Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fear is your best friend

Great article in the Times about intuition and how it can save lives in battle.
One would have thought it obvious, but now that they are mapping the brain they can see how this works physically.
I'm reproducing parts of the comment posted by one Tom Colton, an ex-soldier. I don't know if it's true, but it is quite compelling:

Lots of infantry platoons have a guy who can sense an ambush. The keys to knowing if you should rely on him are: Success. Does he keep you alive on a regular basis? And adjustment. Is he squared away, or a neurotic? If the latter, then his senses may be more often than not, skewed...
And something else was noted frequently in Vietnam by those who conducted combat actuarial studies:
In a firefight, Jocks are the first ones usually killed, because they never learned about fear during sports.
Thugs and Gangstas get killed next, because they have an inflated idea of their prowess.
Then the Bullies buy the farm while trying for the first time to move beyond their real cowardice.
And finally: In Combat-The four eyed pencil necked geeks rule, because they work as a team, follow orders, feel responsible for and protective of the other guys in their rifle squad and and most importantly-they paid attention during training. They advance thru their fear, surmount real terror and commit great acts of selfless heroism.
And they almost never get a medal.
This country is full of dopey lookin' old guys who once confronted stark terror in extreme danger and carried out great acts of valor and sacrifice against armed enemies engaged with them in a combat zone. Most of these guys are never honored at the time and their families will most likely never know. Instead, we worship phoney war heroes like Bob Kerrey, John Kerry and John McCain who milk their hero status for power, wealth, trophy wives and adulation.
I was never a hero, but I saw regular guys do things that no Bruce Lee, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Steven Segal, nor Arnold Schwarzenegger, or any other phoney Hollywood hero would ever do. Hunches about danger and escaping from it is baloney. Hunches about danger and fighting thru it to complete your mission are what really counts..."I am the Infantry... Queen of Battle...Follow ME!
As I think Mr. Colton is saying, we are the only country on Earth with an inflated and deeply distorted sense of heroism, which among other things is responsible for bullshit like saying "Mission Accomplished" at the beginning of an endless, tragic war. If we were more respectful of fear, perhaps we would not be in this predicament right now. Too much fear can of course be cowardly and paralyzing, but lack of fear is arrogance and hubris.

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