In any personality worth salt, there is a point beyond which one will not be pushed. It is a point at which self-respect, honor and psychological well-being exceed the importance of safety. At such a point well-executed defiance is so inspiring that its spiritual thrill often lives long past the event. It is the stuff of heroics and a common theme in countless narratives of battle and war. The point is brilliantly presented in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 classic Treasure Island.
In the meantime the captain, whom I had observed to be wonderfully swollen about the chest and pockets, had turned out a great many various stores—the British colours… He had found a longish fir-tree lying felled and trimmed in the enclosure, and with the help of Hunter he had set it up at the corner of the log-house where the trunks crossed and made an angle. Then, climbing on the roof, he had with his own hand bent and run up the colours.
Just then, with a roar and a whistle, a round-shot passed high above the roof of the log-house and plumped far beyond us in the wood.
“Oho!” said the captain. “Blaze away! You’ve little enough powder already, my lads.”
At the second trial, the aim was better, and the ball descended inside the stockade, scattering a cloud of sand but doing no further damage.
“Captain,” said the squire, “the house is quite invisible from the ship. It must be the flag they are aiming at. Would it not be wiser to take it in?”
“Strike my colours!” cried the captain. “No, sir, not I”; and as soon as he had said the words, I think we all agreed with him. For it was not only a piece of stout, seamanly, good feeling; it was good policy besides and showed our enemies that we despised their cannonade.