Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fear as the Root of Evil: An Explanation.

So, I started rereading The Gift of Fear.  I'm only a couple of chapters back into it and I'd forgotten most of it.   I think for a lot of it I'm going to need to have a sort of division in my head between de Becker's concepts of "fear" and "intuition" and my own.

Because, as I wrote the other day, I'm not entirely sure that fear isn't the root of evil*.  One of the reasons I am such a great fan of reason and using logic to talk myself down is that I have quite the overactive amygdala.  At heart, I am very much the "Oh shit, the boss is looking at me funny, I'm going to get fired" person.  I've been working on these instincts for literally my entire adult life and am pretty good at talking myself down out of a tree.  But the instincts are still there and the slow parade of all the reasons I don't suck comes in handy more often than I enjoy talking about.

In The Beekeeper's Apprentice there's this kickass scene where Sherlock is telling his teenage apprentice (I KNOW**) that on some level, every crime is self defense.  He later goes on to explain to her in no uncertain terms why self-defense on most levels is not something one is justified in killing over, because duh, but I think his point is interesting and deserves more thought than the pleasant little novel it is in has time to give it.

Several years ago, I decided that "victims" were the single scariest group ever.  Just about everyone who had ever done anything awful considered themself a victim and thus fully justified in whatever awfulness they committed.  (Obligatory Godwin's law example: the Germans' victimization by the Treaty of Versailles.)  I've been through unpleasantness here and there but I've vowed to not ever consider myself a victim of anything, because rationalization is already my superpower and I don't need the extra help to justify my own actions.

I am a better person, when I don't let fear win, when I experience the gratitude at the goodness and abundance of what is around me (though I also try to remain in the Stoic habit of periodically imagining my life without that goodness so my appreciation remains nice and sharp, along with my awareness that a life without luxuries would be less awesome but still a life, and that's a lot.)

Anyway, this theory is evolving, and I'm curious what other folks think of it.  If the word "Evil" doesn't do it for you, "awfulness" is fine with me.  The underlying point "if it sucks, fear probably causes it on some deep level," remains.

What to do about that is another question.


*Yes, I was raised Presbyterian, I know that you can kick 1 Timothy 6:10 at me and tell me that love of money is the root of all evil.  I tend to think really all of your basic greed sins (Money, sex, food are your classics) come from fear that you won't have enough, of either the thing itself or the love comfort and safety it symbolizes for one.

Counterpoint: if one googles "fear is the root of evil" one gets a few ernest people and a bunch of prosperity gospel types who say that fear is the root of evil so go ahead and love money.  Jerks.

** I remain astounded that the plot "Sherlock Holmes has moved to Sussex to keep bees, but he's bored.  One day, he meets a precocious fourteen-year-old girl who is as smart as he is and take her on as an apprentice and they solve mysteries together" could possibly have produced one good book, to say nothing of the first six or so in the series though it gets uneven after that.

I was telling someone I used to date about this series and he, ungallantly, I thought, asked "How long does it take Sherlock to hit that?" and I had to confess two books, though in that time he does wait for her to grow up.

1 comment:

Joel Monka said...

I have thought that selfishness is the root of all evil, where you place your wants and whims above others'. I mean that in the extreme sense- not "my need to survive trumps your property rights over that heel of bread", but in the "my need for giggles gives me the right to rape you" sense. Fear only enters into that sort of evil in those cases where the perpetrator is seeking fear, where the adrenaline rush of fear is the drug of choice- but even that I rate as selfishness, putting one's thrills above other's rights.