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Fear vs. Love

In The Trap by Adam Curtis, I noticed how people were acting out of - fear.

Things didn’t feel right.  There existed this eerie sense of ‘something wasn’t right’.  Check out –  The Roots – Don’t Feel Right.   Robert Nash suffered from schizophrenia which lead to his game theory equilibrium that ultimately served as a model for fighting the Cold War.  The US and the Soviet Union did not communicate with each other.  Thus, it engendered a large scale and extremely dangerous prisoner’s dilemma with nuclear arms race .  Paranoia and hysteria from the spread of communism set in.  People felt trapped.  People were scared. Isolation of each side bred this large scale stratagem.  How childish can we get?!?!  Come on, pick up the red phone and talk to the other side already.  Instead, the two countries just sat in their opposing corners plotting, spying, walking around a little, scheming, flexing their muscles to threaten the other side, and ultimately causing the other to fear nuclear annihilation.  Nevertheless, competition between countries at times can get very ugly.

Then R.D. Laing, James Buchanan, Margaret Thatcher, Isaiah Berlin, and others utilizing these theories of humans acting out of selfishness and strategizing in their best interest somehow impacts politics, economics, psychiatry, anthropology, etc. affirming this bleak and dismal perspective that we are ‘trapped‘.  Interestingly enough, when the game theory was tested on RAND’s secretaries, they did not betray each other as was expected.  Instead, the secretaries disproved the theory that humans act out of selfishness and fear of being betrayed by another all the time.  Now why couldn’t the US and the Soviet Union do the same thing???  Did the fact that the secretaries were women have anything to do with the results?  Was it a gender issue?  Take a look at Dilbert as he understands the dilemma that he faces…

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Since the Cold War was marked with fear, paranoia, hysteria, isolation, entrapment, etc.  I thought to myself, “What if the US didn’t act out of fear or selfishness?”  Why does the US need to always feel the need to win and assert itself as the dominant power?  Why does the US feel that democracy is better than communism?  Is it because we fear the control of the state?  Hmmmmmmm…. Interesting >  Obviously, the montage-littered and propaganda-like documentary  demonstrated how the US and even Britain pushed democracy and the ideals of freedom throughout the world to combat their fear of communism from overtaking the world.  However, even democracy and liberty came with a price tag.  This inherent theme throughout the video of fear and entrapment from the loss of freedom lead me to investigate the two polar opposites of fear and love.

Fear vs. love.

Do they sit at opposite ends of the spectrum taunting each other like two little kids at the playground or are they innate feelings and/or emotions deeply imbedded in us in which we act out of – either selfishly or unselfishly?

What is fear?  What is love?

>>  First I’d like to start off with a debate found in the movie Donny Darko (2001), where Donny (Jake Gyllenhall) is sitting in health class arguing that you can’t dilute the whole gamut of human emotions into acting out of love or fear. Or can we?  See for yourself:

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Why do we fear being controlled?  Why do we fear given up our freedom?  Why do we fear losing our free-will to choose?

In the case of the Cold War, the US feared annihilation from nuclear bombs.  The US feared communism and its entrapment. So, to combat this fear, the US tried to assert its ideologies of democracy and freedom at all cost.  The fear of losing the war motivated the US to succeed and be the best.  Thus, the Soviet Union and communism fell and the US and democracy succeeded.  But what triumphed?  And at what cost?  Why did we feel the need to push our Western democracy and idealogy of freedom on Iraq in 2003?  Was the US acting out of love for protecting its freedoms and ideals and/or was it also acting out of fear from losing that to others???

Here is Chazz Palminteri acting out a monologue from his play and adapted screenplay A Bronx Tale (1993). This brings us to another tangent of fear vs. love in the sense of Niccoló Machiavelli’s The Prince.

It is precisely this moralistic view of authority that Machiavelli criticizes at length in his best-known treatise, The Prince… Thus, in direct opposition to a moralistic theory of politics, Machiavelli says that the only real concern of the political ruler is the acquisition and maintenance of power For Machiavelli, power characteristically defines political activity, and hence it is necessary for any successful ruler to know how power is to be used. Only by means of the proper application of power, Machiavelli believes, can individuals be brought to obey and will the ruler be able to maintain the state in safety and security.  - Excerpt taken from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

So how do we reconcile love and fear?  Is it an issue of power then?  Why are we at the political level of the state or even at the smallest level of human relationships so concerned with power and authority?  I definitely believe that the Cold War and any war for that matter is obviously rooted in the struggle for power, authority, dominance, selfishness, and pride.  And yet, fear and betrayl became the driving force behind the “Cold” War.  It was cold, lonely, and scary.

