Or… What’s the Big Idea?
by Randy Cassingham, HeroicStories’ Founding Publisher
Manifesto — n. A public declaration of principles or intentions.
The “news” concentrates on “newsworthy” things, which is practically defined as the wrong, the bad, the horrific, the tragic. In life, those things are the exceptions — that’s why they’re “news”. But fed a steady diet of the negative, people have started to believe that news is life. The wrong, the bad, the horrific, and the tragic seem normal, but they are not. Good people are normal. Life is normal. Lending a hand to others is normal. People must be proactively reminded of the normal to regain their balance and regain a realistic view of humanity.
At the same time, many people wait for someone to do something about things they don’t like. People must realize that they can “do something” themselves. They can say something, they can tell someone, they can act by themselves. They do not have to sit and watch injustice.
One person can change the world. One act can inspire others to act. Martin Luther King’s “Dream” lives on decades after his death. A lone Chinese man blocking a tank on Tiananmen Square sent a powerful message to the entire world. Reading about regular people in HeroicStories doing something sets an example and can change people’s lives. HeroicStories proves that individuals matter and do change the world.
“It is better to give than to receive.” The people that are on the receiving end of a “heroic” act often get something they desperately need, even though the “hero” may not even realize it. But the hero often also gets something: a smile, a thank you, or a simple realization that they are part of the solution, not part of the problem, making the act a win-win occasion.
The media has an incredible power to change the world, but it barely even tries to tap that power. Celebrities are rarely heroes. The sports and TV stars kids look up to one week may be under arrest the next week — and the response of the media is to slap the celebrity down just as hard and fast as they held them up as paragons. Kids deserve better. We all do.
The commoditization of culture is the dumbing down of our entertainment — TV slated for eighth-grade educations, magazines feeling they must create celebrities to put on the covers to attract readers to the introduction of the next manufactured celebrity. But what kind of readers do they attract? There is of course room for all sorts of publications, because there are all sorts of readers. I want readers who can think and are willing to act.
The Internet allows an incredible reach — not only out to readers, but in — bringing in authors and stories, as well as feedback from readers. Those stories can then be held out to a worldwide audience that might never have heard them otherwise. HeroicStories not only speaks to the world, but also actively solicits stories from the world. As the Internet, and readership, grows, I expect more and more of the authors will be from outside the USA.
Because the Internet allows anyone to post anything, readers want an editor — a “gatekeeper” — to select gems from the noise. The editor can also give the author a helping hand, making things smooth and readable. But the editor can also get in the way, making diverse voices homogenous. A good editor can accomplish the former and avoid the latter by being aware of the danger and working to avoid it.
“Humans are story-telling animals,” as a friend of mine likes to say. From the beginning of language, we have sat around the campfire and told stories. Made up explanations of what the lights were in the sky. Told of bold exploits. Regaled with tales from afar. TV is a poor substitute, which is something that kids know instinctively: after a day of watching TV, they don’t want to go to sleep until you tell them a story. Adults get too busy to remember the simple, good things of life, but people young and old need stories; it’s part of our very being.
HeroicStories’ plain text format forces readers to make up their own pictures. The people in the stories are, for the most part, free of race identification. They could be white, black, Asian, or anything else. They could be tall, short, fat, skinny, blind, deaf, disabled, rich, poor, young, old. Christian, atheist, Islamic. The fact is, it doesn’t matter. They are, quite simply, people. We can get as much from each story as we wish — as much as we’re willing to imagine.
People from all over the world read HeroicStories — it’s part of the power of the Internet. With over 100 countries represented among the online readership, the penetration is enormous. Yet some of the readers consider some of the other readers their “enemies”. Wars have been, and are being, fought among them. Yet they can all appreciate the power of the stories they read together. They can be inspired by the acts of “heroism” displayed, and of the long-lasting effects they brought. They can learn that no matter where the story is based, the people involved are, indeed, people. It’s much harder to drop bombs on people than “enemies”.
HeroicStories are most powerful when they relate a simple incident from long ago that had life-changing impact. What makes those stories powerful is the illustration that a small gift of time, or effort, or self can have profound, long-lasting effects on others. What might have seemed “nothing” at the time might have been something very big indeed.
People not only want to hear stories, they want to tell them. HeroicStories not only gives people an opportunity to tell their stories to the world, but readers are specifically allowed to share the stories by forwarding them to others. There is no charge for this — in fact, subscriptions and newspaper syndication contracts are free — but the copyright notice insists that when readers forward stories to others that they be left intact. This not only allows particular stories to spread to a possibly huge audience, but also allows people down the line to understand the stories’ origin, to connect with that origin, to get their own free subscriptions, and to learn how to share their own stories.
The copyright on the stories allows the force of law, ethics and morals to control this expansive distribution. It enables the rules that the stories must be forwarded intact on the Internet, and that print publications must agree to the rules of access. And the authors deserve the assurance that the stories they contributed will be used for the intended purpose. The rules keep distribution under control so that others cannot improperly profit from the work done to bring the stories to the world in the first place.
There are plenty of places to find religious stories; HeroicStories is not one of them. We’re not “anti-religion”, but rather we are out to show that people are good, whether or not they adhere to any particular faith. We reject the notion that the “heroes” depicted in our stories are “angels” or the result of some sort of divine intervention. Such a concept is saying, essentially, that good acts must have been performed by angels since people are not that good. If people can’t be good, why should anyone try? Such an attitude must be rejected; it’s quite simply wrong! And our stories prove otherwise — each one shows people at their best, and shows why we should try to make the world better.
Thus, HeroicStories’ mission is to use the power of the Internet and existing media to bring diverse, international voices to the world to explore the idea that people are good, that individuals and individual action matter, and that regularly showing examples of people being good to each other will inspire similar actions in others.