After an atrocity, public figures are faced with a dilemma. To say nothing would look like heartlessness or indifference, but whatever they do say is almost certain to seem inadequate, shallow, and clichéd. They always manage somehow to say something that is either pusillanimous or does not need saying.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, found words that contrived to combine banality with error to describe the city’s latest terrorist atrocity. He said that the attacks were deliberate, as if anyone might otherwise have thought them accidental, or performed in a fit of absence of mind. He also said that they were cowardly, which is the one thing that decidedly they were not. True enough, the people that the perpetrators attack were defenseless, but they, the perpetrators, could hardly have been under any illusion about their own probable fate. Even with the prospect of 72 virgins as a reward, it must have taken courage to do what they did.
This is important, because it demonstrates that courage or bravery is not in itself a virtue: it becomes a virtue only in pursuit of a virtuous aim. A man who is evil need not thereby be a coward, and frequently in fact is not. A timidly evil man is probably preferable to a bravely evil one, unless his timidity leads him to superior cunning
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