What constitutes cowardice?
When a train in Spain was bombed previous to its elections, and after which, the country voted it's incumbent Aznar out of office, an increase in comments on cowardice have similarly been observed. Now, comparisons are being drawn on the Web and on Media about how the latest move by Manila is far worst a cowardice than that. Lately, with Jay Leno's comment and insunuation through a joke that the act is that of cowardice, this brings me to a philosophical undertaking: What exactly constitutes cowardice? (Note to Leno, it's not troops, it's a humanitarian contigent)
Let us take an objective look at the word itself. Cowardice as a word derives from coward, which from Dictionary.com's etymology is discussed as literally someone who turns a tail (in), as dogs and other mammals do:
[Middle English, from Old French couard, from coue, tail, from Latin cauda.]
Word History: A coward is one who “turns tail.” The word comes from Old French couart, coart, “coward,” and is related to Italian codardo, “coward.” Couart is formed from coe, a northern French dialectal variant of cue, “tail” (from Latin cda), to which the derogatory suffix -ard was added. This suffix appears in bastard, laggard, and sluggard, to name a few. A coward may also be one with his tail between his legs. In heraldry a lion couard, “cowardly lion,” was depicted with his tail between his legs. So a coward may be one with his tail hidden between his legs or one who turns tail and runs like a rabbit, with his tail showing.
Cowardice in Filipino is Karuwagan, that is to say, being a coward. Duwag and coward are labels that are ascribed to certain people who exhibit behavior similar to this animal act, or seem to exhibit the same. Therefore, this word will not exist by itself: one needs a target, an act, and a person that makes the call and labels the target person. With this we see that, cowardice is a subjective and qualitative term, not an objective, measurable and quantitative trait.
Simply put, by definition it is lacking courage to take an act.
Cowardice though, as a concept, is much more complicated. For it to hold true the asciber of the word will have to judge the target on moral grounds, and even as in such acts any morals are culturally undefinable, ultimately ethics and universality will have to be used to render judgment. Somewhere between foolhardiness and cowardice, that's where courage lies, Aristotle mentions. Notice that to Aristotle extreme courage is foolhardy. After all, any act of unmeasured risks, or moral reasoning is that of a fools. Consider for instance two friends out in a jungle who saw a lion: the first, a courageous man ready to face a lion in battle, for whom for the sake of showing hat he is courageous will try to slay the lion with his bare hands. On it's extreme end is another man who chose to ran away and was thus labelled a coward. In this story the courageous man dies, the latter lives. The fool is thus that of the courageous.
Let's give this same situation some sense of purpose, we make this lion a wolf, that which will eat through the sheep and therefore, in the story we'll make the yound men as sheperds. One man chose to fend off the wolf, and the other to protect the sheep. Can the one who chose not to fight be called a coward? That is the conundrum in cowardice as a concept: Exhibiting signs of apparent courage through fighting the wolf does not validate one as not a coward, instead in this story inaction will be interpreted as cowardice.
1. Actively not choosing2. Being unable to choose
QUOTE "Does inaction equal complicity? "
This strikes me as a completely semantic issue. An inactive person is clearly more responsible for what happens than someone who acts to prevent it (as in those who did not chose to participate in the war against terrorism), and less responsible than someone who acts to promote it.
QUOTE you simply cannot hold an individual responsible for not responding to every petty injustice.No, but I can hold him responsible for not responding if it is a major injustice, and/or if there were only very few people available who could have (productively) responded. (i.e. made a difference, by making such a choice)
QUOTE one would have to make a career of being wholly righteous to fit the bill
The goal of ethics is not to behave perfectly. Perfection is unattainable. The goal is to do the best you can.
Is it morally right to continue a war that is baseless, and with that sacrifice another innocent life? Is it not morally right to exercise sovereignity in order to benefit the political sphere of 80 Million people wanting one life saved? Or is the best question, "is it not wrong to support a war only for the purposes of getting something back for it in the name of Million Dollar Development Aid from the US?" It's hypocrisy to fake it. It would in fact be foolhardy to label the Philippines cowards for electing not to be in Iraq anymore. After all the move against terrorism remains, but choosing not to be part of the masquerade is a courageous act. By electing to choose an option so hard, the Philippines has not been a victim of inaction, and therefore was not under any problem of a paralysis of the sovereign: that is having no chance to chose at all because in inaction the situation chooses the acts available. Risking development aid to do the right thing is a sacrifice by the nation of 7,107 islands.
posted by Jdavies @ 7/18/2004,
Jdavies lives in Quezon City, Philippines and has been blogging since 2002. A brand manager in a leading technology company and a freelance new media/web strategy consultant, he has refocused his blogging from personal, political & sociological observations, to marketing-related efforts and Internet trends that are relevant to his career and branding advocacies.
About This Blog
This blog is a depot of thoughts and observations on marketing trends which remain personally relevant to the Author as far as his marketing career is concerned. Having evolved from the personal blog of Jdavies, much of the earlier work contained herein are laced with personal speculation, political views, and similar advocacies. These posts are being kept for posterity's sake and for no other reason. No effort is being made to claim that the author will not contradict himself from his previous positions or that such advocacies are absolute.
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