There seems to be an almost constant flow of stories of Westerners kidnapped, killed or injured in non first-world countries, which are also, coincidentally, hotbeds of terrorism and violence. Just a couple of days ago, a 47 year-old female American teacher was stabbed to death at a mall in Abu Dhabi. The UK MailOnline writes:

“The teacher, had moved to the Middle Eastern country in search of a better life following a divorce”.

This latest story is one in a series that includes aid workers, journalists, ex pats such as the teacher above, and even tourists. Here’s my question: Why would you go to seek a “better life” in a place with embedded social values that are so antithetical to those that are inculcated in the West? Why would you want to visit such places as a tourist? Why would you leave your kids and wife in the UK to go deliver aid in Syria and risk being captured and beheaded by ISIS? Journalists take on these risks fully knowing what they are getting into; it’s part of the job, just like it is for soldiers. But why would “ordinary” people embark on such misadventures?

The classic definition of heroism is when someone places himself at serious risk in order to help others. The term has been widely corrupted in recent years to include sports stars, actors, and even golfers; anyone in fact who takes any risk in order to entertain others. “Achievement” and “risk” have become almost interchangeable, i.e., anyone who achieves anything notable and admirable takes on heroic status.

I was having the discussion with my son recently and he came up with an intriguing line. He said, “I don’t travel to places where the people who live there are trying to escape and come here”. Surely, there is some good sense in this. Is it just innocence that drives people to risk their lives in god-forsaken hell-holes, or is it something more significant…some form of heroism that I just don’t get?

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