Nowhere is hero worship taken to an extreme than in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. To truly understand the meaning of the word Fanatic, you need to witness the frenzy around the release of any movie starring Rajanikanth as the hero. Elaborate milk-baths (abhisheka) are given to, not the living breathing actor , but to giant plywood cutouts of the actor’s profile. What a waste. Why not just donate the milk to needy poor kids. One day’s calcium requirement can be satisfied. The people of Tamil Nadu are truly unique. You will find Tamils in all walks of life and some of the smartest Indians hail from Tamil Nadu. You will find people at either end of the IQ spectrum. This is not to say that other classes of people do not have such a wide distribution but I think they are a truly unique, fanatic people.
Now, what fascinates me is not the fanaticism of Tamilians, but the human nature that causes it. Why does a human being feel so compelled to blindly worship another, a movie actor, for crying out loud? I understand that not all movie actors are mere matinee idols. Some have dedicated their talent to the betterment of fellow citizens. I am intrigued by the inner workings of the human brain. If you have read Isaac Asimov’s collection of short stories I, Robot, you know that every single story is based on a variation of the 3 laws of robotics. The positronic brain described by Asimov needs to work within the confines of the 3 laws. So what confines the human mind to suspend logic and become a movie actor fan? Why can’t the mind of such a person separate the make-believe from reality? What makes someone try to act like the hero and become intoxicated by the antics on screen?
Carl Sagan describes beautifully the evolution of the human race in his book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. This is a great piece of work of science and like his other book, The Pale Blue Dot, deserves more respect than it gets. Not many have heard or read the Shadows. The opening paragraph where Sagan describes the earth as one descends from space is simply breathtaking. I was hooked and since became a Saganist. His other work The Dragons of Eden explore the evolution of human intelligence but it does not answer the question that intrigues me.
Hero worship and narrow mindedness is, in my opinion, what has caused the status of politics in India and Pakistan. I can’t believe that out of the millions of educated Pakistanis, all you have to look up to, is Benazir Bhutto? And what about the people of India who cannot find a prime minister from among 1 billion Indians and are ready to handle the mantle to a foreigner? Is this blind faith? Why does the human mind just give up hope and look up to so called “heroes”? Or is it the hope that the hero is going to rescue you?
The real heros are the scientists and teachers and the soldiers who dedicate their life for the betterment of others. If anyone, it’s people who work tirelessly, that need to be idolized. I am glad someone recognized this and did write a blog post on the real hidden heros.
If you are looking for a hero, here is one. That is a true hero. Not your average cigarette popping movie star. Need another one? How about this one? There are countless other who deserve your idolation. Recognising such deserving people is teh duty of every citizen. Go get me a true hero.