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tenacity and courage

August 29, 2005   

I think that generally, people don’t quite understand what it means to be tenacious. I think a similar confusion exists with the meaning of courageous. Via A_B, I read an article about people who were not fleeing from Hurricane Katrina. Read this particularly frustrating blurb:

“My son’s having a fit,” the 56-year-old real estate agent said as she drove to Matassa’s Market for some last-minute provisions. “We’re kind of a different breed of people down here, people in the Quarter. Heck, if we can put up with Mardi Gras, we can put up with a hurricane.”

These few people seem to believe that they are displaying an admirable tenacity — standing their ground and refusing to give up. But it’s not tenacity. It’s just plain stupidity/stubbornness. And I don’t say that to insult people; I say that because I am frustrated and saddened at the fate these people are likely to face. It’s not like their reactions can change the path or outcome of the hurricane. I think they believe they are doing an admirable thing, and it just tears out my heart.

Please people, go somewhere you know you will stay alive. Think of your family and friends. Property is property — no amount of history and memories is worth your life, especially when losing said life will have no impact whatsoever on your property. There is no action they can take to save their houses, so they should act on the variable they DO have control over, which is saving themselves.

On a related thought, many people think being brave or courageous is the same as being fearless or unafraid. I strongly disagree. Being brave is knowing exactly how terrifying something will be and standing strong and taking action despite the almost-paralyzing fear. To be fearless is to be either stupid or apathetic to the consequences. I learned this from watching movies. 😉

Angry Chad
August 29, 2005 at 1:08 pm

It’s definately coming from a misunderstanding of what it means to be brave. However, I don’t share your same concern. Violently stupid individuals such as these deserve their fate, for the good of the gene pool. Natural disasters are the new Darwinism.

August 29, 2005 at 2:37 pm

Agreed with Chad. I wish everyone had the *means* to escape, and I understand that some don’t – for them, I truly hope that they do manage to find a way to make it through the storm – but to the people who had the means, but didn’t use them… well, I hope when their house collapses on them, that it all happens quick.

And yes, I realize that a lot of people think the same of me for living in “earthquake country” – but if we were forewarned that there’d be a catastrophic quake, and that our house was likely to collapse on us if we didn’t leave…

we’re f’ing leave.

August 29, 2005 at 3:10 pm

I don’t really gel with the idea that just because I happened to be born smarter than some people, I am more worthy/deserving of living my life than they are.

It is possible to argue that it’s just letting nature take its course, but I agree with a lot of things that don’t just let nature take its course: cancer research, AIDS research & prevention education, childbirth with anesthetics, etc.

I don’t mean to ruffle any feathers, but to me, letting so-called stupid people simply suffer the consequences without trying to help in some way is no better than the rich saying that the poor deserve to be poor, so screw ’em.

August 29, 2005 at 3:26 pm

Ok, I pretend to be compassionate, but I found this to be hysterical.

Clearly, there is a disconnect in my head somewhere.

August 29, 2005 at 5:48 pm

Well, so a bunch of people were rescued by the various groups of people that do that sort of thing in New Orleans. If those people, let’s say, had the means of leaving, but stayed out of some idiotic wrongheadedness, and it cost, say, several hundred dollars, and time that could have been spent rescuing people who had no ability to leave, then what?

Basically Stupid Person A has cost Unforutnate Person B aid that could rightfully have been theirs. To me, UPB is “deserving” of our help, and SPA isn’t.

I don’t know that that’s the case, but that’s the first thing that came to mind when reading CNN’s article on the X people who have been “rescued” from New Orleans.

August 29, 2005 at 6:07 pm

That is definitely one of the first thoughts I had too. They too should honor the social (and legal) contracts that they have with their fellow people/Americans/New Orleansians(??), which would include not endangering others through negligent recklessness (or is that reckless negligence?). But it doesn’t mean I need to break the contract too.

I’m really going off on that contract theme a lot lately. I don’t know what’s up with me.

