The Coward Clause

I’m currently listening to the book “The Better Angels of our Nature” by Stephen Pinker and it is, as is the case with most of Pinker’s work, excellent. One of the things discussed in the book is the actions of our closer evolutionary relatives, Chimpanzees. These animals can be quite vicious in non-zoo environments. Basically the moment resources start to become scarce in any way they go “tribal” as it were and begin murdering their neighbors in the most horrifying ways you can imagine.

They commit genocide, rape, and express in many ways the dark side of humanity that we have for so many centuries been chipping away at. Beautiful animals but unfortunately they are victims of their genetics. One of the things that caught my ear while listening to the book was the propensity for Chimps to only attack others when they have some kind of sizable upper hand. Either their numbers are greater, they are of far greater size, or their prey is asleep. Basically the risk of danger is low enough that  they are willing to enact upon their urges rather than retard them. I thought about it and realized that really, in people, this is still true. From that I extrapolated to the Coward Clause.

Barring direct immediate survival. Only a coward would harm another human. Because they will never attack another human unless they are relatively certain that they will escape unharmed. Unharmed being a state that is as good or better than the state the coward maintained before the attack. – The Coward Clause.

It’s pretty easy to see this in application. Bullies on pick on people that they are relatively certain could not harm them. Once they know this to not be the case they will cease bullying. I know in my own life when people thought I was capable of killing them (due to amusing rumors about me being a martial arts master) I stopped receiving bullying of any kind. That’s remarkable to me in hindsight because I was ridiculed constantly, it was part of what made me such an acidic person as a teen.

“Thugs” don’t ever threaten other people unless they feel they have a physical upper hand. This can be from muscle mass differences or because they are brandishing a weapon. They are, just as with the bullies, cowards. This doesn’t just apply at the entire micro level but with macro or “mega organisms” like nations. The US will not attack any nation that it does not feel relatively certain it could dominate. We ignored Iran and went after Iraq because we saw Iraq as a nice weak target. Afghanistan over Pakistan is much the same thing. If you glance over the World Wars you’ll find the US (and other countries) being very hesitant to engage in anything unless they felt they were certain of decisive victories.

You might be thinking that this is just the case of strategy in that latter example. Who would attack another country if they didn’t think they’d win? Wars are fought by cowards, men (largely) who stand thousands of miles away from the combat and their strategies are fueled and directed by cowardice. If leaders of nations were required to be on the front lines of war there would be no war. This is the essence of Mutually Assured Destruction as well.

Once you even the playing field, nobody wants to play.

The Coward Clause also exists in business. The video game industry is crippled by cowards at the highest level of the industry. People who are only willing to engage if they feel absolutely certain of domination.

But I’m digressing. The coward clause is not like “dope is for dopes” or any of those other really terrible attempts to ostracize people to attempt change. It’s an observation of reality. It takes someone with great courage to be willing to not fight and to look for more refined solutions. If people want to act like cowards that is entirely their prerogative, but if a person finds the idea of being a coward to be insulting, they would do well to act differently.

Think about your own past. Every person who has ever wronged you. Can you think of anyone that did so from a position that was anything less than near impervious? I put forth that you will not be able to remember any instance. Because the courageous don’t prey on others, because the courageous don’t simply accept the easiest path. When you see people championing weapons or changes that would give them an greater position of power over the average person you can think back to this clause. They are doing it because they are scared. They are scared because they are cowards.

Whether or not they see that as a negative, as I’ve mentioned, is entirely up to the individual. But anyone who does see it as a negative should either change their life or accept reality. I’ll leave you with a clip from Futurama where Zoidberg embodies the clause. It is uh…not the best snip from YouTube but I’m not about to capture it myself. Enjoy!