Imagine if you will, that you get a new job somewhere…say, a baker in a bakery. You’re there for a few days and you get to meet the cast and crew of this workplace – some are new, some have been there maybe a year and others are veterans of the bread and cake making trade. Grizzled, hoary things of unenviable vintage.
One day, you turn out seventy loaves of new white bread and boy do they smell good. Your nearest workmate – let’s call her Alice – Alice has churned out ninety loaves of bread, and that’s the record she thinks a neophyte like you needs to better. But there’s another workmate – we’ll call him Gerry – Gerry points subtly to the old baker veteran up the end of the row and whispers, “But Harry there baked one hundred sixty loaves in one hit! and nobody else has ever come close to that.”
Everyone becomes reflectively silent as they take in this bit of breathless news. A quiet yet magnanimous respect for Harry descends on you and you regard him with new-found awe. One hundred and sixty mo-fucking loaves!.
160! What an unsurpassable effort! Insuperable! Harry is top dog in your smitten eyes now, big chief baker amongst bakers.
Of course, you’re no longer cognisant of the fact that before you joined the ranks of bakers, you wouldn’t have given a second’s thought about such an achievement.
I’m sure sociology has its own term for this, but I’m creative and made one up. This is a phenomenon I define as “relative heroism” and it occurs in nearly every workplace on Earth. The guy or girl who’s baked more in an hour, or arrested more criminals in a week, packed more cartons, sheared more sheep, cut more hair, served more beer, did the Kessel run quicker than Han Solo…
Elder Scrolls medals of valour
Relative heroism goes beyond the walls of the mundane workplace. It’s online too; ensconced in the virtual world. I was a beta test for the game Elder Scrolls Online, and like most who applied to test it, came into the beta fairly late, like a year after it. Quite a few people had been accepted into the initial round of invites the developer issued, and some of these displayed the relative hero attitude. THey’d been in beta for a year, therefore they were veterans; dogged, hardcore, burned-in veterans at that. So there was some condescending resentment towards the likes of myself, who was a “scrub”.
One went as far to suggest he had entitlements and perquisites with the game’s makers beyond a normal developer-tester relationship. That the developers of the game owed him something for the time he’d put in.
They were heroes, almost of the war veteran kind, and felt they warranted some of kind of reverential respect from the beta-testing scrubs such as myself.