Combatants have the best vantage point from where to see life as the good it is and thus discover the best code of values to guide ourselves; it’s a pity that so few make the effort. It is not only the proximity to the fundamental alternative that we all face — life or death — but the fact that we put ourselves there by our own choice and for the right reasons (some of us, at least). It’s a different thing when you put yourself in danger just for fun, like when base-jumping or free-soloing a climb. I have done both and I am the last person to belittle not only the emotion, but also the learning embedded in these activities. But they are not combat. Combat is doing what you must do to live a rational and moral life — a life of man qua man — no matter what.
If you look at the world around you and decide that it is crooked, you have two options: run away from it or fight it. If you think that the evil in the world will not affect you, if you think that poverty and violence are restricted to the favelas and their surroundings and that they will not reach your luxury condo, then you are evading psychologically, pretending you can live in a bubble, isolated from all reality. Sooner or later, you will be proven wrong. But if you decide that the evil will affect you, and therefore you move to another neighborhood, city or country, your evasion is physical — you actually run away to escape the hardships of reality. You forget that evil has many disguises and that your attitude will make you run away forever. There is always a monster within — even the heavens begot the devil — and it stays with us wherever we go.
The two actual alternatives are to suffer passively or to live morally; die in life or live in death. To live morally in a flawed, dangerous and violent world is to combat. To combat is to look death in the eye, recognizing it as such and facing it anyway, thus discovering life as our ultimate value. This is what I call “living in death,” and this is not restricted to us cops or any other special forces combatant — that’s how everyone should live, because the alternative is to live in resignation like an animal or in shame like a parasite: it is to die living.
But so few really participate in that most necessary of activities — combat.
People see poverty all year long, but when it comes to Christmas Eve, they give great alms and sleep peacefully with a placated conscience. People see violence everywhere, complain about the police’s ineptitude and corruption, and smoke marijuana on the beach or go crazy with ecstasy by night. People want to be respected, but treat others as a means to their own advantage. People want all the freedom they can get, but they demand of the government all kinds of assistance, craving for equality while forgetting that freedom and equality have never held hands in history. People appreciate human rights, but only because they live as prey or parasites, always afraid and always demanding what they do not deserve. People find killing an execrable absurd, in any situation, as if “not killing” were a moral absolute, and are quick to criticize the man in the arena, but let them have their dearest ones kidnapped or raped or killed, and immediately they forget their so-called morality, and demand the bloodiest death to their foes.
If art is the “selective recreation of reality according to one’s metaphysical value-judgments,” combat is fighting to change reality according to a morality that takes life as its standard of value, even if it is necessary to risk it. Combat is the morality of “anti-evasion”: the only rational attitude of someone pursuing self-interest in a crooked world.