Active Thinking Topic 76  - The Age of Cowardice

20 February 2024

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: Zoom online

Recommended Viewing: Chris Walsh (Jul 23, 2015) "The Power of Cowardice". TEDx @  [18 minutes]

Talking Points

1. Who wants to be a hero? Who wants to be a coward? When is this actually a choice? When & how can you avoid both? Examples?

2. There is research showing that the single thing most likely to spark a violent response in prisons is to call a man a coward. What is going on? What is the source of this very instinctive response?

3. Chris Walsh (see the video reference) makes the argument that in actual military battle, like the trench warfare in Ukraine, very few men want to be heroes. However, they are more afraid of being seen as cowards than risking death. Why is the fear of being seen as a coward so basic, in fact primal? Is there some evolutionary factor in play?

4. It is believed by most men that women will be drawn to a man who seems courageous. How true is this? Is the "seeming" more important than "hard reality". How is this "seeming courageous" lived out in men's behaviour, dress styles, speech, possessions ... etc? What would men view as courageous in a woman, and how would they value it?

5. Australia is now awash with huge SUVs, often looking like military assault vehicles, and mostly used for trips to the local shopping centre. What do these heroic displays say about the psychology of their owners? [e.g. see this video: "Courage & Cowardice | The Inner Psychological War | Carl Jung, Freud & Bernays w/ Uberboyo". Youtube @  ]

6. It is noticeable that 18 year old heroes of the football field typically become timid corporate conformists at 30. What is going on here?

7. How are individuals transformed as heroes/cowards by the power of playing an official role in organizations? Examples? As members of a company, an organization, a government .. most individuals feel empowered to act in ways they might not as private individuals. This contrast can be extreme, as for example, in someone elected US President. But is is common, for example, amongst ordinary public servants (think of RoboDebt in Australia).

8. What are arguments for and against the proposition that gun ownership in countries like America speak more to cowardice than to courage? Is it more cowardly to use a gun than, say, your fists?

9. This is a time of wannabe keyboard warriors hiding behind fake names and avatars. Trolls. This face of the Internet where nobody is responsible for anything is an invitation for cowards to live out their fantasies. What is the real world overlap with this stuff? How will it evolve?

10. Does it actually require less courage to survive safely today than it did, say, 500 years ago? Part of the modern social contract of citizenship is that the state is given a monopoly on violence in return for protecting the citizen from human predators. That is, the citizen no longer needs to give an appearance of physical courage, e.g. by carrying a sword. (Clearly USA has not evolved to this stage).

Extra reading & viewing

Chris Walsh (Jul 23, 2015) "The Power of Cowardice". TEDx @  [Quote: "We'd rather not think about cowardice, but it is a profound and pervasive feature of human experience. "Coward" is the worst insult known to man, and we feel deep shame about our own cowardice. This shame has caused great harm in the world--reckless violence of all kinds, caused by men (usually it is men) who don't want to be seen as cowardly. But Chris argues that thinking about cowardice can make us ask tough questions"].

Thoughts on Thinking (Feb 20, 2021) "Courage & Cowardice | The Inner Psychological War | Carl Jung, Freud & Bernays w/ Uberboyo". Youtube @ 

Thor May (30 May 2018) "The Ambiguity of Courage". @  [OR pdf]  [Quote: "I am not brave. Can you be brave without being afraid? A madman rescues a child from a burning house but feels no fear. Is he brave? I don't know. I do know there are lots of things that I fear - boredom, a painful death, missed opportunities ... Most of all I fear cowards. They'll do you in every time, just when you have stopped looking. I fear my own cowardice, but not always enough to be brave".]

Eric Boehlert (July 22nd 2019) " How The Press Rewards GOP Cowardice In The Age Of Trump." Buzzflash @ 

Ilya Ponomarev (Jan 24, 2024) "We Have to Capture the Kremlin" - to Defeat Putinism and End the Senseless Invasion." Silicon Curtain @  [Quote: "Ilya Ponomarev is a Russian-Ukrainian politician who was a member of the Russian State Duma from 2007 to 2016. After the 2022 Russian invasion, Ponomarev joined Ukraine's Territorial Defence Forces, and categorically denounced the invasion. While a member of the Russian State Duma, he was the only deputy not to vote in favour of the Russian gay propaganda law and to vote against Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014."]

Vlad Vexler (13 June 2022) "Why All Russians Are Responsible for Putin's War". Youtube @  [Quote: "As Putin's brutal invasion of Ukraine continues, we assess the responsibility of the Russian people for Putin's evil. I use Thomas Mann's brilliant meditations on Nazi Germany to help us start a conversation about how do humans take responsibility when they are not guilty of evil, but are associated with it".]
=> Also recommended: Vlad Vexler (12 Feb 2024) "WILL RUSSIA BREAK UP? An In-Depth Explanation." Youtube @ 

Vlad Vexler (17 February 2024) "Why Putin Killed Navalny" Youtube @ 


The Age of Cowardice (c) Thor May 2024

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