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Freedom From Fear vs. Fear of Freedom  

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Do I feel free? I don’t think so. Freedom is not just a potential opportunity to do the things that one openly chooses to do, because most human actions are predicated on the primal instinct such as fear.  Moreover, most of the things that one makes others do is done out of fear. Of course, they include not only fear, but also love, and other passions, though fear stands out as the most distinguished component in the motivation for one’s actions. I can justify this by simply analyzing the fact that fear is the major factor that survives through generations as a result of natural selection throughout the entire biological evolution. Organisms that experience more fear and more aware of their surroundings, expressing due diligence and caution in their actions and responses thereby avoiding more life threatening dangers.  In their aversion they are sustaining their bloodline, or rather their genetic contributions to future generations and ultimately increase their Darwinian Fitness (pass their genes to the next generation). We can assume that our ability to experience fear is a result of lengthy evolution. In the book of Christophe Lambert, “La société de la peur” (The society of fear) the author argues that the modern society is based on fear. It could be the fear of financial losses, unemployment, inability to support one’s family, but also it includes the fear of solitude, fear of growing old, fear of sickness, and of course, fear of death. Christophe Lambert makes a strong statement that the modern society provokes most of the fears by imposing its competitive values and intense pace of life. One of the major concerns is Television. The author calls it “le ‘nouvel’ opium du peuple” (the new opium for people) once it started as a very positive feature in the early 50’s that extended the horizons and the abilities of common people to acquire knowledge about other nations, and world events, but with time, it has become so manipulative that it is difficult for the viewer to distinguish between the truth and drama. Christophe Lambert mentions that the society of the beginning of the 21st century still remembers the consequences of the attempts to fulfill utopist ideals of questionable minds of the 20th century; Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud. Nietzsche continued to deepen concerns with the existence of god, and therefore, finished the work of the philosophers of the era of enlightenment and the philosophers of the French revolution. This started a deep crack in the once solid belief in the Almighty, by stating that “god is dead.” He also created an idea of the “super-human” that provided a firm base for Nazi attempts to improve the human race. Karl Marx created an utopist economic theory by criticizing the old brand capitalism of the 19th century by making the false predictions about the future development of class struggle which ultimately laid a basis for numerous communist states. These almost became a cause for a global nuclear war and a complete extinction of the human species. Sigmund Freud was probably the most innocent by declaring that his theory of sub-consciousness, and arguing that most of people’s motivation is based on aggression and libido, which laid the groundwork for a series of sexual revolutions which occurred in the 20s, 50s, 70s, and 80s of the 21st century. Most likely, Freud didn’t do much damage on a global scale and was also quite successful in developing methods of psychoanalytical theories. We cannot ignore that his input had a certain influence on the rate of divorce, and jeopardizing the institution of the family by diminishing the value of people’s relationships, bringing them down to the “libido-aggression” level.

            Christophe Lambert brings up the statistics of divorce rates in France that have grown 400% in the last 40 years, according to other statistics, 1 in every 3 marriages in the united states ends in divorce.  Solitude, absence of family support, confusing religious beliefs, indefinite sexual relationships, and frustrating and scary media, is a full portrait of our fears in a nutshell.

            How is it possible to obtain freedom from fear? The only way that I see is to combat the factors that create this fear, the factors that we have analyzed above.  In order to combat solitude we must learn to build our relationships on a mutual basis, and not to expect more than the other party can give, even though Christophe Lambert says in his book that he believes that the internet is separating people rather than connecting them, because it eliminates personal contact. We cannot agree with this statement because the modern Internet allows video conversations and very intensive socialization, even with the most distant parts of the world. So I would argue that we should praise the Internet as a great medium for building great relationships and making new friends because avenues now exist to meet professional colleagues and start relationships with total strangers which would not otherwise be possible. We also must admit that the Internet is a safe way to do this as far as it is not possible to cause any harm in a physical way through the virtual means of communication.

We cannot diminish the importance of the basic needs of each and every individual in some sort of system of belief that may or may not be based on conventional religions, sects, or societies. It doesn’t matter whether the individual chooses to be a believer or an atheist, it is very important that an individual will build a system of beliefs that he will feel comfortable with, and then stay consistent with.

Christophe Lambert mentions that the main occupation of the modern society is consumption. “Sex idols” have become a commodity not unlike oil, wheat, and sugar, as much as it is true that excessive consumption of sugar is not good for one’s health, and may even cause diabetes, excessive consumption of “sex idols” can is not good for your soul, family, and will eventually leave you in a state of isolation and solitude. Famous French actor, Alain Delon, that ruled women’s hearts all over the world for almost half a century, now spends his days completely alone in a pleasant company of his three dogs and one cat, as French magazine, “Paris Match,” promptly reports to its readers. When he was asked in the same interview why he is not happy and why he is alone, he answered, “I wasn’t programmed for happiness, I was programmed for success.” Those two things don’t always come hand in hand. Therefore, the world starts to turn its eyes from the wild promiscuity of the 70s and 80s to old-fashioned family values that we may chose to adopt in order to obtain a freedom from fear of solitude and isolation.

It is important to act towards restoration of old-fashioned family values that have been destroyed in the wake of the industrialization and post industrialization. Emancipation which granted equal rights to both genders also has a dark side which deprived women of their privileges of a weaker gender status that many women would love to restore. Society fails to provide basic childcare, and educational services on the level that could be ensured by active parental involvement that is not possible in the era of total emancipation. There is a need to build strong family relationships using compromises and expression, sincere interest in the problems and beliefs of your loved ones.  This can provide us with a slight hope to not find ourselves in old age, suffering from solitude, and isolation.

I believe that by limiting exposure to the media may substantially reduce the level of fear and anxiety. We don’t realize how strong we are influenced by the images we see on T.V. Once, one young woman that resides in a tiny French village had been interviewed by TF1, and she reported that she experiences a lot of fear, when she was asked why she feels this fear, she answered “ Avec tout ce que l’on voit à la télé on a des raisons d’avoir peur” (With all this that one can watch on T.V., one would have reasons to have fear) If T.V. is managing the lives of modest inhabitants in distant villages, what can we expect from the people that live in the frenzy of modern cities?


            Protecting ourselves from excessive exposure to the media might reduce our tendency to sink into consumerism and therefore, will protect us from an obsession of consumption as the main focus of our lives. In abandoning consumerism as a lifestyle, we can surprisingly realize how few things a person needs in order to support their existence. When we manage to achieve a freedom from fear, we will need to find a way to overcome our fear of freedom, because there is nothing to fear but fear itself.  The only question that remains is, are we ready to face the possibilities of a free existence?




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Contact the author bruce@kriger.ca   

©1996-2006  Boris Kriger, all rights reserved

Last Updated: Nov 26, 2006