This article was first published on 03 October 2021 in the Alchemy of Life Newsletter – a free newsletter which I publish every Sunday on Substack. If you like this type of content, please subscribe to the free publication. To do so, click here or here.
Towards the end of the final movie from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, “The Return of the King”, the forces of Mordor (the land of the dark lord) overcome the white city of Minas Tirith, the last citadel of free men.
All seems lost, as even Gandalf the White falls under the Nazgul’s hits. However, just as all hope appears to be vanishing, Rohan’s king, Théoden, arrives with his army of riders on the Pelennor Fields, which extended around Minas Tirith.
Theoden looks at the white city burning under siege as a sea of unsightly beasts surrounds it. The king of Rohan prepares his troups for what it looks to be the final battle for many of them:
“Forth and fear no darkness!
Arise! Arise riders of Théoden. Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered, a sword day, a red day ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride! Ride for ruin and the world’s ending! DEATH!”
His army shouts back:
Their king screams again, louder this time:
And his army replies even louder:
The scene (below) is emblematic of the definition of courage which the great English thinker, G.K. Chesterton, articulated so well:
“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
To be able to fight for the objective good, which encompasses the freedom of the individual to exist, to think, to create and to believe, despite the very high probability (not just possibility) of paying with one’s own health or life, is the essence of courage: to face destruction in order to defend life, and without there is no life only agonising existence.
Examples of courage are not only found in great stories that capture the complexities of human nature, the subtle tendencies of what is good, beautiful and true, but also in real life.
The men and women who opposed totalitarian regimes of the Nazis (Sophie and Hans Scholl, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bernhard Lichtenberg, Alfred Delp, Franz Jägerstätter to name a few) and the communists across Russia, Romania and China (including Nicolae Steinhardt, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Petre Tutea, Elisabeta Rizea, Fan Shen, the 100,000 nameless protestors that gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the thousands who refused to give up their individuality to obey these regimes) are just some examples of courage from the bloody 20th century.
The 21st century is not without such examples: we have the men and women who rushed to help the 9/11 victims, the young girl who stood up to the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai, the Hong Kong protestors against the CCP’s grip on their homeland, the Canadian pastor who faces years of prison for standing up for religious freedom, the Australian protestors against authoritarian government, facing violent police officers, North Korean defector Yeonmi Park, and the Taiwan-based students showcasing CCP’s oppression of Tibet are a few more contemporary examples of courage.
Even in our daily lives we can find displays of courage. For example, my parents left everything behind – their careers, their friends, other members of the family, their home – to come to the UK, work very stressful (to the point of damaging their health) and sometimes not well-paid jobs so that their children can have a better set of opportunities than what post-communist Romania was (and still is) offering.
What all of the above examples of courage have in common is that these people fought and sacrificed not for themselves – every single one of them felt fear, you better believe that, but they had the courage to take action because they were doing what they were doing for something bigger than themselves: their loved ones, their local community, their nation, higher values, dear traditions and their faith in some form of Divinity.
Even in the scene from the Lord of the Rings which I shared, Eowyn, the shieldmaiden of Rohan, braves the hobbit Merry with the following words:
“Courage Merry. Courage for our friends.”
Indeed, if we do not have something greater than our own self to fight for, many will succumb first to comfort and pleasure and then to the pressure of authoritarians and their bands of thugs (the “officers” that brutally and mindlessly enforce their laws – like the Nazis officers enforced their laws).
However, as Hannah Arendt explained in “Personal Responsibility under Dictatorship”: it is better to suffer than to comply and enforce such laws because one cannot hide behind “the law” when the law is inhumane. If by obeying the law you oppress, in any shape of form, you are better off breaking the law.
But to do so, you need courage and for courage you need to have something more than yourself to fight for.
Nietzsche’s “last man”
Without finding the courage to fight for something higher than us, we become a society of what Nietzsche called the “last man”.
In “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, the German philosopher described the final form of the spiritual and cognitive deterioration of the human being: a creature which no longer thinks, no longer cares for anything but pleasure and comfort, a man that is empty of love, passion and vision, a man not concerned with ideas, a creature that has no will and only gives out a blank expression empty of life’s energy.
“Alas! There comes a time when man will no longer give birth to any star” – Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”
The quality par excellence of the last man is equality: all of the last men are equal in their miserable mediocrity and cowardness; in such a society, there is no room for philosophers, artists, scientists and leaders of any kind. In this world, those that have different feelings and thoughts are sent to the mad house (starts to sound more familiar?).
