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Mandatory Redistribution Party

Never Meet Your Heroes

Should you really never meet your heroes? Why are we so obsessed with leadership, figureheads and stories about special people? 

No More Heroes

Never meet your heroes, they're sure to disappoint you. This is good advice. It is better to be in a game of reverse hide-and-seek, carefully avoiding the sightlines of everyone you've ever respected.

But having a hero is important. They are living, breathing proof that your ideals can be realised within the human experience. However, you must never talk to them. You must never grasp their hand and look firmly in their eyes, for in that moment you will discover that they are nothing more than flesh. And lemme tell ya dude: flesh sucks.

I love people. Some of my best friends are people. But even I, a biased and compromised person-lover, must admit that people are almost exclusively wretched little gremlins. Contorted animals addicted to sin. We are flimsy vessels for vindicating our ideals. Turning a human being into an emblem of any high-minded virtue is like trying to pin a rosette to a balloon.

There's a maxim in writing called 'Show, Don't Tell' - the golden rule that it is more engaging and effective to communicate a message through how it plays out in an individual subjective experience, than to bombard an audience with information, data, statistics etc. Any given article about national trends, for example the vast increase in people being kidnapped by a giant moth, will always zoom in on a single coherent story - "This is Stacey. She's just finished her Masters in PVA glue. The last thing she ever expected was to be abducted by The GigaMoth". The actual stats (vanishingly low, the moth abduction scare is a complete tabloid invention) are buried deep into the story once we've heard about several victims and someone who swears they saw the moth alighting on a National Express service to Crewe. The human brain will not accept data without the warm touch of anecdotalism.

But did you know that 'Show, Don't Tell' was in part popularised by the CIA who funded university writing programmes based on individualistic storytelling during the Cold War? The focus on an individual is incredibly unhelpful for a society that wants to challenge or redistribute power; it collapses and dismisses the complexity of social relations and organised movements, and replaces a reasonable and unassailable fight for freedom, equality or liberation with something much more vulnerable: a person. A person will be flawed. A person will have vices. A person will have committed a grievous error of judgement or compassion at some point. Because they are made of flesh. And flesh sucks.

We are obsessed with the individual. A far-reaching canon of 'Great White European Men' who now dot the land as a scatter diagram of bird-cacked statues, whose accomplishments were built on the shoulders of giants: the unacknowledged efforts of women, the exploited labour of workers, the extracted wealth of bloodied colonies and slave labour.

Many want to redress the old bad statues with good new statues. But why do we really need new statues? Do we really need to pick individuals to cast into metal? Do our stories always need to take the form of special people who did special things? Why place something as fragile as a person on a load-bearing pillar for important political objectives?

The needs of the people can only be met by the efforts of the collective, and just you try making a statue of the collective. It's simply unfeasible. A vast array of nameless figures. A terracotta army of nondescript ordinary people swamping the urban centre of every city in the United Kingdom. Sounds great, actually.

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Sean hosts radical left podcast Mandatory Redistribution Party, choc full of repartee, left-lore and interviews.

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