August 12, 2008

A Novel Idea

A novel idea

Cited from The Jakarta Post, Friday, January 26, 2001

I must thank you for publishing a letter regarding the initially somewhat bizarre notion of opening a special cemetery to accommodate "heroic" civil servants (The Jakarta Post, Jan. 23, 2001).

It was such a novel idea that I was prompted by idle curiosity and a little time on my hands to look up the word hero to see if it could in fact be applied routinely to civil servants who die while working, as the writer suggests. Here is what I found:

[hj'ro], noun, a man of distinguished bravery; any illustrious person; a person reverenced and idealized; the principal male figure, or the one whose life is the thread of the story, in a history, work of fiction, play, film, etc.; originally a man of superhuman powers, a demigod:

heroine [her'o-in], a female hero.

Sadly for your contributor, the current definition does not seem to indicate that people who die while doing what they are paid to do should be awarded this title. Indeed, if these definitions are indeed accurate, occupancy rates in any new heroes' cemetery might be extremely low as few, if any candidates would seem to qualify.

However, it would be tragic if a hero or heroine, from whatever background, was to die and we had nowhere to put them. I therefore give this initially peculiar and yet ultimately charming notion my qualified support.

In order to be both fair and practical, I feel it would be better not to limit the type of occupant by career background. More importantly, I would urge those whose job it is to heroize, to apply the definitions perhaps more carefully than has hitherto been the case -- otherwise, almost anyone could become a hero and the project could become extremely costly. Real heroes and heroines would seem to be sadly rather thin on the ground just now.