And yet oddly enough, I feel that fear can also produce respect and reverence, but it can also produce ineffectiveness and pressure to perform.  This was evident in The Trap when Britain adopted a plan to measure everything out and create targets, quotas, and requirements that people had to meet.  What this ultimately resulted in was people ‘gaming the system’ to look good.  Fear can be a dangerous thing because it can cause us to act in a way that is selfish and dangerous.  I think that a balance of both fear and love is ultimately the best > For example, I will use the relationship between a father and son to illustrate my point.

The son should respect his father and fear him.  The fear should keep the son acting in a morally pleasing way.  The son should fear the consequences if he acts in a way that displeases the father.  On the other hand, the son should love his father because the father protects the son, teaches the son, gives to the son, and overall loves the son.  In this way love and fear are working hand-in-hand.  Too much of fear or love is no good.  For example, too much fear can hinder and stifle one from growing.  On the contrary, too much love can also be harmful.  A parent doesn’t always give their child everything that he or she wants all the time.  Sometimes, the parent acts by using discretion and forgoes giving the child what they want because its not beneficial to them.  In other words, love can limit the freedom of a person to act in a certain way for his or her own good. Besides, fear can also hinder one’s freedom to act in a certain way for his or her own good.  Either way, love or fear has the power to limit the person’s liberty to choose or act.  In the end, acting in love and in an unselfish way would be the best option in my opinion.   However, when you choose to love you will ultimately enable the possibility to restrict your freedom and forgo your power.

So I will leave you with the Machiavellian question >  Is is better to be feared or loved?

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3 Comments

  1. lindai 14:53, Jan 24th, 10

    just a few thoughts:
    regarding the cold war, there existed only these two superpowers. if not the USA, who else could have acted against the USSR? i think most countries were scared and feared to be annihilated by the USSR, and therefore thankful that the USA was powerful enough to participate in this arms race. the level of mistrust did not allow for negotiations anymore or as you say, “just pick up the phone.” i don’t think it is simply a question about the US spreading their ideology or proving their power. if one or more countries are annihilated you can neither spread democracy nor communism.
    (to the question if democracy is better than communism – just look at the countries that adhere to communism…)

    to your analogy of love or fear: how can you develop love when under the influence of (constant) fear? yes, one should respect one’s parents, but that respect should come from the love one has for the parents! one or two generations back it used to be different for the majority of families. children did indeed fear their parents but nowadays? do you really believe this is still the case?
    if a relationship is built on fear, how can there be trust? and if there is no trust, how can there be love?
    the USSR could not be trusted, thus fear built up.

  2. DanJee 01:02, Jan 26th, 10

    I think your statement about fear versus love brings about an interesting argument. From behavioral psychology point, it has been ever-present argument. Positive Reinforcement versus Negative Reinforcement. Studies tend to show that positive reinforcement is better for retaining learned behaviors, but negative reinforcement seems to have more quick response. However, recent studies about “learned helplessness” also suggests that too much negative reinforcement will make the subject just give up and stop trying. It is somewhat in agreement with your last point about finding a balance between love and fear.

  3. Ryan 01:19, Jan 26th, 10

    Lindai, thanks for commenting.

    I’ll add that yes, I was a little sarcastic by questioning if democracy is really better than communism given the outcome of the cold war and the general condition of communist countries. However, it is relative to who you’d ask. I believe that communism would be viewed differently given the person. For example, China is considered communist, but I would say that it behaves more like a capitalistic than anything and it is considered a superpower where Cuba for example has been on the opposite end of the spectrum for a while.

    In regards to your discourse on family trust, fear, and respect I think that yes it was entirely different back then given the context of the culture of families. Nowadays, kids have very little respect for adults I would argue. But yes, a relationship built on fear lacks trust. That’s why it has to be a balance of both I believe. Anything in excess would not be conducive.

    Lastly, I wouldn’t have trusted the USSR either :)