This state of cognitive and spiritual lethargy is achieved through a lack of courage. The courage to conquer oneself and become an individual, the courage to fight for values and convictions, for places and for people, for the good, the beautiful and the true.
Without courage, our society will sink into a numb mediocrity of equal misery and thoughtless beings that can be manipulated for political and commercial purposes at the cost of our own humanity.
Zarathustra however realised the solution: find the select few (the individuals that can lead) and preach to them the virtues of freedom – risks, terrible risks of death and pain and all to be faced for life itself: the virtues of freedom are the higher ideals of courage.
“Man is something that should be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? All creatures hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and do you want to be the ebb of this great tide, and return to the animals rather than overcome man?” – Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”
Our world lacks leaders, this I have said before. We do not have many role models and the ones that we do are constantly attacked with smears designed to destroy their reputation and cast a dark shadow of hate over their work1.
As Théoden asked in “The Two Towers”, “what can men do against such hate?”, referring to the overwhelming challenge of dealing with forces that seem beyond our strength and certainly our control and which are bent on destroying the human aspects of civilisation. In other words, how can we defeat the “last man”?
The defeat of the “last man”
We cannot sit idly and farm worthless fiat currency while the values underpinning a free society are being butchered by and sold between spineless and ruthless politicians, greedy corporate oligarchs, dubious media personalities and academic ideologues who are hungry for control over our lives, for a false sense of superiority and for decadent riches.
Whatever you do, act and do not sit idly. Speak up, write about, engage in conversations and refuse to take part in another’s coercion.
Courage is the cure for the 21st century.
- Courage to lead: most people are not evil, but they are followers – lead them towards freedom, promote values that defend individual freedom, beauty, truth, decency and humane treatment of others.
- Courage to stand up to tyrannical authorities, to pseudo-experts and to those ideologically-driven who want to put others in categories of inferior relevance to them (e.g. vaccinated is good/superior, unvaccinated is bad/inferior2) by point out what they are doing.
- Courage to be who we are, to be true to our own nature and die for it if needed.
- Courage to stand for the truth, which is objective for it belongs to the world of the soul and does not bend with the fashionable laws of man.
- Courage to stand for peace and cooperation.
- Courage to demand a world that moves together towards the stars, without further damaging who we are as beings.
- Courage to ask for unity between men and women and oppose the neo-Marxist push for the mutilation of the man and of the woman.
- Courage to stand against the racial divide propagated by the far left in the academia, media and politics, recognising that we, despite our differences – which makes us unique and beautiful – are one family under the stars.
- Courage to stand up the mob and never bow to peer pressure or to the threat of violence.
- Courage to speak up against the vandalization of history by false prophets of social justice and equity (equality of outcomes).
- Courage to ask for others to be included in our traditions and be part of the past that belongs to them as well.
- Courage to claim that we love our nations and cultural heritages.
- Courage to say that we are homeless in a world full of properties.
- Courage to ask for a slowdown of globalisation and an acknowledgement of the importance smaller communities for the development of a sane mind and heart.
- Courage to defend nature for it cannot speak.
- Courage to reform the current international monetary system, the root of most economic and financial ills in our world.
- Courage to criticise authorities when they overstep their lawful powers as given to them by democratic processes.
- Courage to call out injustice and nonsense, even when we disagree with the views of those who suffer that injustice.
- Courage to demand transparency from those who claim to have dominion over the issues of the day.
- Courage to speak up against totalitarians – the far left and the far right, although today we are facing the far left in the West.
- Courage to defend language: the means through which truth is communicated.
- Courage to stand for freedom, the freedom of being and of becoming.
Find the courage to act so your children won’t have to fight their way out of the gulags we will create through our cowardness to obey, follow and sink deeper into a false state of comfort.
Thanks for reading.
- I am talking of the lies that the media tells you about people like Jordan Peterson, Larry Elder, Roger Scruton, Joe Rogan, Candance Owens, Matt Taibbi, Glen Greenwald, James Lindsay, Bret Weinstein and other thinkers and commentators that are an annoyance to the mainstream narrative of fear, submission and division propagated by those who would benefit from a state of mental lethargy and cowardness: the radical ideologues in academia, the media and politics.
- Disclaimer: I am vaccinated, and I oppose all forms of coercion of others to do the same: either the vaccine works as a medicine and I am protected, or it does not and the vaccine’s efficiency must be questioned (as should be the nature and the origin of the virus). If your safety means the oppression of others, you are better off being unsafe.
Categories: Culture and Politics