroes can be for most of humanity others are for members of ‘clubs’ I’d never want to be allowed to join!

For example, Vladmir Putin has his admirers but Vlad is just not my kind of guy. However, that doesn’t detract from the central proposition that we need heroes and that heroes are good for us.

I listen to my 2GB colleague Andrew Bolt when I drive home from my Sky Business TV show. While I get along with Andrew, and some times I agree with him, other times I think he’s from planet Mars. However, his listeners largely love him and put him in the pantheon of heroes usually reserved for the likes of Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Alan Jones!

He’s a tonic for his supporters, who largely feel they are being ostracised by a world bullied by climate change believers and the politically correct.
The Trump surprise election win unearthed a career Democrat business journalist who lived in Washington DC, who is also a Muslim, and who admitted to changing heroes to vote for Donald.

Her former heroes — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and the team before them — had not delivered for too long and Asra Nomani, a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, a pro-choice American and supporter of same sex marriage, went shopping for a new hero!

Doc Allison says research shows heroes taps into an emotion called “elevation.”

It was first identified by Jonathan Haidt at NYU, who says he borrowed the term elevation from Thomas Jefferson, who used the phrase “moral elevation” to describe the euphoric feeling one gets when reading great literature.

Allison says our ancestral roots of sitting around the fire to hear stories gave birth to the importance of heroes.

“Hero stories calmed people’s fears, buoyed their spirits, nourished their hopes, and fostered important values of strength and resilience,” he points out. “There’s no doubt that humans today are no different from our early ancestors. We are drawn to good hero stories because they comfort us and heal us.”

He says the hero improves our connection to others. We see that when our favourite footie team of heroes delivers the knockout blow to win a big game. When that happens, the commentators say “and the crowd went wild!” It’s not really accurate because the crowd goes unified in its sense of relief and elevation that failure has been beaten and success is assured.

Thank God for heroes!

The great heroes show us that ordinary people can be transformed. They encourage us to change paths. “Only when we heroically risk change and growth in our own lives will we reach our full potential,” Allison explains. “As spiritual teacher Richard Rohr notes, hero stories inspire us all because they call us all.”

This role model effect is the big dividend from hero-worshipping.

“Psychologist Eric Erikson’s stages of human development suggest a similar hero trajectory for all of us,” Allison argues. “Adults grow in significant ways and then in mid-life reach a stage of ‘generativity’, which Erikson defines as the time when people give back to the society that has given them so much.”

The theory about heroes explains why we get that tingle when a high achiever, a great orator or an enlightened thinker comes into our life. However, I think we have to be in the market for heroes so that they can actually do their stuff.

There is a Buddha Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni lesson that says: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

The master teacher, who I’d tag as a hero, will appear when the student starts to look for guidance.
I started my life with heroes like Robin Hood and Superman. Then it became legends of sport like Herb Elliott, Dawn Fraser, Ron Barassi, John Newcombe and Artie Beetson. As I aged, Gough Whitlam appeared heroic until he failed macroeconomics 101, which Bob Hawke and Paul Keating made up for.

Then, as time worked its magic, John Howard moved into the hero class, though few have reached the Nelson Mandela level. However, right now, heroes seem a little thin on the ground.

I hope that soon changes because we need fantastic heroes. Call me biased but I just don’t think Clive Palmer fits the bill.

As the Buddhists teach, maybe we have to be ready before our political hero shows up.

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