In Australia ANZAC day (which was yesterday) is a national holiday where we commemorate those Australian soldiers who have serve the country in times of war, and particularly those who lost their lives in doing so.
Although both my grandfathers served during World War II, I have had trouble embracing and understanding what this day is about. It could be because I have had difficulty understanding the purpose of the wars fought by my country during my life time. The Great Wars I can see were important to fight, and the outcomes seem to be positive. The Gulf Wars to me did not seem as important or necessary, and the outcomes negative.
Then I read something recently that got me thinking about what a hero was. As I understand it, a hero is somebody who incurs personal disadvantage, or risks doing so, for the good of others. In my context this a notion not celebrated or encouraged outside of the battle field (with perhaps the exception of sport), and outside this realm heroes are often called failures and mistakes rather than acknowledge for making heroic sacrifices.
So this ANZAC day I want to remember the heroes that I see, and don't see, around me:
- those who have fought in wars and served this country, sacrificing themselves for those of us who did not fight, regardless of whether the wars seemed important or necessary, or whether the consequences have been positive or negative
- anybody who has put their life at risk for another, sometimes meaning the loss of their life
- those who speak out fearlessly about the fraud they see, often to their personal ridicule and detriment
- those who choose lower paid jobs across their career in order to serve society, sacrificing status and comfort and material for the improvement of others
- to those who invest their money in low probability experiments, understanding that they may never see a financial return, but in doing this work we all learn something and have the opportunity to benefit
I know it is difficult to compare losing a life to losing quality of life. But I think that a hero can take a number of forms, and for those who take this on I admire.