Rod Dreher links to an  El Pais story about an admirable athlete, the Un-Lance Armstrong . In second place but way behind the leader in a 3,000-meter steeple-chase, Iván Fernández Anaya pulled up when he realized his opponent had thought he’d finished and stopped before the finish line. He then, reports the newspaper, “stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first.” He explained: “I didn’t deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner.”

You can only applaud the man. He is, as Rod says, a  mensch and a good man. I’d add that he’s a gentleman and a sportsman (as opposed to a mere athlete). He did what you’d want your children to do.

If you’re a mensch, a good man, a gentleman, and a sportsman, or aspire to be. There are many people who’d cheer their children on as they blew past the runner and took the prize. If asked, they’d say it’s his fault for not understanding the rules, for not preparing better, that losing will be good for him, that anyone else would have run past him, that part of winning is taking advantage of every opportunity, that such gestures of kindness encourage mediocrity, that everyone benefits when the competition’s most intense, that the one who did win is the one who deserved to win, that they have no responsibility to the runner but only to themselves, and being kind to him hurts their team, nation, and whoever else has a stake in their winning, that in the modern world we don’t act like that, and such traditions went out with hoop skirts, etc.

It’s a version of the small, mean mind some people bring to their economic thinking. Some form of libertarian analysis sweeps away all human values. They offload their moral decisions onto the market and approve, usually not regretfully but eagerly, any action that brings success at whatever cost to others and to the kinds of gestures and boundaries and courtesies that make a good society. Gentlemanliness is for losers.

Three cheers, no, five cheers, ten cheers , for Iván Fernández Anaya.

Articles by David Mills

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