Felix qui quod amat defendere fortiter audet.

Happy is he who dares to defend bravely that which he loves.

pron = FAY-licks kwee kwohd AH-maht day-FEHN-deh-reh FOR-tih-tehr OW-deht

Comment: What a tricky saying to consider in these times. I note first that this is a proverb from medieval times, when religious crusades were not unheard of, when violence in the name of religion was not only considered, but considered the right thing to do to destroy those who opposed or were preceived to oppose the true faith.

I note, second, that the happy man is described as he who dares to defend that "thing" that he loves. The Latin "quod" is neuter. The man described is defending "what" he loves: ideas, property, power, beliefs. It does not say "who" he loves.

I am making a modern, psychological, relational distinction. Most of us are clear that self-defense, which includes family and loved ones, is justifiable. What is less clear, and less comfortable, for me in this tiny world of differing views is that it is any longer a laudable and happy thing to fight to defend my ideas. For the FREEDOM to express my ideas goes back to relationships, again, but the ideas themselves--not worth killing someone else in order to preserve.

Ideas, thoughts, beliefs, opinions--these are not reality. We are led to think that they are, but they are not. We have been shaped by Decartes' words that because we think, we exist. But, our being and our thinking are not the same thing. Ideas, thoughts, beliefs and opinions are vapors. We cannot touch them.

How long did we fight (or were told we were fighting) for the idea of "democracy" in Viet Nam? And then, when we left, so many thousands dead on both sides, communism prevailed? And today, our president visits communist Viet Nam and notes how far two former enemies have come.

I hope that is true. I would like to think that we are less ready to kill to defend a "what" before considering the "who" that we will be destroying.

Last, it strikes me that every time I go to defend my "what", I must attack a "who". Aren't the who more important than the what?

Bob Patrick
(Used with permission)
Latin Proverb of the Day Archive