Back to Articles Main Menu
False Virtue or, the Psychology of the Weak
It seems that it is the same old story... again: those who cannot (or will not) defend themselves are biting the hand that defends them. But, in order to hide their resentment, they place themselves on what they consider the “moral high ground.”
Two movies, made many years ago, illustrate this human tendency: the movies are "The Seven Samurai" and the American version, "The Magnificent Seven" The story goes that a village of farmers are plagued by bandits who regularly invade and plunder their village. The villagers finally go out and hire protection. This protection comes in the form of seven skilled warriors who work for room and board. In the ensuing weeks, the villagers learn to work with the warriors and surprise the bandits (and themselves) by fighting back. After celebrations and congratulations, the villagers wish to return to their peaceful ways, and shun the warriors who had helped them.
This week we read Robert Kagan's book, Of Paradise and Power, and the same old story is replaying itself in Europe. However, instead of false virtue he calls it “The psychology of the weak”: Basically, it is a rationalization for being weak. He sites an example of the U.S. being the Marshall of the World, and Europe being the Saloonkeeper; since Europe doesn't have the power to take care of the “Outlaws”, they rationalize that the Outlaws are not really that bad, that they are only “blowing off steam”, or having a drink (which will, by the way, increases the revenues of their Saloon, as the trade agreements between France and Iraq will do). If anything goes wrong, the Marshall will take care of it. By adopting the attitude of the weak, they hold themselves apart from both the Good and Bad Guys, creating another moral plane for themselves. It is inevitable, that by taking this stance of weakness, everyone, both the Good Guys and the Bad Guys, are threats.
We see this behavior everyday in those who disdain hunting or slaughter, but ("make my steak medium rare") enjoy the fruits of this "base" behavior; it's false virtue. Much like those people who disdain wealth only because they do not have it themselves: give them a million dollars and all of a sudden, there are rationales for why wealth is good. Just because it's common human behavior we should not accept it. We should call their bluff. What is the real reason they do not want to do the hard work? Because it is just that: hard work. It takes courage, it takes money, it takes lives, and it upsets the status quo. Who wouldn't want someone else to do that for them?
South Korea, and many other countries, insist they cannot afford to build up their own military forces because they must use their money for education and health benefits, instead of that nasty thing called “the military”. How else to rationalize letting someone else do it besides taking the false, moral high ground? They say, "We are too peaceloving to think about that" or, "We're too sensitive to make war" Ask if they have a solution for themselves, besides the U.S. doing it for them, and they will say "No, we're just too far above that sort of thing to even consider a solution to war... but, oh yes, we do have one; no war if you please, just keep us safe and comfortable, and please don't ask us to be inconvenienced"
President Bush is leading the world in a fight for peace, and is asking the villagers to join in to protect themselves. Those who disdain this fight forget that we, along with Great Britain, are the Magnificent 2 protecting them from Saddam Hussein. What happens if we give up this role? Who will step in? Few of the "peaceful" realize there is a constant struggle to control the "Bad Guys"
It is time for those individuals and those countries to give up false virtue; it's time to stop biting the hand that defends them. Maybe we should call their bluff, call them by their real name: weak.
Respond to this article.
Back to the top
© Copyright Peter and Helen Evans, 2003. All rights reserved.