“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” — Aristotle

Courage is under attack by the status quo. The status quo is encouraging the collective to virtue signal fear. A collective virtue signaling fear can grow only wide, not tall. How can we go back to building tall?

The Purpose of Fear

Fear does the perceiver no good past its ability to alert you to danger. Fear is the evolutionary instinct that dumps the body with adrenaline in the face of danger and helps us transition into fight or flight mode. Fear is a trigger.¹ A trigger should elicit a state change, not remain a constant state. You don't hold the trigger down on a gun after it fires.

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Remaining in a fear state is unsustainable. It is an unwanted state that should prompt you in one of two directions.

Anxiety

If you're entering the downward spiral, then the second stage akin to being fearful is anxious.

Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

To be anxious is to be unbalanced.³ If we are one removed from balance when we are anxious, and we continue down this path of worry towards a future state, when it arrives we will be unprepared to meet it's challenge and our net balance will be further disrupted. Anxiety is a distraction from the now. We can only prepare for an uncertain future state by preparing for it, in the now.

Caution

So what's the alternative in order to spiral upward?

Caution: care taken to avoid danger or mistake.

The actions you take in a state of caution as opposed those taken in a state of fear or anxiety are drastically different. In a way, one leads you forward and one leads you stagnant. Choosing caution is like saying, 'Hey, there's danger out there. But now I know about it, and so I can take steps to better situate myself for what initially brought me fear.' Choosing to be anxious until what we are afraid of comes and goes steals away our opportunity to endure a challenge better prepared, or maybe even prevent it.

Looping back to Courage

There will always be new things to be afraid of, and so the decisions we make in the present build habits for how we will respond when we re-enter the state of fear. Anxiety hopes for an outcome, and until one or another comes to pass, does nothing for the individual, and so you return to a new loop in a state no better than before. The incorrect response to anxiety is stagnation, whereas taking any action at all in caution is courageous. Even if it's wrong action, we learn, we adapt, and we re-enter the loop better than before.

At the end of the day, definitions are anecdotal; but, I'm about to throw down the last one. What I’m really getting at is how to choose the best path forward from fear, and that's where courage really becomes important.

Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one.

Assuming a position of courage requires taking on a certain amount of responsibility and risk. The only way to move forward requires taking risk. You can't take a single step without risking a fall. This is what triggers my fear: that we are easing into a paradigm where we stop being celebrated for doing things that frighten us. I am anxious that we are accepting this new norm with the justification that it's safer to stay still rather than have the courage to overcome our fears and move forward.

The status quo

I wanted to write these thoughts down because I'm watching it become more and more common to virtue signal fear. Virtue signaling refers to the act of expressing opinions or ideas publicly with the intention to obtain a moral high ground on an issue. Virtue signaling fear looks something like this —

Washington University, St. Louis

If I had a dollar for every email I've received from companies letting me know that "The health and safety of our customers and team members is the most important thing to us...etc, etc", I'd have enough to have bought a share of GME at its high a few weeks ago. This genre of virtue signaling serves only as a fear reminder and is hypocritical in practice.

Mike Rowe, former host of Dirty Jobs and Returning the Favor who promotes 'Safety Third' puts it succinctly —

If Safety were really first, companies would pay their employees to be safe. Of course, they don’t. They pay them to work, and to assume risk. Saying “Safety Third” reminds me of that simple fact. And that keeps my crew and me more focused, and hopefully, more safe.

So what is there to gain other than moral high ground from virtue signaling fear?

Danger Propheteering

This is profiting socially off of being a prophet of danger.

The social status of a person who warns of a danger is increased in proportion to their successful prediction when that danger arrives. This will always be the case, but when left unchecked, the cycle may become alarmingly self-fulfilling. Even now, some thought leaders are incentivized to increase their status by continuing to beckon more impending doom. It's why I think the present state of fear has been perpetuated beyond reason. It's become a calling card of social brownie points to be more afraid than our anonymous peers, and this mechanism is carried forward by danger propheteers warning of continuous imminent cause of worry.

If only we'd just do or have done {X}, {Y} would all be behind us.

It's curious how new Y's continue to appear despite broad compliance of X.

