“Sometimes you have to fight, even if you know you’re going to lose.”
— A Wise Man
I had this thought yesterday, as I was driving to the gym, over-intellectualizing something, as usual. There was no real particular context, I was just pondering life in general…my life, historical figures, etc. There are some prominent examples from American history that immediately come to mind, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and the men who fought with them. When they took up their fights, they seemed impossible, and the prevailing wisdom and inescapable logic of their day was that they were going to lose, quickly and badly. But they fought nonetheless because they believed it was the right thing to do, knowing that they would likely lose everything, including their lives.
Now there is another lesson from those two examples, which is important, but not the one I have in mind: sometimes a fight may seem impossible, but you fight anyways, and even against impossible odds, you may win. So many wars and battles teach this lesson, as well as many less dire and existential social, political, and interpersonal struggles. This is definitely an important thing to know.
But so is the original point: sometimes, even if you sincerely know you’re going to lose, you have no way to win, you expect to be beaten, and your fight turns out exactly as you expect…you have to fight anyways. Because to be a person, to be a man, to be a woman, you have to have something you believe in, someone whose back you have, something worth fighting for or dying for, or you’re just a mindless beast. There has to be something you stand for, something you believe in, someone you would protect, even at the greatest cost to yourself, because otherwise you’re simply a brute living on selfish instinct.
I heard a line in an overlooked movie 20 years ago that said this well, that was actually my first inspiration for this insight. I couldn’t remember the exact line, but I remembered the sentiment, and it has stayed with me, and bored its way ever deeper into my psyche, ever since. I reflect on it whenever I think deeply about what I would do for who and what is important to me. After 20 years, I have finally found it, researching for this piece. I hope it makes you think half as much as it has me, and helps you clarify what you care about and what you would fight for as it has done so well for me.
“I condemn those indifferent mortals, who either never form opinions, or never make them known.”
— Alexander Hamilton