What if we re-habilitated courage?

After the likes of Michel Serres, Edgar Morin, and Gilles Lipovetsky: in other words, 3 men, I am delighted to devote today’s “Day of the Thinker” to a young female philosopher: Cynthia Fleury (photo above).  In France, Fleury has just published a book called La fin du courage (“The End of Courage” in English).

Cynthia Fleury is 35 years old and is a researcher at the CNRS research institute in Communications, she is also an Associate Professor and Research Fellow at the American University of Paris (School of Government).  In La fin du courage, Fleury denounces the loss of a value that is drastically important for democracy. I am excerpting portions of an interview that Fleury did with the French daily, Liberation.

It seems that nowadays, courage is only demonstrated in video games and action movies.  According to Cynthia Fleury, “humans and, on a greater level, society is dying from a lack of courage”.  The fear is such that one forgets to have courage, be it at work or in one’s daily life: “We are clandestine voyagers of moral absence…the erosion of oneself comes from the sum of daily resignations”. These resignations are done both at home and at work.  This begins, according to her, with the desire to “follow the rules, bring back nothing and end “exemplary” behavior.  The new means of leadership, is counter-exemplariness.”  This is true most particularly in politics.  In the workplace we see “instead of breaking down the system, individuals break themselves down: these are work related suicides.”  Courageous acts are becoming rare, and at best we are “courageous temp workers”.  As we are committing fewer and fewer “sacrificial acts that consists of learning what we can lose and not what we can gain” we are collectively losing ground.

What’s more, there is no one to teach us to be courageous: “we have lost training for courage.  More than the absence of courage, it’s the lack of training and apprenticeship that characterizes our society…Courage must become a reflex.”  One of the difficulties of courage is that it is a solitary choice: “knowing how to say no, taking on the risk and making a sacrifice is a solitary path.  Few of us take this risk.”  Still, courage is a democratic virtue that must be reclaimed an essential value that allows us to correct the excess of what Cynthia Fleury calls “the entropic practice of democracy”.  We must then find within ourselves and within society, a re-releasing of courageousness through education and by setting up a collective ethic.  Because the courageous man is often solitary, a collective courageous ethic is only worthwhile.

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