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Covid, Courage, and Cowardice
Choose your path.
“Moral courage can be lonely indeed. People don’t mind being trapped, as long as no one else is free. But stage a break, and everybody else begins to panic.” - William Deresiewicz
When I look back at the times of Covid hysteria, I think most about outliers and rule followers, and what separates courageous people from cowards.
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These past three years served as a good reminder that true courage is an isolating experience. It is both difficult to possess and retain, and regularly interpreted by one’s peers as both peculiar and dangerous. Courage is special because it is a unique trait that separates the man from the mob.
We all think we’d be this guy:
But in late 2019, when push came to shove, the vast majority of our population submitted to the regime.
We learned a lot about a constant in human behavior, no matter where you were physically present, when faced with something deemed as a major crisis.
Cowardice, unlike courage, is encouraged, rewarded, and it comes easily.
In the face of a government declared “national emergency,” so many decided to take the coward’s route in the form of compliance, submission, and even taking to targeting the regime-declared “enemies” of society.
To be a good citizen, all you had to do was sit down, shut up, wear your submission mask, shutter your family business, carry your movement pass with you, and be up to date on your experimental pharmaceuticals. In exchange, society rewarded the coward class with opportunity, public praise, and a Good Citizen stamp of approval.
After all, it is an enormously difficult task to swim upstream. It is much easier just to blend in, especially when raising your voice is considered both a major community and direct social faux pas. Not only is speaking out “selfish,” but it came with infinite negative consequences attached to one’s personal and professional ambitions.
Courage doesn’t come in the form of a unanimous bill in Congress and flashy televised hearings featuring celebrity pundits.
Courageous people stick to their principles despite the vast majority of the population — and even those closest to them — declaring them a problem, or something much worse.
Courage is unique because it is almost impossible to be courageous and popular at the same time. If courage were popular, it wouldn’t be brave. If courage was common, it wouldn’t be courageous.
Yet courage is essential for human flourishing in a free society. When the forces for tyranny rear their ugly heads for the next manufactured crisis in the not so distant future, courageous citizens will once more be called upon to thwart their ambitions.
Courage is hard, but it’s worth it. Realtime courage is rarely rewarded, but a courageous legacy lasts forever.