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Fear or fear not?

January 18, 2013

Freedom from fear, as a social goal or ambition, presents a bit of a contradiction.  Is it possible to achieve freedom from fear?  Of course.  But since fear is an individual condition, it must be dealt with on an individual level, as a matter of individual perspective and attitude.  A man who was so self-confident, so secure in his own identity and certain of his own value that he could not conceive of any other person ever posing a threat to him would be free from fear.  Or at least from those fears which humans normally inspire in one another.  However, that sort of mental outlook would create an unresolvable conflict between the individual and the society in which he lived.  Societies and governments are founded on a basis of fear, on and because of the fears of human beings, who create them as protection against their fellows.  The existence of a large number of self-confident, self-reliant individuals who were free of fear within a society would result in the undermining and eventual disappearance of that society, rather than its general improvement.  They would no longer require its protection and its usefulness would be at an end.  Ergo, freedom from fear cannot really be achieved within a society at all, since the conditions required to bring it about are not compatible with the existence of society in the first place.

Tangentially, this line of inquiry raises a separate but related question with regard to religion, or political convictions, or any other form of belief.  Belief is a choice, a deliberate decision to set logic aside.  It offers the possibility of alternative solutions to those produced by strict logic, especially when the available logical solutions are emotionally unsatisfactory.  This suggests that belief is either a tool used by humans, or an attribute of human behavior, which allows them to get the greatest sastifaction out of life.  With that in mind, why, then, do individuals so often choose to believe in ideas that turn out to be, at the very least, inconvenient?  Why do they adopt beliefs that limit their freedom of action?  And why do they adopt such beliefs and then deliberately and consistently depart from them for greater convenience while still claiming to take their beliefs seriously?  There is a fundamental inconsistency involved in using the system of belief, which is by definition a method of expanding one’s worldview, to limit that same worldview.  In other words, with choice available to them, why do humans choose to fear?

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