Nemo’s Response

One of my favorite scenes in all literature is the meeting of Captain Nemo and Professor Arronax on the deck of the Nautilus.  Nemo does not want passengers and tells the Professor that it is his right to simply dive the submarine under the Professor and his companions and sail away, leaving them to their soggy fate.  The Professor responds that that is the right of a savage, but not the right of a civilized man.

Nemo answers the Professor, “Professor, I am not what you call a civilized man.”

Now, look at that exchange.  Nemo does not debate, he does not justify.  He does not have to, as the Professor immediately recognizes.  The Professor has invoked a value and Nemo has simply rejected the value out of hand.  And there is a lesson there for all of us.

Those who seek to control you will rarely invoke brute force, for the simple reason that they do not have it.  They will assume that you share the same value structure as they do and they will use that.  But if you, instead of agreeing with them or justifying your disagreement, refuse to recognize the value, you have pulled their teeth.

For, as Captain Nemo teaches us, there is no obligation to be civilized.


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