Friday, June 21, 2013

Moral Courage

Lieutenant-General David Morrison made one of the greatest speeches ever in Australian history (see below). If you extend the message beyond female degradation and humiliation to that of degradation and humiliation of any human being generally, the message rings even louder.

This speech is not to be listened too. This speech is to be studied. But there is one aspect of the speech I'd like to speak too.

Every one of us is responsible for the culture and reputation of our army and the environment in which we work. If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian army. I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values, and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, ... it is up to us to make a difference.

Powerful stuff.

Many students come to the martial arts to learn to defend themselves. How much more empowering would it be if we encouraged them to stand up for others, which in turn makes it easier for them to stand up for themselves.

How do you stand up? In the martial arts, we tend to teach physical tactics and techniques to stand up against others. How are you going to teach A Force More Powerful? The power of non-resistance.

A recent news article reported how a lone man resisted in Turkey by simply standing up and putting his hands in his pockets - a force more powerful. Mahatma Gandhi and his followers walked willingly into lines of police who clubbed them and they did not respond violently. The unidentified man from Tiananmen Square in front of the tanks. How much more powerful than physical force is, 'No.'

Courage is an amazing, misunderstood concept. Shouldn't we be encouraging (teaching) moral courage rather than physical courage to defend oneself?

It was recently reported that Nigella Lawson was assaulted by her partner in a public restaurant. Patrons videoed the assault but NONE intervened. Do you want yourself or your students to be able to defend your/themselves but be one of the photographers at such an incident?

There was a recent event where a young man at an American college was secretly filmed being intimate with another male student. It was broadcast via Skype by the perpetrators and shared with a wider audience. The young man killed himself. What role do you and your student's want to assume in this tragedy.

A very good friend of mine's young son, testosterone fuelled, sporty lad shared with me a homophobic rant in order to demonstrate his manliness. Much to my surprise I was emotionally affected and distressed. I saw him as being the one standing up for the victims, fighting the tormentors. He would never be one of the perpetrators, but it still distressed me that he might have been one of the ones pointing the finger and laughing.

This post is designed to be a reflection on what we are teaching. If we wish to teach moral courage, we must also teach to say 'No' to those confronting us as well as those confronting others, even if we don't know them or even agree with them.

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