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  • The Low Down

Suppressing fear brings out the cowardice in us all

The Editor,

While this essay is about courage, I begin with fear because, without it, courage cannot exist. Fear, a universal emotion that has been vital for human survival, is uncomfortable; troubling. But when we suppress or deny it, some of the worst outcomes imaginable follow as a result.

Starting in the mid-2000s in the US, where I lived, I began to see large decals in the windows of cars and trucks which read “No Fear.” At the time, it struck me that perhaps the intended message was “Courage.”

Francophones instantly connect courage, spelled the same in both languages, and Coeur, French for heart. By definition, courage is heartfelt, right action taken in the face of fear. If you don’t feel scared, you can’t be brave. Think about it.

We know the opposite of bravery is cowardice. Cowardly acts are those done without fear of immediate penalty and are disconnected from Coeur. The man who abuses his wife; the lynch mob; the lawmaker enacting bills unfair to underrepresented groups; the bully who terrorizes the defenceless – these are perfect, if odious, exemplars of craven cowards. This is “No Fear” at work.

Regrettably, for civil societies everywhere, there are far too