Fear

DartmoorFear of death is the surest way to die. I draw a distinction between life and mere existence. I want to exist but, more than that, I want to live. Given the choice between, on the one hand, probable continued existence and certain lack of living, and on the other hand, a possible end to existence and a chance to live, I would pick the latter every time.

One should never love a thing so much that one sacrifices one’s life or freedom for the sake of that love. Most people, I think, are lucky enough that if this question ever arises for them then the thing in question will not be as important as their existence. However, I think most people, perhaps all people, face this choice at least once in their lives at some level of severity.

I saw a documentary recently about the UN’s efforts to retake the Cité-Soleil slum in Haiti from armed gangs. The documentary maker asked a woman, who had been raped by the gangs and whose husband, son and daughter had all been murdered by them, why the locals put up with them. She said that everyone thought that anyone who stood up to the gangs would be killed so no-one dared to do so.

Those who fear to die are the easiest to oppress. Those who do not fear death are impossible to oppress. It seems almost paradoxical but in order to actually live one must not fear death.

Exactly the same is true of any attachment, regardless of whether it is to a person or an organisation or anything else. If you fear to give up that attachment then it is worthless to you.

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Published in: on April 14, 2007 at 12:00 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Insightful, to the point!

  2. Look in, in looking out!

  3. The strength of attachments could be seen to be the manifestation of natural preservation. We recognise we’re on to a good thing and don’t want to throw something away needlessly. Be it a relationship, an organisation or a way of thinking, we should always be aware of the importance of our attachments and why it is we seek either to hold on to them or to risk gambling them.Sometimes it could be that individual changes within oneself make one harder to satisfy. Sometimes it could be that changes beyond oneself become unfavourable or unpalatable, and make one question the usefulness of the attachment in question (think of my response on your post on Loyalty for example). Either way, things need to be shaken up to the positive when these changes occur, and fear inhibits the chances of that occurring. However to return to my original point, it also serves a practical function of self-preservation, which shouldn’t be totally ignored. There’s a huge difference between fearing death and actually being dead.

  4. “There’s a huge difference between fearing death and actually being dead.”True. But I think there’s no real difference between needlessly throwing away a good attachment and refusing to fight for a good attachment for fear of losing it. In both cases the attachment is effectively lost, even if it is easier to delude oneself into thinking it isn’t in the latter case.I suppose we need to differentiate between different levels of fear, between fear that controls you and fear that informs you. In Laches, Plato discusses the nature of bravery and draws a distinction between bravery and fearlessness. If you do something dangerous, even if it has a beneficial outcome, it cannot be called bravery if you did not understand the danger in which you put yourself.You may be too stupid or ignorant to realise the danger. Perhaps more likely, you may be so scared of death that you repress your knowledge of the danger and refuse to admit its reality. None of this is bravery. To be brave you have to understand the danger, you have to actually be scared to some degree, but then you have to consciously overcome your fear and take the risk anyway.As a fairly blunt example, if you asked the woman in that documentary why she was scared of dying, I bet she wouldn’t have said, “I want to stay around to be raped a bit more.”I think this aspect of the topic can be best summed up by a picture from Apotropos‘ blog: [Click Here To See Picture]

  5. “One should never love a thing so much that one sacrifices one’s life or freedom for the sake of that love.”Taken completely out of its context here, this sentence is propably the argument of any selfish navel-gazer these days.

  6. Indeed, which just goes to show the importance of context…Perhaps I could have expressed that sentiment more clearly though. I hope the rest of the article and the comments make clear what I actually meant.For example, to apply my hypothesis to a frequent topic of your own blog, how many times have those who profess a great love of freedom acted to reduce the freedom of the modern West? They fear death and oppression so much that they capitulate without a fight and thus bring on their own oppressive death.

  7. Dear BC, I understand what you mean. However, I refrain from further commentary, as it would inevitably lead me to a long speculation about the difference between liberalism and traditionalism, as well as to some questions regarding man’s inherent nature, the distorted concept of freedom, and to some central issues concerning modern society and how it functions or how it should function. :-)


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