Saturday, 12 January 2013
Not a coward
We all have different personalities. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, our particular resources and lack of them. Isn't it up to us to decide if we're capable of dealing with something, to estimate the dangers and consequences, and if we don't feel confident enough, to opt out and say we're not going to take the risk?
It's pretty high-handed and presumptuous of other people to say that someone is a coward, that they should have done what was expected of them regardless of their personal fears and uncertainties, that they should have jumped in and hoped for the best, and if they came a cropper that was just bad luck.
But if say, a woman was being gang-raped on a train by a bunch of particularly nasty-looking men, would we say it was our duty to tackle the rapists even if they might attack us too? If we saw someone inside a burning building, would it be our duty to run in and try to rescue them, even at the risk of being burnt alive? Surely that's the individual's decision and for someone else to accuse them of cowardice is impudent and uncalled-for. It's really an incredibly rude thing to say.
The flipside is that we heap lavish praise on someone we see as brave and courageous and fearless, as if they're some sort of super-hero, when in reality they may only have been doing their job, or only showing their natural strength and resilience. Why is someone "brave" given so much more respect than someone who's been less than brave - or not brave at all? Can't we just respect people's different capabilities and shortcomings? Why must cowardice be a cause for shame?