Slave Morality

Our status quo is alarmingly exemplary of Nietzsche's slave morality. Slave morality suggests a post-modern era that promotes weakness and pacifism as virtues and places victimhood on par with sainthood.⁶

In this same vein, Nietzsche goes so far as to pull the utopian ideal from its pedestal. He suggests that utopia is built by investing power in the state in exchange for protecting its citizens from death and supplying endless pleasures. The net negative arrives when the myriad ingrains this new rejection of death and struggle and succumbs to a stale future and purposeless endeavors in the present.

But who desires this state?

The Mephistophelian Mob

There are massive, irreversible forces now developing the exterior waves; who will speak for the interior development that alone will divert catastrophe? -Ken Wilbur⁷

The massive irreversible forces at work are mass-less as well. They take form in the ethereal motivations and actions of a subset of society. This reversion to collectivism works against the sovereign individual — he or she who can and has the freedom to give form to potential from their place in the world.

Collectivism with empathetic intentions turns selfish when the game turns to equality at the expense of liberty. The collective amalgamation and reduction of a set of motives creates a structure supported by common denominators.

Majority yields value {X} which inhibits value {Y} when they are mutually exclusive. Safety at the expense of liberty for example, you can't have a value above liberty as that would serve to inhibit liberty. This happens over and over until we reach gridlock freedom or none at all. I call this the action of the Mephistophelian mob because it's resembling of the motives of Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust.⁸ People who act out Mephistophelian philosophy are out against being for the crime thereof and so subconsciously take actions in the world that inhibit being itself.

The Nuclear Individual

We create heroes to match the ideals we need to move towards more broadly. This is also the case with gods. Our current religions aren't outdated, but they have lost credibility due to broader access to information and global communications. This increasingly became the case in the past as well. Deity abstraction hit a cap amongst tribes and eventually world religions began to clash rather than merge to create a new hierarchy of gods.

Sovereign nations arm themselves such that it's in each others' best interests to resolve conflict through non-violent tactics. Sovereign individuals can work towards the same. To do this, though, they have to go nuclear to move the collective towards the currently required ideals.

The nuclear individual doesn't become a raging lunatic, they instead speak their truths into the world when they are in position to do so. Currently, some truths are being nulled by popular lies that everyone has agreed on.⁹ The nuclear individual is courageous because they put forth their truths into the world.

Right now, there's a misconception that speaking what you deem to be true doesn't outweigh the cost of how you may be perceived should that truth be spoken. This is in fact currently true for the individual. Why speak up when livelihood is literally at risk in many cases? What we need to rediscover is our transcendental 'why'. The 'why' that supersedes what's best for our personal state.

My 'why' is that when I look out into the world as it stands right now, the thing that pushes me closer to anxiety than caution is that there are people taking action based on false truths. People's attention is the most valuable thing that they have.

I want to do what I can to help people discover what they deem to be true with all the information available to them so they can best act in accordance with how they are capable of making a positive impact on the world.


  1. Penn Medicine, Fight or Flight: The Science of Fear...And Why We Like Scary Movies, October 02, 2017, Accessed February 10, 2021, https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2017/october/fear.
  2. Collins, James C. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't. Collins, 2009.
  3. Jung, C. G. The Symbolic Life: Miscellaneous Writings. Princeton University Press, 1989.
  4. Mark Peters, Virtue signaling and other inane platitudes, December 24, 2015, Accessed February 11, 2021, https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2015/12/24/virtue-signaling-and-other-inane-platitudes/YrJRcvxYMofMcCfgORUcFO/story.html.
  5. Mike Rowe, OFF THE WALL: Safety Third Conversation Continues, August 11, 2014, Accessed February 11, 2021, https://mikerowe.com/2014/08/off-the-wall-safety-third-conversation-continues/.
  6. Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Kennedy John McFarland Tr. The Genealogy of Morals; a Polemic, Translated by Horace B. Samuel, M.A. Peoples and Countries (Fragment). Macmillan Co., 1923.
  7. Wilber, Ken. One Taste: Daily Reflections on Integral Spirituality. Shambhala, 2000.
  8. Von, Goethe Johann Wolfgang, and Barker Fairley. Goeth's Faust. Toronto University Press, 1970.
  9. Schnieders, Sven. A Philosophical Walk. Self Published, 2021.