Of human heroism

We who are strong have an obligation
to bear with the failings of the weak,
and not to please ourselves.    
Romans 15:1-2

Friday’s foiled Thalys train assault, should it be eventually defined as a terrorist act, may be seen as a new chapter in the fight against terrorism. Following a series of terrorist attacks in major cities, we have started to feel a certain sense of vulnerability in life because our enemies could appear anywhere, at anytime. The lone wolves stalk in the darkness, infiltrate in densely aggregated public spaces, and lurk for the best moment to act.

However, Friday’s incident is an illuminating reminder to us as well as to those who are behind terrorist plots that they also have invisible enemies, who are also in the darkness, and who will not show themselves up until the right moment comes. This is what we have branded for the passengers who neutralized the attacker – the Hero.

This word, originating from ancient Greek myths, is far more often heard in movies and cartoon books than in real life. In our society, where people are battling everyday to gain wealth and fame, the individual pursuit for happiness triumphs, and happiness includes the ultimate protection of oneself. But these heroes, putting their own lives aside, confronted the heavily armed gunman and forestalled a far worse tragedy. They do not have any super powers. What they possess is a precious human instinct to display bravery and self-sacrifice for the greater good at a crucial point.

We all feel lucky and relieved to have had these brave men on board, and the plotters must be swearing at their unluckiness. But what comforts us even more is the fact that heroism still exists, and bravery and courage are still hailed as the supreme values of human virtues. It marks also a day of triumph, because they conquered fear - a plaque which terrorists are trying hard to sow and where all the fundamentals of terrorism lay. The day when we manage to shatter this human bondage, terrorism would find no more ground to thrive.
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