The Economics Of Heroism | Main | "People don't stop killers. People with guns do."
April 18, 2007

I disagree with Ace.

And I have the courage to do so on his own blog!

All kidding aside, I took a different lesson from the Steyn article Ace just examined in the previous post.

Ace views it as boiling down to a question of innate heroism: people are or they aren't and no one really knows for sure what category they fall in before the moment arises. Therefore it isn't fair to judge reactions.

I don't think this is the gist of what Steyn had in mind at all.

Instead, I think Steyn is bemoaning a culture of passivity, in which the forces of society itself have acted to reshape the basic "fight or flight" survival instinct to one of just "flight". In such a society, the "heroic" urge (the will to fight) is essentialy smothered in the crib by those who view violence, or the threat thereof, as an unwelcome, uncultured, un-sophisticated response to any problem.

And, I happen to agree with Mr. Steyn.

I read an interesting passage on the Corner about the shootings from the University of Texas belltower this morning. The story was about a scene that would not play out today.

Apparently, when the shooter at UT was on his rampage, a couple of Professors, risking their own life, ran to the top of their building. From this position, they had a vantage point on the gunman. The Professors, who risked being shot themselves, then proceeded to use their own rifles and ammunition (which one of them kept in his classroom!) to attempt to shoot the sniper.

They didn't have to do this. They could have been killed. They could have left it to Law Enforcement.

But they tried to save lives.

Fast Forward to today.

Could these brave UT professors have acted similarly?

No. In a "gun free zone" like Virginia Tech they probably would have been guilty of the only offense that could have cost them a tenured position: bringing a rifle and ammo onto campus.

But this isn't solely about guns.

It's about a culture of expected weakness. Where people are taught "don't resist", "do whatever a gunman says", "play dead", "wait for help to arrive".

Allow me to give you an example from my college days, a mere 15 or so years ago.

I went to a large university. A couple of rapes occurred on campus. Predictably, campus security became a major issue. As a student government representative, I was asked to do my part to help come up with inititatives to help make the campus safer for women.

So I did. I offered a bill to spend student money on the purchase of mace cannisters. Any woman who wanted one (or man, for that matter) could come to the Student Government Association and get a free keyring sized can of mace to carry with them.

My initiative failed.


Because it was too "violent". A woman might miss the assailant; the mace may not work; the woman may have it used against her.

The initiative that passed?

To spend student money to buy keyring sized "rape whistles".


The justification?

They would be a "cry for help that might bring people to your aid"; "they might scare an assailant off"; "no one can have a whistle used to hurt them".

Mace vs. Whistles.

And the whistles won.

Arms are made for hugging, after all.

Our culture has undergone a lot of trends. But perhaps the most harmful is the devaluation in the concept of self-reliance.

It takes a village, as one of our leading candidates for President would have you believe.

This is one of the reasons we seemed so surprised when people fight back. It's not just that they stood up against an oppressor, even when faced with horrible odds. It's that they bothered to stand at all.

And that isn't healthy.

Do I think that people are any less innately heroic today than they were 200 years ago?


I just think they are now conditioned from an early age to believe they are.

And I think that is the point Steyn was trying to make.

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posted by Jack M. at 04:47 PM

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