Musings on courage and cowardice, part 2
- Irshad Manji
In the first part of these musings, I mentioned certain characteristics I noted about cowardice.
None of these are absolute guarantees of cowardice. There are rude, abrasive, and courageous men and women, for example.
I have even heard of individuals whose cynicism bordered on nihilism, who demonstrated great courage when the s**t hit the fan.
Apparently, while skeptical of any standard of morality philosophy or religion could come up with, when the chips were down they heeded the ethical call of biology - women and children first!
There is one thing though, that I think infallibly demonstrates cowardice at the core: denigrating courage.
John Masters* was an English army officer who became an American writer. He started his career as an officer of Gurkhas - itself no mean accomplishment. During WWII he served with Ord Wingate's Chindits in Burma.
After participating in one of the most hard-fought campaigns in the war, he described his foe as, "The bravest fighting man in the world, the Japanese soldier."
In a previous post http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2006/12/meditations-on-graves.html
I mentioned that the Poles have dismantled the monuments to the army that first combined with the Nazis to invade, then occupied their country for two generations - but would not desecrate the graves of the soldiers of the Red army who died there. Indeed, they have maintained them and assisted Russian families to identify the graves of their dead.
Or consider the 16th century Samurai warlord Uesugi Kenshin, who wept bitterly when he heard of the death of his life-long enemy Takeda Shingen.
- An acquaintance, on hearing that my views on foreign policy had changed after living abroad for more than a decade, emailed to gratuitously insult me, and included sneers at "the gallant Poles."
"Gallant Poles" was a description earned by the Polish airmen who fought in the Battle of Britain. Poland is the only continental European country to send combat troops to Iraq - and doing a pretty good job by all accounts. They also have a contingent in Afghanistan.
Face to face of course, he was polite and conciliatory. Via email he continued to insult me, until I replied in kind. At which point he signed off, with an air of wounded innocence and I haven't heard from him since.
The price of telling people they're being rude - is to be rude.
- Col. Kuklinski was an officer of the Polish general staff, who passed information to the CIA for ten years, after he found that the Soviet plans for the invasion of Western Europe wrote off Poland as expendable if the war went nuclear.
I have heard Kuklinski dismissed with, "He did it for money."
My wife (daughter of a Polish officer herself) said, "If so, then whatever they paid him, it wasn't enough."
Kuklinski's two sons were killed in the U.S. in separate, and highly suspicious "accidents." And if you don't think they were KGB hits, you've got to be naive enough to need a legal guardian, you shouldn't be running around loose or you'll surely harm yourself.
- I once directed a European acquaintance to the examples of Muslim women, who are speaking out against terrorism, intolerance, and oppression of women that includes genital mutilation, "honor" killings and chattel slavery. Women who put themselves at terrible risk to do so.
Women such as:
- Irshad Manji http://www.irshadmanji.com/
- Wafa Sultan
and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Negt6IzxPTo
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali http://ayaanhirsiali.org/
He called them "coconuts."
(Brown on the outside, white on the inside. I love it when white guys appoint themselves arbiters of who is an "authentic" member of their own race.)
I have to ask, with the example of women like these (and lets not forget the immortal Orianna Fallaci!) - where are the men in public life who can measure up to them?
And why is it that men have to take our inspiration for courage in this day and age, from women?
* Author of a series of novels on the history of British India, told as a generation saga, including: The Deceivers, Nightrunners of Bengal, Far Far the Mountain Peak and his non-fiction memoirs Bugles and a Tiger, and The Road Past Mandalay.