should be so common in the world
and moral courage so rare.”
Humans have always played games, and many of the sporting games are violent. In football, rugby and soccer, collisions, injuries and broken bones are common.
But there are no shortages of testosterone-fueled young men and in some sports, young women, willing to put their bodies on the line in the name of winning.
Why is it that people who are so willing to risk their bodies in sports can be so cowardly when moral courage is required?
I have been thinking about this since the Penn State scandal hit the news.
For those of you out of the USA, a football coaching assistant at a university (Penn State) where football is a virtual religion, is alleged to have witnessed a senior coaching administrator sexually abusing a young boy in the athletic department showers.
He did not intervene, he did not call the police, he called his father. And the whole thing got covered up.
Why the lack of moral courage? Most of us would like to believe that if it was us, we would have intervened to protect the child.
And some of us would have done that.
But evolution works against us in this case. We are strongly predisposed by evolution to depend on the acceptance of “the group,” whatever that is for us.
To turn against a senior leader of the group, however that is defined, is a major evolutionary sin. It takes very high strength of character to do that, because in the olden days when this programming was formed, we might be ostracized – expelled from the group – and that meant death.
Today it doesn’t usually mean death, but it can feel like it, especially in a town and state dominated by and identified with the football success of the local university.
We can make the right decisions and do the right thing. In a case like this one, we know we should do it. But it takes a large dose of moral courage to go against our programming and do so.
This man lacked that moral center, and evolution formed his decision.
That’s why he called his father. He was “checking with the group.”
His father had the same problem and instead of calling the police, the father called someone else. And nothing meaningful was done.
The victimized child had no one with the moral courage and freedom from group acceptance to save him. He was alone, and so he didn’t speak up, either.
Eventually one of the victims, as he got older, had the moral courage to go to the police and get the investigation started.
Now more of these victims are coming forward, because they see that they are not alone – they have a group and as a group they have power.
The lesson for us is not to presume our moral superiority over others. We all like to think that we know what we would do but until we’re faced with that kind of a choice in OUR group, we never know.
We can use this insight to become aware of how many of our less important decisions are made by this kind of unconscious programming!
The desire to be accepted and liked by our group is very strong.
So choose your group carefully.