Not sure I’ve done anything particularly brave. It’s hard to look at today’s flypast in memory of ‘The Few’, those who fought the Battle of Britain, and think that anything I’ve had to deal with comes even remotely close. Coincidentally, I also stumbled across the story of Mad Jack Churchill today, the only man to have killed a combatant in World War 2 with a longbow, and who advanced on the enemy playing the bagpipes. That’s an insane level of bravery.
Of course, that’s military bravery, and we allegedly live in peace-time. That’s a good thing, because put me in a combat situation and I’d be wetting myself in a corner within seconds. I’m not one to fetishise the armed forces, but you’ve got to respect anyone who puts themself in that sort of situation on behalf of a genuine sense of duty and service.
I think the archetypal non-military example of bravery available to our generation is 9-11 and the response of New York’s police, firefighters, paramedics and general civilians in running towards the stricken Towers and trying to get as many people out as possible. It’s impossible to imagine what you’d do in those sort of circumstances if you weren’t there, but that doesn’t stop you wondering – would I run like hell, would I stop to help others, would I be the last one out of the office after making sure all my colleagues had evacuated? It’s probably not all that helpful – I think most acts of both bravery and cowardice are spur of the moment things, and a premeditated act of heroism seems… I dunno, wrong somehow.
But it’s still worth meditating on these things. We live in a celebrity obsessed world (I’m sorry, I really can’t bring myself to care about Peter Andre’s lovelife, sorry), and that can be a shallow and nasty environment, all gossip and botoxed bitchiness, and given the rise of ‘reality’ TV, there’s often a general lack of raw talent to back up that poor behaviour. The cult of celebrity is fundamentally self-centred (models having multiple autobiographies released in their twenties? Please), and isn’t exactly conducive to the sort of sacrificial attitudes on display when you consider bravery. The ancient Greeks had a concept called Arete, the quality of excellence aspired towards by a given purpose or function, and maybe that’s a noble virtue to rediscover.
Well, that was more thoughtful than I was expecting it to be!