A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.
Swimming to Salvation
February 19, 2007
Fear motivates. Terror motivates supremely. The politics of fear makes for fascinating study. What has become a pattern of political thought in the last one hundred years is the idea that those who control fear most effectively - hold sway over the collective consciousness. Like any interesting idea, motivation by fear has two disparate sides to it. The ethical struggle between these two sides deeply reflects the paradox of good and evil. A simple premise sets the stage: if by instilling the fear of drowning in the residents of a small island, they are motivated to learn to swim - has not good been done? If however the fear of drowning is exaggerated by premeditated “accident” and a citizen falls into the water and drowns - has not evil been done?
The paradox of course centers on the concept of the sacrifice of a few to benefit the many. If we commit a crime that eventually benefits the greater good, is that good corrupted? Or is it corroded to some extent? Or can we accept the idea that some crime, specially sanctioned crime, is in fact good? Cannot we say it is, “A necessary evil?” To further the examination, does sacrifice avoid the touch of evil? If a person knowingly sacrifices their life to help another - we should have no problem (except perhaps that suicide is sacrilege to some). But if a person is sacrificed without consent, does the action take on the burden of evil? Can we assume that some, certain crime, does pay? The arguments change significantly if we are to leave out homicide in scenarios. So in the drowning example, if a person “falls” into the water and nearly drowns - no real harm is done. And the community is given a near-death evangelist for swimming lessons. Great for the Speedo people.
Human beings are clearly motivated by fear. Their evolutionary status is chronologically so primitive that the fright and flight instinct is readily measurable in the human brain. Therefore is there any real harm in leveraging this instinct to modify behavior to benefit the species? If we love a nearly extinct species of animal and choose to protect it by scaring it from poisonous landfills or poaching grounds - don’t we save it? And won’t that benefit the species and our generations to come? These questions arise from the world we live in today in which a colossal battle to influence human fear is being waged. Certain microcosms, mostly under the U.S. purview are being battered with fear inducing propaganda. We are being told that the world is ending, the planet is burning, there is rampant pestilence and disease and that political mayhem is underway. Some of these messages are motivated for beneficent purpose. Others are motivated by a need to control the collective consciousness. Together they entangle themselves into a psychological conundrum that ultimately defeats both purposes.
In group therapy practices they have a slogan for fear. It is written as an acronym with the letters meaning “False Evidence Appearing Real.” We are today surrounded, drowning in fact, in hyper- elevated messages of fear. We have abject propaganda coming from mass media (nowadays so hysterical they have forfeited all believability); fear induced penitence from organized religion, medical and ecological states of emergency, and a hefty dose of fear inducing terrorism from the militants and politicians. The net result of so many people trying to leverage human fear is dismissal of the whole lot. So the baby gets thrown out before it drowns in the bathwater. Propaganda wars result in one certain fact: the forfeit of mindshare.
The other side of human nature, the one not motivated by fear, but instead by logic, intuition and compassion - is where the future lies. It is only by addressing these more elevated human traits that the present day human condition will be altered for the better. For as much as human beings are motivated by fear they too are motivated by the affairs of the heart and mind. By looking inside the heart, mind and soul we can utilize the power of intuition and our unbreakable connection to the greater web of all life. It is here that we can choose to follow our own path to clarity and enlightenment. We have all the tools within us. They are far more elevated than the instinct for fright and flight. Transitioning from the primordial mechanisms of the flesh, to the enlightened knowledge of the spirit - is our quest. We begin to take the steps toward that eventuality by rejecting the clanging noise of fear. We will learn to swim not by fear of death, but because it is inscribed on the path to enlightenment. And learning from the innate desire to grow is our best education. The pathway is lit by many different sources - but they all point to one place. And once we have learned to swim, we can look skyward and dream of the day we will then learn to fly.
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