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The Hero-Worshipping Conundrum

A case of mass psychosis or societal immaturity?


The roads were heaving a sigh of relief for the honking vehicles were nowhere to be seen, shops’ shutters were all down, and the chirping of birds never felt clearer; people were living in the eye of a storm. All of a sudden, sounds of banging & clinking vessels filled the streets which soon transformed into a hysterical hubbub. What happened was a typical outcome of a phenomenon called hero-worshipping. This is the story of India during the pandemic amidst which the Indian Prime Minister, in his usual charismatic aura, solicited from the Indians moral support for the frontline workers breaking their sweat to serve the ailing ones. The request was heeded, and chaos ensued which social media became a witness to. People went helter-skelter and turned a transient event of symbolic importance into something uncalled for. A Diwali mock session was also held for the very same reason during April.


The Hero-Worshipping Conundrum

In simple terms, hero-worshipping is the act of admiration for someone turning into a godly veneration. The subject being honored becomes an all-influencing entity which has the power to sway the minds of the masses with a little jiggling of his or her finger. In India, the milder version of such occurrence is affiliated with the Bollywood stars and sports stalwarts whereas a stronger & more effective one happens to be in the case of political leaders and religious & pseudo-religious gurus. Having both conspicuous negative and positive effects on the development of societal maturity, hero-worshipping has immense potential to destroy or create a utopia. However, the onus is clearly on the masses as the leaders are what they ought to be, influential and persuasive.

 

Must we ourselves not become god just to appear worthy of it?” exclaimed the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche decades back. This rhetorical question has been answered in the affirmative by the gullible masses not so much in India but all around the world where people have embarked on the process of sincerely devoting themselves to a bewitching figure and consummating their relationship with the entity by turning their thoughts into pious principles. A recent global-level event of hero-worshipping happened with the meteoric rise of the highly controversial kickboxer-turned-social media influencer Andrew Tate. On the one hand, he was boycotted on the internet for his purportedly misogynistic remarks and philosophy, he found to strike a chord with a specific male faction on the other. Rest is not history but the present. Unfortunately, as a consequence, the netizens globally were found to be highly divided on gender lines as if the already polarising elements of politics and religion were not enough.



What begets a hero-worshipping disposition in an individual might be an inherent trait of humans to relate themselves with a perfect protective entity which mimics their notion of a living ideal figure. In normal cases, God serves as the ideal figure with people from different geo-cultural backgrounds adopting a totally different idea of a deity. However, sapiens with this so-called godly aura appear on the scene sporadically, mostly in politics as it is a medium that affects the largest mass of people in a given region. The seminal hero-worshipping case in Indian history would be that of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. A man with unbridled passion and idealism, popularity that could only be matched by a few, bestowed with acclaims of the highest degree, he congregated, kept intact and led the Indian masses through the roughest waters of the Indian nation. Howbeit, his attitude which was perceived as impeccable by the masses gave him dictatorial powers over the steering of the Indian freedom struggle. He had the soul of the Indian National Congress in his fist which he squeezed at the cost of alternate ideologies that had immense potential of challenging the Raj. The eventual resignation of Subhash Chandra Bose as the INC president due to Gandhi’s ‘have a problem with’ attitude is an ideal case in making. Not only that, but his sudden withdrawal of mass movement at strategic times also used to come much to the chagrin of other leaders. 



As concerning as it sounds, hero-worshipping can also bring dividends galore. The credulous character of the masses can be exploited for the good even if the hero has ulterior motives to cash in on. Indian PM Narendra Modi’s recent beach sojourn in Lakshadweep Islands provoked nationalist sentiments in favour of the indigenous tourist locations as against the conventional foreign ones. This might prove beneficial to the local population and to the economy of the nation as a whole if political profits accruing from the same are kept aside. Moreover, hero-worshipping can be utilised for eradicating deeply entrenched issues such as casteism in India which stems less from the cultural practices but more from the parochial mindset of the people, given the entity is keen to do so.


“Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”


-Dr B.R Ambedkar        

 

Hero worship might lead to a dopamine rush (Ambedkar’s salvation of the soul) for an individual, be it in politics or religion but its effect on society is deleterious. The ignorant ones form the masses, especially in India’s case where a large chunk of the population is uneducated and politically and religiously immature; the harm caused to the overall development of societal maturity is limitless. The fact that fake religious gurus who are convicted of heinous crimes such as murder and rape are still commanding a followership of thousands testifies to my proposition. Also, it is indubitable that hero-worship is fostered by an educationally backward populace who can further empower their hero by giving him unbridled control over every dimension of people’s lives.


Be it religion, politics, sports or entertainment, the phenomenon of hero-worship is highly prevalent and appears to be acting as a force multiplier to the benefit of the workers of these industries. As warned by Dr Ambedkar, dictatorship might prevail as a repercussion signifying the society’s fall from grace.


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