Saturday, March 31, 2018

Moral and Physical Courage

The recent Australian cricket ball tampering scandal (sandpaper-gate) works as a case study for the 'enigma of courage' as General Sir Peter de la Billiere puts it in the forward to 2007 edition of Lord Moran's classic The Anatomy of Courage:

Moral courage is higher and rarer in quality than physical courage. It embraces all courage, and physical courage flows from it. We are all faced with decisions requiring moral courage in our daily lives, even at home – disciplining and teaching our children for example. It is applicable in business, in law, within institutions such as schools and hospitals. It takes moral courage to stand up against the crowd, to assist a victim of bullying or to reveal negligence where others would prefer it to remain hidden. Moral courage implies the belief that what you are doing or saying is right, and are willing to follow through your conviction regardless of personal popularity or favour. So easy to expound, so demanding to achieve. In my experience a person of high moral courage will seldom fail to demonstrate an equally distinguished level of physical courage.

There is no doubt that the three cricketers involved in this cheating scandal possessed physical courage, but did they possess moral courage? The courage to stand up against the crowd, which in this case was the 'leaders' of the team.

I agree with de la Billiere. Moral courage is rarer than physical courage. As Mark Twain says, 'It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.'

Unfortunately the lack of moral courage is so common place that there is no lack of examples. Take for instance Senator Michaella Cash's weaselly 'apology' when she attacked the reputation of the women working for Bill Shorten. Unfortunately the lack of moral courage has become a feature of modern politics.

The martial arts teach physical courage, but does it teach moral courage. Many would sanctimoniously suggest that it does, but does it really? We teach physical courage. We develop ways and means of developing physical courage. But do we do the same with moral courage? And if so, how?

My experience with Jan de Jong's Self Defence School is that we were adept at teaching physical courage, however, some of the instructors demonstrated a lack of moral courage. How do we go about teaching moral courage?

PS: This post arises out of my work on the tentatively titled Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat.

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