I aim to deal with two concepts. Firstly, justice and revenge, and the link between the two. Secondly, the concept of heroism. I can assure you that I will deal with both in a similar way, almost as though to the two issues are connected. In fact, that might be the point.
Justice and Revenge
It seems that our society has something of a double standard with justice and revenge. If a criminal is punished by law or the government, or by men wearing tights and sporting a cape (you know, superheroes), then it is justice, but if someone who committed a crime is then attacked by the person wronged, someone very close to the victim of the crime, or anyone taking the law in their own hands, then we call it revenge or vigilantism, and then say that it is not equal to “justice”. This probably to do with the notion of justice as something that is delivered by the law.
First of all, if you want justice, why the hell would you put it in the hands of lawyers? I mean think about it: lawyers get paid thousands not to deliver justice but to “win” a case, even if it means lying, manipulating the truth, defending wrongdoers, even complete monsters (in theory, even pedophiles and mass murderers could have lawyers “defend their innocence”), and ultimately obstructing justice, thus creating injustice. Second, if the law was really the source of justice, then how could morally objectionable entities escape justice based on wealth, or having “the best lawyer”. In America, justice is often replaced by injustice for the wealthy and the powerful, and if you don’t have a good lawyer, you’re screwed. And third, why would corporations like McDonalds be allowed to legally silence anyone who criticized them, in the same places where freedom of speech is a right? There are many cases of McDonalds silencing all its critics, and Microsoft tried and failed to do the same. In all those scenarios, so-called justice is about winning or losing a case, rather than righteousness and actual justice.
In my opinion, revenge is justice, or at least a part of justice. Justice and revenge are basically the same thing: someone does you wrong, and you punish them for it appropriately. An eye for an eye. In that sense, you can’t rely on the law delivering justice, because courts often delay justice against wrongdoing, and, depending on who wins a case, justice can actually be obstructed, especially if people are wrongfully convicted. Face it, true justice is just like revenge, and we need it.
The same double standard with revenge often infects our perception of heroism. But there are other things affecting that perception. Archetypal knights saving princesses and defeating dragons, and “paragons of virtue”, are among the things that we often resort to in order to define heroism. In Hollywood, all you have to do to be a hero is to be a protagonist in a movie, your actions come second. Same for villains, in that all they need to be evil is to be the antagonist or the enemy of the protagonist. Again, actions and goals come second. I believe that all you need to be a hero is to do righteous things and oppose injustice, and sure, Hollywood heroes do that. But sometimes, in fiction, the dichotomy is set up between a decidedly less righteous “hero” and a decidedly less rigtheous villain. And no, it’s not cowboy cops; them, I actually kinda sympathize with. And the problem with simply designating “heroes” and “villains” is that, often, both think they’re doing the right thing, though you could say it is somewhat moot considering that actions matter more.
Personally though, another problem I have with tradtional heroism and conventional “good” is that it often involves a great a deal of self-torture, missed opportunities, and self-sacrifice with usually no real reward. Our traditional idea of good means putting others before yourself, completely, and this always involves excessive guilt for your bad deeds, giving up any ambition for yourself, any thought for yourself, sacrificing personal happiness, and in general sacrifcing yourself supposedly for the good of others, and not getting anything in return, except in cases where you get the girl and a fairy tale ending. Whereas my good involves simple righteousness, even angry righteousness, often through any outlet, as long as you don’t lose that righteousness, and it (and by extension righteousness) also involves delivering justice to wrongdoing and destroying injustice.