When we ask ourselves “who are we?” often we are confronted with our mortality and the realisation that we are alone. This realisation leads to one of two fears. One fear is that we are alone, that we are empty. That is the fear explored in the previous post.
But, we cannot do this on our own. Somehow, we put aside enough of our fears to combine with those that we consider friends, allies or, at least, those with similar ideas and values. These alliances are often grounded in cultural, ethnic, religious or national affiliations. Now, we have a collective group to which we can belong, to which we can identify.
Complementary to this arises other collective groups to which we assign the titles of; them, enemies, aliens, foreigners, inferior beings or outsiders. The group with which we identify gains a group mentality which, if followed in a noxious manner leads to “Us vs. Them” or “We are Good, They are Evil” mental states.
The combined xenophobia and chauvinism that this mentality leads to is a build up of military capacity and/or the willingness to die for the cause. Ultimately, this gives rise to large arms expenditures, arsenals that could destroy the world many times over and heightened tensions.
There are at least two possible outlets for this spiralling madness. One is war. The other is terrorism. Peter Ustinov1 however, suggests (and who can really contradict him) that:
“Terrorism is the war of the poor. War is the terrorism of the rich.”And so, we arrive at a place where violence becomes the accepted means by which disputes and other issues are resolved.
And, what happens when we face violence? We collapse back into our fear of our mortality.
So the spiral goes, in tandem with the spiral leading to climate change. Neither spiral can be stopped at the top-end of the spiral (i.e. in the climate change or violent solutions boxes). We must look to our fears and try to understand who we are and what is the self. Are we truly alone? Another blog post, I fear!
1. Peter Ustinov (1921-2004) was an English actor, writer and dramatist. he won two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor. In his later life he dedicated himself to his role as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.