Courage is an amazing quality, often extending to include self-sacrifice, while facing formidable risk. We can find it in the lives of nurses and doctors during this pandemic; firemen and police responding to deadly events; even an occasional politician risking loss of a job during re-election, while refusing all campaign contributions — the late and rare Senator, William Proxmire, comes to mind. The “selfish gene” concept has trouble with altruism, but it is evident that some humans value the species above their own lives, or so it seems.
Well, perhaps every act is selfish, in some sense. We make our choices based on what we value. If I value stability or liberty or community more than life itself, I might sacrifice my life for my values, “selfishly”.
I now ask you to forgive me for the trick I’ve played in writing the headline, above. This truly is a Mexican story. But the unaccented Jesus I will mention (briefly) is Jesus of Nazareth. (I didn’t want readers to decamp upon suspecting a religious theme, which this is not.) The Mexican angle is about the killing of a Mexican journalist, Regina Martínez. But both laid down their lives for their friends.
I have no idea if she was Christian, but it seems to me that she shared some of that love for community exhibited by Jesus of Nazareth, by risking her life for what she valued. While I have no ability nor inclination to evaluate evidence of her killing, the facts tell us of her relentless pursuit of truth about corrupt governance, at considerable risk to herself. That particular governor was found guilty of corruption (but not murder) and is now in prison. The practice of investigative journalism in Mexico, outside of a war zone, is one of the riskiest professions in the world. Let us be thankful for self-sacrificing heroes! Without a free press, community gets run by the worst of the tough guys.
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates asks a local tough guy this question: What is justice? “Mr T” answers: justice is whatever a tough guys says it is. Through further questioning Socrates manages to dismantle T’s response so thoroughly that it yields one of the most famous blushes in all of literature.
We should all blush for failing to question duplicitous authoritarians, hiding our cowardice by looking away. In a letter to Thomas Mercer, Edmund Burke wrote this: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”