Fear and Indolence


“Man’s inhumanity to man.” – Robert Burns, Man was Made to Mourn

The phrase itself is a cliché. But worse than that, it makes no sense. It implies that to be “humane” is to be human (i.e., infused with human-kindness). I would argue that history supports an opposite definition. As a species, our history is marked by murders, skirmishes, and wars. Recent centuries haven’t seen an emergence from this barbarity, it has instead handed us the tools to commit genocide. What does this say about us? Does it mean we’re “evil”? I don’t think so. I think it means that as a species we are afraid. We fear what we don’t understand. We fear those that are different from us. We fear for our children and our futures. These are reasonable feelings…to an extent. They cease being reasonable when intelligent people refuse to take the necessary steps to learn what they don’t understand. When people embrace fiction (and the institutions that support said fictions) instead of expending the necessary efforts to learn the truth, they set a course for disaster. So why does it happen over and over again? Because humans are not only fearful, they are lazy. I don’t mean to imply that people aren’t hard workers. To this day, farmers (or farmhands) get up before dawn every day to milk the cows. No, that’s not the problem (mostly). People are lazy in the sense that they are unwilling to think about problems when a simple (not necessarily accurate) answer is readily available (and supported by their community). A plausible fiction is often more appealing than a difficult truth, and definitely more desirable than no answer at all. Here then is the seed of most conflicts throughout history. One group creates an answer in lieu of learning the truth and another group invents a different answer. The arising institutions that  support these “findings” become entrenched and invested in their chosen fiction, and soon are willing to persecute and eventually kill non-believers to protect it. Look back across the pages of history. What you see are not wars over the truth; what you are seeing are thousands and millions of pointless deaths over competing fictions. Why would anyone be willing to give their life for stories told thousands of years ago by men who couldn’t take the time to learn: why the sun rose every morning, why the seasons changed, why there were countless species of animals, where we come from?

If that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse. Over the centuries, reasonable people have emerged to challenge the fictions. Keep in mind, Ibn al-Haytham proposed the current scientific method in the 11th century, yet again and again, people willing to dispel the shadows of institutionalized disinformation have been persecuted and killed. Why? Fear. Not only are humans afraid but their institutions are as well. How corrupt must an institution be that places a higher value on fictions than taking the opportunity to move the world a little closer to illumination.

Fear and mental indolence are at the root of all these problems. If fear wasn’t so instinctual, it could even be argued that they are one in the same. Today, we are ruled by institutions that our forefathers erected to explain why we are here, why we are special, and how to get along with one another. The problem is that they are completely wrong. We will never shed light on any of those questions if we hold onto the old fictions. The sad part is that we’ve known what to do all along; we only have to think.

“The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

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