There are all kinds of people in the world. Tall people and small people. Smart people and fart people. Some kinds of people are rare anomalies, like a person who can ride a unicycle and quote Shakespeare in Mandarin. Other types of people are far more common Despairingly common, even. Two of the most common types of people are cowards and tyrants.
A tyrant is a person who rules unfairly. Few of us are monarchs or presidents, but we are all rulers in our own way. We all have our own power, whether through innate character or acquired status. A tyrant is a person who uses whatever they can to keep other people down. An authoritarian who prevents ethnic minorities from voting and a boss who shuts down any criticism are both tyrants, though on a drastically different scale. Often tyranny is associated with cruelty, but you don’t have to be cruel to be a tyrant. Most tyrannous people out there have no idea what they are doing. They are just trying to do things right or get what they think they deserve.
People who are oppressive and cruel are obviously tyrants, but there is a better way to spot the subtler tyrants in your life. Anyone who demands something they are not willing to return is a tyrant. A government that demands taxes but doesn’t provide services can be fairly called tyrannical. So can a friend who demands respect but doesn’t give it back in return. And if your spouse demands constant love and support, but doesn’t seem to love and support you back, them I’m sorry to say you might be married to a tyrant.
A coward is simply a person who won’t do the right thing. Cowardice is often associated with fear. Being afraid can make anyone take a step back from what they know they are supposed to do. But a person who is afraid of spiders is not automatically a coward. A person who allows the orphanage to burn down because there was a spider on the fire alarm is, in fact, a coward.
Fear can make people into cowards, but its not the only way. Self-preservation and self-advancement can also lead to cowardice. It is reasonable to be a little bit intimidated by authority, but it is cowardly to let powerful people bully others out of hope that they will leave you alone. What is even worse is allowing something wrong to happen because it might help you get ahead.
Often enough, tyranny and cowardice exist in the same places. You can’t really have one without the other. Cowards allow tyrants to exist and exert control. Tyrants create the conditions for cowards to thrive. Cowards who are put in charge of things often become tyrants.
Tyrants and cowards are so common It is not uncommon to find a person who is both a tyrant and a coward. You probably work for one of them.
I would rather be a tyrant than a coward, if I had to choose. Being a coward is the worst. But I do have one good thing to say about them. When a tyrant stops behaving tyrannically nobody really notices. On the other hand, there are few things more awesome, nor is there a more powerful narrative, than when a coward finally sucks it up and does something brave.