you don’t have to be shot at to be brave
Staging a one-woman “demonstration” in London’s Trafalgar Square in July 2009 was not without hazards.
Just as my short “protest” came to a close, three of the Heritage Wardens who police the place pitched up to ask if I had a permit.
“A permit?” I echoed uncertainly. Uh oh. I hadn’t thought of that.
I should have known better having recently shared a podcast of John Simpson’s tongue-in-cheek tale of the permit-less mob being thwarted in their attempt to destroy Iran’s ancient city of Persepolis in 1979 for lack of the proper paperwork.
But I’d been preoccupied trying to find – at the last minute – a big fat green felt marker and placard paper. Permits hadn’t even occurred to me.
My singular stand in the square was to be a small contribution to the Worldwide Wave of Silence that marked the 40th day of mourning after the death of Neda Agha Soltan, whose killing in the streets of Tehran galvanized protesters across her country, and created sympathy for the Iranian “green” movement around the world.
As I was unaccompanied, I asked an obliging young German man (whose name I later learned is Christoph Müller), to document the event with my digital camera.
My hope, based solely on the fact that he had an impressive piece of SLR equipment hanging around his neck, was that he would capture a few reasonable pics of the proceedings, and not pocket my camera, being already in possession of a much more expensive and sophisticated one of his own.
I think he did a commendable job, but I leave you to be the judge:
My small act of defiance pales in comparison to the sacrifices made by brave women and men throughout Iran (and elsewhere around the world for that matter), many of whom are brutally beaten, imprisoned, tortured and even murdered as they struggle for that in which they believe.
I’m not sure I could do what they have done. Which got me to thinking about fear and bravery and how people see their own courage, and, more particularly, possibly the lack thereof.
And that thinking brought me back to a comment made by AWR visitor Elisabeth Gordon with respect to a recently posted article entitled Awaken Your Inner Warrior. Here’s what Elisabeth had to say:
“Developing your inner warrior is not only super important, it is an ongoing journey and practice for the continued pursuit of mastery. This means tackling what you fear and learning to walk through your fear on a regular basis – pushing against that which scares us is the only way we grow stronger.”
Women and men around the world walk through their fear and push against that which scares them every day. Often they must do it as a matter of survival.
I walked through my own fear in Trafalgar Square, to stand as tall as my 162 cm would allow, with a pink (of course!) placard asking for two minutes of silent reflection in recognition of those who had been killed during the 2009 protests in Iran.
It took most of the courage I could muster to stand alone in a public square with a sign, even though the chances of being shot at, beaten, or imprisoned for doing so were virtually non-existent.
Why was that I asked myself? Could it be that we are sometimes intimidated rather than inspired (or perhaps both in equal measure), by the astonishing acts of bravery we see others perform?
And if it’s the former, if we are indeed intimidated, might that stop us from exploring our own inner strength for fear of finding it lacking somehow when measured against martyrdom, for example.
“My God,” says our inner voice, “There’s NO WAY I could do that!”
Our own insecurities become the filters through which we judge our capacity for bravery, and we see ourselves as somehow smaller, weaker or less capable than those we view as heroes.
Because of those misperceptions, we choose to do nothing instead of doing something (anything!) that might reveal our own courage to ourselves and to the world.
I’m proud of myself for standing in Trafalgar Square with a sign (even if I didn’t have a permit lol), to honour the bravery of others who walk through their own fears on different battlefields.
It may have been a small gesture, but for me it was also a courageous one. It was an opportunity to further develop my inner warrior, and to remind myself that you don’t have to get shot at to be brave.
When you feel fear, take a step toward it. You might be surprised by what you find.
Note: the above is a slightly revised version of a piece I originally posted in August 2009.