Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fear and Responsibility

I have come across an idea, expressed especially in New Age circles, that fear is at the root of everything that is wrong with the world. I seek to contend with that idea.

I have known a number of people who were genuinely courageous. These people never claimed to disown fear. Instead they defined courage as willingness to act in presence of fear.

I have not been through anything like the Second World War; but neither have the New Agers. I do not see how their views on this subject have undergone any kind of reality-testing. I would take advice on the subject from someone who's been through experiences that actually test courage. And the people I've known who had such experiences did not disown fear. They were willing to act, however afraid they were.

When I was driving through Utah, my car broke down. A Mormon man gave me the ride to the nearest service station, then he paid for the repairs and walked out before I could even thank him. I find this to be an amazing behavior. If this had happened in a community that had a strong New Age influence, they would have said that the reason that my car broke down was negativity in my consciousness. Not only would they not have helped me, but they would have avoided me out of the fear that I would inflict the negativity in my consciousness upon them.

Fear – and especially fear-mongering for profit or political gain – can very well be a bad influence. However in no way is it the only one. Another major bad influence is beliefs that teach people to be jerks; and this is what we see of course all around us, from all sorts of places, including New Age.

Maybe these people found these beliefs useful in adapting to capitalism. But that does not make such beliefs right. Not only did many of them become as big jerks as business conservatives, but some of them have outdone them in that regard; and that has made a mockery of themselves and liberalism proper.

I have a friend who's had an ongoing migraine since she was 22. Any number of people believed that she was bringing it about by negative thinking, or that she was doing it deliberately in order to avoid taking responsibility for her life. She was being blamed for something which was in no way her fault – a concept of course that is alien in New Age circles.

Responsibility is one thing; being a jerk is another. If a Mormon right-winger can be a better person than we are, boy do we have a lot to learn.

Many of these people started out in the same place as I did. They saw what was wrong with the world. The solution that they have created however has been a wrong one. Not only does such a thing deny basic human compassion, but it creates wrongful incentives within society. If responsibility is defined in this way, everyone will want to become a yuppie. Nobody will want to become teachers, scientists, military, police or anything of the sort – professions that do not pay very much but whose contributions are vast. This will starve the country of much of what it needs and will have negative consequences for the country.

I've been a yuppie myself; and I did not find other yuppies to be more responsible than scientists and teachers I've known. They made more money, but the money that they made was based on the work of scientists. The reason that they could be yuppies was owed to their teachers and college professors; and the reason that they could do business at all was owed to the military protecting their country and police enforcing their property rights. Most of these people do not make very much money, and by this definition they are supposedly irresponsible. But the country in general – and the yuppies in particular – owe greatly to all of the above.

When I was with a woman who had New Age influences, she wanted to do something rash. I was telling her of the possible consequences of that – the consequences of which others were warning me as well - and she was telling me that I was preaching fear. She finally had her way, and she got exactly the consequences of which I was warning her – and of which others were warning me. She did not do so through negativity in her consciousness; she had done a lot of work on herself and did not have any. She did this because she did something rash.

I do not see why one emotional state – love, fear, or anything else under the sun – would be better or more powerful than another. There are however things that are more powerful than all of the above. This is the case with nuclear bombs; this is the case with intelligence; this is the case with money. All of these things are more powerful than either fear or love. And, just like both fear and love, these can be wielded both rightfully and wrongfully.

Is fear a bad thing? Anything human can be either good or bad. For that matter, love can be used for wrong things as well. Cults practice what is known as love-bombing. Love gets used as a tool of manipulation. Fear of course can be used as a tool of manipulation as well. That something can be used for wrong however does not mean that it is universally wrong in itself. Money can also be used for wrong; but that does not mean that money as such is a bad thing.

There are many good things that have come out of the New Age. These attitudes however are wrong. Love is not the same thing as being a bully, and responsibility is not the same thing as being a jerk. Using positive values for wrongful ends discredits the values themselves. Love is a good thing, and responsibility is a good thing. Neither of the above should be used for wrong.


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