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Post No.: 0119heroes


Furrywisepuppy says:


Those who save the lives of the already sick or in danger are indeed heroes – but surely so are those who work to prevent people from becoming sick or in danger in the first place too. Arguably even more so because prevention reduces more total suffering than last-ditch heroes because preventative measures mean fewer people will suffer from a sickness or get into positions of danger in the first instance (e.g. people and their homes not getting burnt at all is surely better than them being saved after getting a little bit burnt!)


The first line of defence is therefore typically more crucial than the last line of defence. Prevention is typically more effective than (attempted) treatments or cures e.g. not ever becoming obese in the first place is better for a person’s health than trying to treat an obese person once he/she has become obese, preventing wars is better than saving people during a war, or not getting preventable forms of cancer at all is more cost-effective for health services than getting cancer then having surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy in order to get a tumour removed, even if successful. The point is that early intervention is usually better than late intervention, even if it’s seen as less heroic. Woof!


Prevention saves money, time, stress and pain in the long run, even though the short-term investment may be larger. This is arguably a problem in nations where there are limited or maximum numbers of terms for elected political leaders because then these leaders are incentivised to mainly show results during the period of their own term(s) in office and not far beyond (e.g. ‘spend now, pay a lot later’ policies rather than ‘pay now, benefit a lot later’ ones) and/or when the voting public impatiently demands immediate results over larger deferred results. (Unlimited terms in office should not lead to dictatorships because candidates will still need to be voted for by the public as well as supported by their own party cabinet each time.)


All top athletes have teams even if their discipline is an individual sport, but in overt team sports like hockey, the forwards are a vital part of defending one’s own goal too, so it’s never just the goalkeeper or defenders’ fault if a goal is conceded. We tend to over-credit the last person who scores or saves a penalty in a penalty shootout even though every goal or save beforehand counted equally, and every effort that helped the team reach the penalty shootout stage in the first place counted too. The last line of defence or the last opportunity a thing can be made or stopped tends to get the blame or credit, but in an international knockout tournament, if the whole hockey team scored more goals and/or conceded fewer goals in normal time then it wouldn’t have gone to penalties for someone to miss and get singled out for the blame (and at least someone must miss from one team or the other or no one’s going home!) In the wider picture, if the country gave more opportunities to create or nurture more talented hockey players in the first place then that would’ve helped too. Or if you’re not in the team and you berate the performance of your national team then if only you were a better player then you could’ve been in the team and made a difference. And so forth. So it’s naïve to point the finger solely at mere individuals, or others, for either blames or credits.


This links with Post No.: 0117 about the part where no one ever makes it alone. Sure, some people are more special and are greater contributors than others towards a certain result but there is always a chain of events involving many people that lead to a major error or major success (e.g. if a public hospital can be accused of negligence during an operation on a child then one might also need to question whether something should’ve been done by the parents to prevent their child needing to have gone to hospital to need that operation in the first place? Or could society have made the difference?) The cleaners and cooks, for instance, contribute to the successes of an organisation too. It also needs to be noted that everyone makes mistakes but sometimes some people luckily get away with it and sometimes some people unluckily don’t, even though they committed the exact same actions (e.g. an own goal only matters if one’s team didn’t score enough in the game to render it academic and bail one out).


Ways to prevent future suffering include education and effective regulations, but teachers and lawmakers are not usually considered heroes compared to firefighters or doctors, for example. Teachers can potentially save many more lives than doctors when they teach children to be smarter and safer, healthier and kinder to each other. Providing vaccinations, safety training or accessible playgrounds for children to physically play in as part of an anti-obesity programme are therefore examples of heroic acts – not just grabbing someone just before they get hit by a train, resuscitating someone who has just been electrocuted or fending off an assailant from an innocent person. Indeed some last-ditch heroes need to voluntarily put their own lives at risk so they often exhibit extreme altruistic bravery, whereas people who install smoke detectors or encourage people to not smoke cigarettes aren’t usually considered sexy headline-hitting heroes (they’re instead usually considered boring or killjoys(!)) These people and what they do may seem mundanely prosaic but they technically save lives too and even prevent much pain before it has a chance to begin.


We don’t tend to celebrate the ‘my house didn’t burn down today’ days but instead take them for granted, even though e.g. proper and properly-enforced buildings regulations give us such peace of mind. Those who attempt to circumvent such consumer protections at any stage (e.g. cutting costs at the building planning stage to maximise profits) can therefore rightly be called villains if anyone who does the opposite can be called heroes.


