L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 310, March 13, 2005
"Words and Guns"
What Have We Done For Our Heroes?
Exclusive to TLE
We seem to be people starved for heroes. I remember in 1979 during the Iranian hostage crisis the cretins who call us our media called the bureaucrats encaged at the embassy heroes. Now the best term you could call these people is victims. They, wisely or not, waited passively until rescued and nothing else. The same term was also applied to the victims of 9/11 thereby cheapening the concept of hero.
There are heroes among the military and the police. However the institutions they represent are corrupt with way too much power and have enough recognition as it is. Even in just wars such as WW2 there are many innocents killed for every enemy combatant and soldiers are trained to follow orders rather than taking the iniatitive. Most police enforce bad laws. It is time to recognize that a new powerful class is emerging and has its heroes. I am talking about the heroes in the business community who are still largely unnnoticed in our culture compared to police, lawyers and the military especially when it comes to TV and film
Remember heroism is courage above and beyond the call of duty. This is a heroism assumed by a lone person or in small groups that are totally untrained and unarmed. In the midst of danger they respond almost spontaneously to evil men who could kill them easily as they have killed hundreds before. Sometimes in saving people from a tyranny it takes more than courage; it takes intelligence, diplomacy, cunning as well as valor. Cunning can mean bribery, flattery of goons, lying and even bullying in situations that trump everyday ethics. This kind of cunning and courage displayer by Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List and Paul Rusabagina (henceforth PR) in Hotel Rwanda.
Oskar Schindler and PR saved thousands of people between them. There is another businessman who saved hundreds of thousands under similar circumstances who you have probably never heard of (John Rath). More about him and how to honor all these fine people will come later
I have seen the film Hotel Rwanda. and it is a masterpiece of horror. Horror is a genre known for its innocent, almost bland beginnings. Then cruel and insane monster(s) appear that gorge on innocent blood until a hero(es) comes and rescues. But in this film the horror really happened. And America, Europe, Africa, the media even the US stood by until almost a million people were butchered by machetes and rifles. Fortunately, a hero did arise.
PR (Don Cheadle) is the manager of the hotel Milles Collines owned by a multinational corporation, Sabena of Belguim. He operates in a country where bribes and toadying are the ways to survive. He is a Hutu has turned a blind eye to oppression until his family (his wife is a Tutsi) and friends come under attack when a revolt is declared. All through the film one hears this hate-filled radio program calling for the Hutus to exterminate the Tutsi cockroaches, supposedly for their co-operation with the Belgain colonizers of decades ago. This film never lets up with armed mobs and moral dilemmas as Paul must constantly bribe with whisky and cash leaders of these crazed vicious groups. Rich tourists, the media and even the UN (or is it Un) peacekeepers desert his hotel as it fills with orphans and refugees Fortunately his boss at Sabena in Belguim helps him in contacting European officials and that forestalls the attacks for a while. Still, resentful mobs who resent his "pull" and vow vengeance. In a tearful scene, the commander (Nick Nolte)of the UN (or is it un)peacekeeper forces tearfully confesses that his men cannot use their guns and that there will be little help for the poor blacks marooned in this island in the middle of this bloodbath. Paul then knows it is on the 4 star reputation and his wits are the only barrier to the slaughter of his charges. While this seige lasts 100 days he occasionally he must drive out at night trading for food with these Hutu leaders who know that his wife is a Tutsi. Returning, he inadvertantly drives over piles of victims. In the end he and over 1000 people escape when Tutsi rebels arrive.
Sometimes from ordinary, even corrupt people comes a hero. Not someone who searches out greatness but has it thrusted upon him and is transformed. Many readers of this would do the same. In honor of those that accept these challenges and carry them out honor is due. Especially those who can do this with great risk and little expectation of reward. The struggle for liberty should be recognized as a great philanthropic act.
What I propose is a Hall of Fame for business people who have risked their lives and fortunes to save people. If people whose only skill is throwing a baseball can have a Hall of Fame, why not real heroes? Perhaps a one could first be set up on a website.
John Rabe was head of the branch of Siemens, a German engineering firm in Nanking China in 1937. According to the book by Iris Chang "The Good Man of Nanking" during the organized carnage called the "Rape of Nanking, Rabe along with Americans and British set up the Red Swastika Society saving more than 200,000 Chinese, by setting up an island of safety. In the middle of this safety zone on a flagpole flew the flag of the Red Swastika Society. For a Chinese seeking safety under a swastika was not unusual. Chinese temples to this day are covered with them as they are the symbol of the wheel of life. This is akin to having a lifesaving drug with a skull and bones on it which is the symbol og the Nazi SS or George Bush's fraternity. Wearing a swastika armband (ironically he was head of the Nazi Party there) he literaly pulled off Japanese soldiers off of Chinese women in the act of rape screaming at them. At the time he believed in Hitler and wrote letters to Hitler compaining of Japanese atrocities. He was brought back to Germany and reality and the Nazis nearly sent to a concentration camp for his efforts. It would be a strange and powerful movie even if only a documentary. China as well as the overseas Chinese community would love it.
Honor and recognition is due to these people so that if we ever need such people again they would be there. Heroes can be very ordinary and even corrupt beings who have been transformed by meeting the challenge of evil times. One could also honor other philantropists who took lesser risks for peace, property and liberty as well. I would appreciate hearing your nominees for Hallof Fame of business people who through their bravery, innovation and entrepreneurship accomplished heroic acts. A website would be good at start followed by a real hall of fame of bricks and mortar. After all, if a relief pitcher can get recognized why not our heroes? This will help us understand, nurture and celebrate the heroism of the entrepreneurs who have defended our values.