‘Men, I am not ordering you to attack. I am ordering you to die’ – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, first president of Turkey.
This is an order reportedly given to soldiers during WW1. The moment must have been harrowing, but, is this bravery or is it simply foolishness?
I’ve always maintained, there is little difference between being brave and being stupid.
Bravery is ‘the quality of feeling no fear.’ Yet, fear itself is the only quality in that sentence. Fear is ingrained, fear is natural, fear is given to us by evolution. Without it, we are foolish, unable to preserve ourselves and others. We bumble head first into circumstances, magnifying whatever chaos there is.
While the above example was likely no more than an attempt to ‘gee’ up his forces, understandably so (WW1 had suffered horrific casualties both in method and number), it gives us insight into what we value in men and women.
No doubt, bravery is a large contributor to many innovations of man. It helps us tackle things most other species cannot, it is part-reason we are as evolved as we are, it aids in our sense of adventure and discovery, but, it is not the foundation.
More often than not, what we attribute to bravery, is plain stupidity.