Can’t We Just Let Christopher McCandless Die?

Even though I am tired of hearing about Christopher McCandless, this is not about him. It is about the lack of real heroes as role models in our society.


He was a young man who tried to live a minimalist life and died in Alaska because he did not have the skills or knowledge to survive. His life was chronicled in the book and the movie, Into The Wild.

There is even a website dedicated to McCandless and almost 7,000 people (as of today) “Like” the site. Whatever on earth “Liking” a website means.

It is probable that McCandless had some real-life dysfunctional problems that led to his demise, but our culture wants to romanticize his life and put him up on a pedestal. We want to make him a hero, because he was vulnerable.


Our culture wants to glorify the ordinary everyday people; the average guy or gal on the street; or as I like to call it – the lowest common denominator. We even stoop lower and worship the “bad boys / bad girls,” especially when it comes to athletes and entertainers. It seems that alcohol and drug dependencies, abusive behavior, or the outlandish grab our attention – instead of real heroes. And if there is a true hero among us (in real life or in literature), we do not focus on their positive attributes but search for chinks in their armor to show they are just ordinary like everyone else.

There was a time when we looked to men and women of the mind as heroes; the great achievers in philosophy, business and science. Those people who create, and allow society to grow, prosper, and provide opportunities for happiness. Now we despise them, or minimize their contributions and achievements as insignificant, because it requires the masses of ordinary folks to carry out the vision – or that is what we think. We vilify reason, science and productive individuals; and we honor altruism and the impracticability of reason. We demand the fruits of labor of these heroes be given to us as a God-given right, without compensation to those who make it possible.

Today and in the past, sometimes our heroes are ordinary people who step up in unusual circumstances and do heroic things; combat in war, 9/11, and natural disasters come to mind – the larger the conflict or evil, the greater the act of heroism. After the heroic event, these heroes revert back to ordinary people. Remove the conflict, and these heroes return to an ordinary life. We would never want to diminish these acts of heroism, but we may want to focus on the attributes of people who are lifelong heroes, day after day.


The virtues we would look for include integrity, independence, rationality, justice, pride, productivity, and honesty. Should our ideal heroes make a mistake, they never leave them uncorrected. These kinds of people have three primary values – reason, purpose, and self-esteem. They do not require validation by others; they do not require a relationship to the needy or the weak. They are not defined by charity. Charity is not an attribute. They ask nothing from others, nor do they owe anything to others.

A real hero stands fast to their values, never waivers or compromises, and achieves great things. They do not require conflict or dramatic events to be heroic. What they have comes from inside, from the mind; not the environment in which they live. These heroes do exist in real life, and in literature they should be projected as the ideal man or woman.

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