Friday, January 16, 2009

Fear Is Our Adversary

The primary audience to which I address this article is those who are already convinced of the need for greater freedom in our societies and are seeking a mechanism by which to achieve this. I’m speaking both to those who desire more social liberty as well as those who yearn for economic liberty. I’m speaking of those individuals who self-identify as libertarians, minarchists, anarchists, anarcho-capitalists, objectivists and the like.

The secondary audience is anybody else who is angered by the actions of those who crave power and who choose to use that power to enforce their will on us and those that whom we care about. Such people also desire more freedom in the world.

I ask you all to answer the following question honestly:
Is it not true that you desire more freedom for yourself but that you fear granting more freedom to others?
This is what I refer to as the “freedom for me but not for thee” phenomenon.
Might it not be the case that those who choose to restrict your freedom feel exactly the same way?

I submit to my fellow believers in freedom that there is a very crucial but simple truth that we have been neglecting to deal with head on.
There is an elephant in the room that we have been avoiding.
The primary obstacle towards achieving the freedom we desire is not entrenched power.
It is not those individuals whom at the moment happen to be holding the guns.
It is not the state.
Nor is it the ideological flavor of the week that those-in-power or those-who-seek-power subscribe to.
Our primary foe is “fear” in general and “fear of freedom” in particular.

Let’s have the courage to be honest with ourselves.
This fear exists not only in the hearts of our fellow human beings.
It exists within our own as well.
Fear is the obstacle that must be overcome if we are to achieve the free society that we dream about.
But by overcoming fear we will achieve much more than that.
We will enable the human race to elevate itself out of the age of barbarism all together.

I submit that “the amount of freedom that exists in a society varies in direct proportion with the ability of the members of that society to face and overcome their own fears.”
It is fear that compels us to seek to control our environment.
It is fear that compels us to restrict the freedom of others.

If you accept the truth of this statement then the way forward is clear.
Electing libertarians to office does not deal with the issue.
Endless ideological debates will not help either.
Such efforts bypass entirely our primary enemy and represent wasted effort and squandered resources.
It has been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In his book “Practical Anarchy”, Stefan Molyneux mentions the example of Somalia.
When the government of Somalia fell that society reverted to tribal warlordism.
This, in fact, suggests that those who fear freedom are in fact justified.
Let’s have the courage to admit it.
The truth is not something to be feared.

It is not enough to simply remove those who are currently inflicting their will on a society from the equation.
If the ability of those within that society to face and overcome their fears has not been dealt with, another force will eventually just rise up to take the place of the previous oppressor.

This has NOTHING to do with ideology.
It has everything to do with the natural fear that is wired into our very brains by natural selection itself.
The incredible barbarism that we see in the world today and hope to overcome is not the result of ideology, it is the result of the fact that we (the human race) are barbarians by nature.

The destructive emotions of fear, anger, hatred and self-pity that exist within each of us are there for a reason. They enabled our ancient cave dwelling ancestors to survive and thrive in a predatory environment of scarcity. I discuss this in more detail in “The Barbarian Mind

We have evolved since then, of course.
Our predators have all been slain and the environment of scarcity is no more.
We are now at the top of the food chain and we live in a world of overflowing abundance.
And our very brains have changed as well.
The logical center of our brain (neo cortex) has gradually grown to evolve and assume a measure of dominance over the more ancient emotional center (amygdala).
But we have not quite achieved total dominance yet as is evidenced by the incredible amount of brutality and suffering that we continue to see on the daily news.
Nevertheless, we are slowly but surely moving in the right direction.
We cannot help but to do so of course as evolution and natural selection are making this happen with our without our contribution.
Those who are less able to control their destructive emotions are busy committing suicide, killing each other off, going to prison or otherwise eliminating themselves from the gene pool.

How then should we make the best use of the resources at our disposal to advance the cause of freedom and bring about its attainment in our lifetime?
I submit that the way forward is simply this …
Seek not to convince others of the need for more freedom by ideological arguments.
When people are consumed by fear they are incapable of hearing logical arguments.
As Daniel Goleman pointed out in his book “Emotional Intelligence” negative emotions actually serve to lower our IQs.
There is a physiological reason for this.
Blood rushes to the extremities and away from the brain when the fight or flight response is triggered.
This happens to ALL of us.
Trying to reason with a person who is consumed by fear is like trying to have a philosophical discussion with a monkey.

Seek instead to help them face and overcome their fears.
The way to do to that is to first learn these methods ourselves and then to lead by example.
We should seek to become masters of our own destructive emotions.
We should seek to achieve self mastery of this sort and to share the techniques that enabled us to do so with others.
In this way and only in this way will we be tackling directly the one and only impediment that stands between where we are today and the world of freedom that we wish for tomorrow.

Fear is the path to barbarism.
Fear leads to the fight or flight response.
When we choose to fight we enter the cycle of barbarism.
Self-pity turns off our ability to empathize and keeps us locked in the barbarian mind states.
These negative emotions must be actively combated via the adoption of a program to develop Emotional Intelligence.
We should seek to focus our minds on the development of such a program, and to teach to it to ourselves and others.

Self mastery is the key to developing dominance over our inner beasts.
Until the majority of people in our society have achieved such self mastery we will not be able to pull ourselves out of the age of barbarism.
No amount of ideological debate will change this.
We, as a species, cannot transition out of the age of barbarism until we have tamed the barbarians within.
That is where we should be focusing our efforts and our resources.

And by the way, seeking to develop Emotional Intelligence has the side benefit of enabling us to live much happier and more prosperous lives ourselves.