ISSUE-153

Claim: The best way to understand the character of a society is to examine the character of the men and women that the society chooses as its heroes or its role models.

Reason: Heroes and role models reveal a society's highest ideals.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.


What kind of people should people choose as role models for behavior? The kind of role models that people emulate do reflect the highest ideals to which they aspire. Therefore, our judgment of many social characteristics necessarily depends on the study of that social model. However, an excessive focus on exemplars can lead us to ignore social realities as well as the diversity within a society.


First, understanding heroes narrowly, the moral exemplars chosen by a society clearly embody the highest moral aspirations possessed by that society. For example, in a society that promotes collectivism, we see a lot of media coverage of heroes who sacrifice their lives to save others; in a culture that emphasizes filial piety, we often see heroes who obey their parents when they are alive, never disobey them, serve them to the best of their ability, and keep them in mourning for many years after their parents' deaths; not to mention in a martial society, the most respected roles are naturally It is the heroic figure who kills the enemy in war; in today's environmentalism, some revered images often sacrifice their quality of life to protect the habitat of endangered creatures or to save stray animals, something that would not have been revered in ancient societies. Moreover, broadly understood as heroes, the idols that people in a society emulate also embody the ideal lifestyle that people aspire to live. In ancient societies under elitist values, people eulogized great thinkers and politicians; decades ago, people revered idols as scientists and inventors; today, under the erosion of consumerism, people worship entrepreneurs, stars, and netizens.


As a result, we judge many social characteristics by their exemplary images. When we think of ancient Greece, it's hard not to think of its great ideas, political systems, and cultural contributions to humanity as a whole, and this recognition comes from our study of Socrates, Pericles, Homer, and others. When we think of contemporary America, we think of many features, to name just a few, such as its role as a center of popular culture, we think of images like Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, etc.; its combination of the business and information technology revolutions, we think of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.; and its role as a center of the world's largest economy.


However, there is a gap between ideals and reality, and by focusing on icons we see the ideals of society, not the reality of society. Perhaps the fact that every modern country respects firefighters shows that we have similar moral aspirations, but we are completely unable to compare what the moral status of these countries is like. This can only be seen through the study of a large number of social realities.


At the same time, a society is internally pluralistic, with very different characteristics in different regions and different values for different age groups, so it may be difficult for us to identify a uniform iconography.


In short, starting from the individual, the heroes and role models that people choose do reflect the characteristics of that person. But if one wants to judge the characteristics of a society by its role models, it is easy to ignore the diversity within the society.


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