Monday, January 31, 2011

Courage Under Fire

I've a piece in today's Canberra Times, 'Courage keeps society civil'.

Looking at the example of SAS soldier Corporal Roberts-Smith, I'm unpacking what courage is, and why it's important to celebrate it.  A sample:
civilisation requires courage to survive. This need not be a soldier’s gallantry. Aristotle believed that only voluntary, military bravery was genuine courage, but we can depart from his view. Not because courage in war isn’t exemplary, but because it excludes too much of human greatness. It leaves out the many braveries that keep society healthy. Courage is what drives the whistleblower to give evidence, the politician to sign off on controversial but crucial legislation, the artist to do away with hackneyed aesthetics.
In other words, courage is what keeps ordinary citizens standing up for what they value - and doing so rationally, skilfully. We reward Corporal Roberts-Smith’s gallantry because it is a bold, extreme symbol of this. In doing so, we needn’t praise war. Instead, we celebrate the foundations of the civilian community: the willingness of ordinary citizens to face risk for what’s worthwhile. It happens daily, in schools, offices, street corners. It is not glorious, but without it there’s nothing worth fighting for.
(Photo: CPL Chris Moore)

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