I like this anecdote because of just how alien the attitude is.
Before I had ever been under fire I was walking up the Lille road from Armentières after the light had gone when the Boche turned a machine gun on to the road; my companion subsided into a ditch before I realized what was happening. At Ypres six months later walking behind him along a path that was being shelled I could not detect a tremor; he might have been on parade.
A man may duck his head when a bullet pings past his ear because he has not learnt to take charge of himself. I can remember the cold douche to my self-respect when first I found myself at the mercy of my instincts. But these antics are not in our control; it is too late to try to suppress them when at a stroke they take us by surprise. Only by the birth of a proper attitude to danger can we hope to discipline the frailty of the flesh. Ducking comes from a morbid alertness. The poor fellow is obsessed with a desire to come through. It does not happen when all alternatives have been put away. At Ypres my friend had won his secret battle with fear, he no longer thought of an alternative.
A form of fatalism was common especially in the ranks. There was a runner attached to Headquarters, a tight-lipped, silent fellow who when he was told that he could go on leave replied he did not want to go, he had no friends. He was always taking messages up unhealthy roads out of his turn. One day, while he accompanied me to the trenches, I spoke of a man in ‘A’ Company who was not wearing well. ‘It ain’t no use, sir, if you’re for it, you’re for it.’ I looked at him quickly, being windy myself at that time, but if he had suspected me he would have said nothing. Time had stilled his suspicion of me as a mere civilian. Presently the Boche turned a machine gun on the road. I had the liveliest desire to step into the ditch but was checked by the presence of this fellow at my elbow. After that I was not much bothered. Perhaps too I came to think with Tolstoy that every bullet has a billet. ‘We are all fatalists now,’ I wrote about that time. But was the renunciation complete?
From time to time the desire to live surged up in our hearts…McMoran, Baron Charles Wilson Moran. The Anatomy of Courage (Kindle Locations 967-980). Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition.
It’s impossible to comprehend the difference of 100 years of dysgenics has wrought on the white man. Here, Lord Moran is scourging himself for a coward at the hint of an idea that one time he considered taking cover from machine gun fire. Nowadays we’d call him a cuck and the modern officer would remind him that his training was very expensive to the taxpayers and he needs to wear his helmet. But imagine living among a race of men for whom this suicidal espirit de corps was the commonsense opinion.
As at most times, there’s merit in the R-selected, fast life history strategy, dark triad perspective that not being machine-gunned is preferable to being machine-gunned. I even suspect that the tragedies of the early 20th century had something to do with the consequences of out of control eugenics producing men of such physical courage that they outpaced the wisdom necessary to direct their courage toward appropriate outlets.
But these days, the mere desire to live is so rare that it’s the mark of a superior man, much less the higher desires which may override it. Imagine a world where people have such an overflow of asabiyyah that it’s declasse to even think for a moment about taking cover from machine gun fire. “Ey lads, look at mistah special over ‘ere takin’ covah, typical lieutenant roight outta nursery, am I roight lads, wot wot.”