The fear of ridicule

In David Benioff’s novel, City of Thieves, the young soldier and aspiring writer Kolya seems fearless but isn’t. “Cannibals and Nazis didn’t make Kolya nervous, but the threat of embarrassment did—the possibility that a stranger might laugh at the lines he’d written” ([Penguin, 2008] 165). Which reminds me of these words from the Sage of Baltimore:

Man is deficient in courage. . . He is not only mortally afraid of all other animals of his own weight or half his weight—save a few that he has debased by artificial inbreeding—; he is even mortally afraid of his own kind—and not only of their fists and hooves, but even of their sniggers.

H.L. Mencken

A Mencken Chrestomathy (Vintage, 1982), 4. Photo by Ben Pinchot, PD

Please inform the rest of the species. . .