‘A stitch in time saves nine’ but some will argue why invest in something that might not happen in the future? Saving us from ‘maybe in the far future dangers’ compared to saving us from ‘almost certainly would’ve otherwise killed us right there dangers’ are perceived to be different to us because of discounting future payoffs (the (net) present value of the investment of our or other people’s time, efforts and other resources, where e.g. a far future threat is less worrisome than the exact same threat if made today), and how we treat uncertainty versus certainty, especially if it means forgoing a certain and present desire (e.g. the pleasure/pain-relief of getting some nicotine right now, even though one knows or ought to know that it gets harder to wean off the drug and gets expensive to maintain the habit the more one succumbs to accepting the immediate and instant pleasure/pain-relief hits of nicotine).


It also gets progressively harder to attribute an outcome to a specific individual or set of individuals the longer the causal chain of events is and the earlier one entered the chain of events. But we don’t need to always identify single responsible individuals for things that take the input of many people collectively when one thinks about and understands how most (if not all) things in the world and society actually work. We are fundamentally connected to everyone else’s lives and outcomes hence we have an intrinsic responsibility for each other.


So outcomes in one’s individual life, as well as collectively, in the human world depend on the many rather than just identifiable stand-alone leaders, end-users, heroes or villains. In this context, the inventors of life-saving technologies or medicines, the teachers of life-saving techniques, the people who voted for or supported more safety regulations, the people who enforce these safety regulations, and so forth, all contribute to heroics – not just the person at the end of the chain of events. Heroes need their own heroes, or those who help them to stay safe or do their jobs.


And it’s the same in other contexts too e.g. if they’re different people, the singer tends to receive most of the plaudits for a good song than the writer or composer, but there would’ve been no song to sing at all without the latter. Although there are some added pressures, frontmen/women in bands likewise tend to receive disproportionate credit simply for being the most visible and vocal member of a group. The messenger tends to get shot or shouted at. Or things can get set in motion by the previous leader(s) of a country even though the consequences of those things could get attributed to the current leader because those consequences came to be realised during the tenure of the current leader, be it a credit or blame (e.g. financial deregulation years ago, and a banking crisis years later).


Politicians who send soldiers to fruitless conflicts or cut funds to the sick and needy are therefore partly culpable for the downstream consequences of their decisions. (They may argue though that the alternatives would’ve been worse overall.) Points gained or lost at the beginning of a sporting campaign count the same as those gained or lost near the end hence league titles aren’t merely won or lost during the latter matches. This is why we must dig beyond what’s merely in front of us here and now, within reasonable doubt or the balance of probabilities when determining any causal relationships because there’s a problem of constantly passing the buck – how far back shall we go to point fingers in this universe of cause-and-effect above the atomic scale? Do we go right back to just shortly after the Big Bang(?!)


Well an example of a long-term but reasonably traceable consequence is that a politician might boost his/her national economy by allowing fossil fuels to be burned without restriction, knowing that this will maximise job creation and the economic figures for his/her own time in office. But the environmental costs and costs of falling behind other nations when it comes to renewable energy technologies will be passed onto future generations, yet this politician won’t care because he/she’s only going to be in office for a maximum of maybe 4 or 8 years, so as long as his/her own economic figures ‘score card’ for the history books is selfishly good for his/her own time in office then it’ll become someone else’s problem and they can take responsibility for managing the damaged environments and downturn in the economy as the whole thing eventually corrects itself.


This is why the electorate must not be myopic – the electorate must realise that causes and effects are not always immediate but could span across the tenures of different political leaders and generations. It may not be reasonable to credit or blame a current leader for something that was caused by a previous leader(s), and we must learn to credit leaders for thinking about the long-term, even when we anticipate the fruits will not bear during their time in office, and vice-versa for long-term harms and blame. A leader’s legacy shall not be set in stone until way after their own death.


Well you could be an unsung hero (or villain)? We could be heroes. Taxes, for instance, pay for many life-saving programmes, both domestically and abroad – so thank you to you if you pay your fair share because you’re contributing to heroics too (and boo to anyone who actively and aggressively minimises their tax bills).


Woof! Whatever you’re doing, Furrywisepuppy for one recognises your positive contributions to the future and towards others even if others don’t or will fail to.


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