What is courage?

What is courage?

If a group of people are driven by a great panic to face a small fear, that may just be desperation, not really courage. Consider a group of naive soldiers who, before a battle, are told that they are invisible or immune to injury. They are not precisely assessing risk and then taking action.

Instead, they are concerned about social perceptions of them as a good soldier. Their social insecurity is exploited and they are naively sent in to immense danger.

What if they are also told that if they are loyal soldiers then they will be rewarded after they die with great benefits from Santa Claus? Again, if they act in anticipation of unproven rewards, that is greedy (and naive), not truly courageous.


Seeking glory (social fame) can certainly be attractive, but how realistic is it? Are people so ashamed that they seek a moment of relief before they die… for knowing that they have done something that others will celebrate as heroic (to compensate for their past which they still reject as horrible and shameful)?

To review, they have a foundation of shame about their past, then they imagine that some action is so heroic that it will completely compensate for their own rejection of their life, so then they take that action. As they go, they are in agony, but with a desperate hope. If they fail, they are still in the same agony, but with no hope to distract themselves from the underlying agony. If they succeed, there is a moment of expectation that the agony will disappear (if only for an instant) because even though they still reject their past as shameful, they “finally” did something “good.” They still reject their life as worthless, but with a desperate hope that “this sacred action will make it from what it is fundamentally- worthless- in to a new thing.. a life worth living.”

Why not slow down now and experience some self-respect rather than chasing vanity in a hysteria of desperation and shame? “I need to do this so that I will earn the love that I so desperately want, but do not deserve yet!”

Of all, the poorly-armed soldiers who naively charge in to battle believing that they are invisible and on their way to heaven, how many will survive? Any? Of any who do survive, how many of the survivors will be paraded in front of their tribe to be awarded a medal of honor and of glory and of fame?


We can understand why military leaders might religiously tell young soldiers stories about Santa Claus and invisibility and heavenly glory. We can also understand why, during the recruiting process, the military leaders do not give the patriotic youth a tour of the disabled veterans home. Touring a cemetery would be much less disturbing than touring a paramedic station at the edge of a combat zone, right?


So courage can involve an awareness of risk plus an estimate of opportunity. The risk and opportunity could be something that someone else merely tells you about. Maybe they are sincere. Maybe they are not only sincere, but even somewhat accurate. However, what if instead of just telling you about their assessments (or repeating the statements scripted by some marketing specialists), they encouraged you to directly make some observations and assessments yourself?

Also, courage may involve taking a new action or even to discontinue an old pattern of behavior (or both). Generally speaking, if mass marketing from commercial interests were already encouraging you to do something, then it would not take any courage to do it. In fact, it takes courage to be skeptical about the unexamined presumptions of a herd mentality. It takes courage to question presumptions.

It takes courage to admit to a past driven by programmed presumptions and then take a position of extra skepticism toward any idea that has been mass publicized by special interest groups such as governments, churches, and school systems. It takes courage to admit to a past driven by fear and then relax. It takes courage to completely rebel- not just in the mass-programmed ways of a revolutionary- but even rebelling against the program of a patriotic revolutionary who saves the world in order to earn a ticket out of hell in to heaven.

There is no greater act of rebellion than a quiet, calm self-respect. Therefore, self-respect must be the ultimate enemy of any empire that depends on a foundation of naivete, fanatical hysterias, threats of personal shame, and intimidation. (By the way, all empires are empires of intimidation.)



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