On an almost entirely unrelated, but not quite so note (and mostly because I just felt like talking about it because it’s interesting to me) :D, in one of our logic/philosophy books (crap if I can remember the title right now), one of the moral dilemmas they propose is that of an oncoming train. There are 10 children playing on the tracks that the train is headed for. You can divert the train to another track where there is one child playing.

The dilemma is, do you take action which results in the death of a child but saves 10 children? (Don’t ask me why they were playing in the tracks in the first place; clearly this will go back to the random stupid people thing — hehe.) Or do you do nothing? Most people would flip the tracks. But why? Their direct action has caused the death of a person who would not have died if he/she had done nothing. If this one child was the person’s own offspring, the situation changes as well. But aside form the extreme cases, people would mostly answer that they would save the 10 kids, because the justification would be that the overall good outweighs the bad.

Compare this to the case of 10 children who are sick and in need of different organ transplants. There is one healthy child. To save those 10 children, do you kill the one child to disseminate his/her organs to the other children, saving 10 lives? For the sake of the exercise, you have to assume that there is a perfect physcial match, of course. Far fewer people answer that they would take the life of this child, even though in abstraction, it is sacrificing one life to save many, as in the example.

And I guess it does link back to the original topic. Is saving the one stupid person, one that has made this bad decision on purpose, worth the potential lives saved? I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to make a direct trade like that. But I suppose that is what is happening in reality. I do agree that the people who did not voluntarily choose to stay are less “worthy” of help than those who simply unfortunately could not save themselves.

But I still adamantly stand by my premise that merely being stupid is not the low bar for determining who is worthy and who is not worthy of living. There are plenty of “stupid” people that I would value much more highly than someone who is intelligent but, say, evil (like Cheney).

August 29, 2005 at 6:08 pm

It would be great if I didn’t drop random words here and there. Hahaha. Let’s pretend that that all made sense.

August 29, 2005 at 9:08 pm

Well, I think the issue here is that the question isn’t 1 child vs. 10 children, but 1 child who was playing on the tracks that they knew the train wasn’t coming on, vs. 10 children who knew the train was coming, but were playing on the tracks anyway.

And in that case, I’d say, the 1 kid has earned what the 10 others have not.

August 29, 2005 at 11:39 pm

There were a couple of different stories to come out of the hurricane that stuck with me. There were the people who stuck with their houses because gosh darnit this is their home and aren’t we brave? The other was a single man, ex-military, who was fleeing his home when he saw his neighbor sitting on her porch sobbing. He asked her what was wrong and she said she couldn’t leave – she had one mentally retarded son and another paralyzed son and she didn’t have the means to get them out. Rather than leaving them there, the man stayed with them so that if/when the time came that they HAD to leave, he could help her carry her children. He knew the risk he faced in doing so, but he knew that they needed his help. I can only hope that all of them made it out alive.

August 30, 2005 at 11:36 am

That’s the kind of story I like to hear. Makes my little shrivelled heart swell a little.

Ok, I almost cried just reading that blurb you wrote, but I cry at the drop of a hat now. I think it’s this growing older crap. Puppies in the park almost make me cry. Sheesh.

September 2, 2005 at 7:17 am

But it doesn’t mean I need to break the contract too.

Yeah, everything Ei-Nyung said. I think we’re twins seperated at birth. Which would be really tough, since we were born thousands of miles and months apart.

Makes my little shrivelled heart swell a little.

Are your shoes too tight?

I cry at the drop of a hat now. I think it’s this growing older crap.

No, I bet it’s lack of sleep, too much stress, and not enough exercise. No, really, I do. I had a very similar “highly emotional at the drop of a hat” stint earlier this year.

September 2, 2005 at 10:41 am

Yeah, everything Ei-Nyung said. I think we’re twins seperated at birth. Which would be really tough, since we were born thousands of miles and months apart.

Mom had a rough time flying all over the world and holding back the contractions to try to give birth to us. Poor mom.

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