When you resist coercion, you're in good company

Erich Hartmann is the highest-scoring fighter ace of all time, recording a total of 352 aerial victories in World War II.  After the war, he was imprisoned by the Soviet Union.  During his captivity, the Soviets tried to get him to spy on fellow POWs and to adopt communist ideologies.  Hartmann refused.  He was offered a position in the East German Air Force, to which he responded:

If, after I am home in the West, you make me a normal contract offer, a business deal such as people sign every day all over the world, and I like your offer, then I will come back and work with you in accordance with the contract.  But if you try to put me to work under coercion of any kind, then I will resist to my dying gasp.

Anne Askew was an Anabaptist preacher who was persecuted in England during the reign of Henry VIII.  She refused to divulge the names of any of her co-religionists despite torture on the rack and eventual execution by burning at the stake.

There is, it would seem, a personality type that refuses to be coerced or bullied, even when the point of such coercion does not seem worth the effort to resist it.  Recently, a 16-year-old girl in Laramie, Wyoming was arrested rather than comply with a mask mandate.  These acts of defiance, as well as those who forfeit their employment rather than comply with COVID-associated mandates, are possibly representative of an innate obstinacy against authoritarianism.  There appears to be a point of principle, as illustrated by Erich Hartmann's quote above, that is opposed to coercion, simply because it is coercion.

One suspects that this opposition is instinctive and, like most instincts, persists because it is beneficial to the socializing activities of humans.  It is a personality trait, not a character flaw.  It is also to be expected that this trait is present in different people to different degrees.  While some people may maintain their defiance only to a certain point of coercion, others, like Anne Askew, cannot be dissuaded even under the most extreme coercion.

This trait of resistance to coercion is found throughout history and in various societies.  It is sometimes portrayed heroically, as in the case of religious martyrs or soldiers who fight to the death against impossible odds.  What is perhaps of most significant are the times throughout history that the obstinate, those who refuse to give in to coercion even to the point of death, do so on behalf of principles that ultimately prevail.

Image: rauschenberger via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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