Re-Establishing Altruism As A Viable Social Norm

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Fear Or Love - Which is Your Driving Force?

"The single most important decision any of us will ever make is whether or not to believe the universe is friendly."     Albert Einstein

Fear and Love are two of the most basic and powerful human emotions. As they spread from person to person, they can inspire such extremes of behaviour as killing one another or dying for one another. Considering that the fundamental importance of love is so widely agreed upon, it is remarkable how many organisations seem dedicated to promoting its opposite: fear.

"There is no fear in love: true love has no room for fear."

Fear is a natural response to danger that quickens the mind's efforts to anticipate and avoid potential peril or problems. However, stemming from the irrational part of the mind, it knows no logic and sometimes gets unhinged from its target. People whose lives have been filled with fear often continue to be afraid long after the potential danger has been removed, making up their own, irrational, reasons. Chronic fear is a debilitating state of mind that weakens body and soul, associated with heart conditions, nervous disorders, stress, depression and paranoia. This is especially dangerous when it affects the powerful, since it impacts the decision-making capabilities and distances people from the real consequences of their actions. Even worse, the natural result of fear is to act selfishly without regard for the wellbeing of others. This destroys the fabric of society by communicating to people that they are unloved and uncared for, inspires more fear in turn.

Love has many shades of meaning, but it is well understood as a selfless devotion to someone - a determination to do them right and to encourage and care for them. By focusing our attention away from dead matter such as money or material goods, onto the living beings on whom it rightly resides, Love helps us to rediscover our humanity. Taking joy in relationships with others is a positive alternative to escapism, and it helps us overlook their failings, inspiring them to love us in return. Love should circulate round the social relationships than make up a society as blood flows throughs a body, bringing healing, life and energy everywhere it goes, carrying antibodies of care to soften calloused or cynicical hearts.

In recent decades, public fear in certain countries has escalated greatly, fuelled by regular exposure to images of atrocities committed, most notably due to the so-called 'War on Terror'. Barbaric acts by terrorists and terrorisation by media or government strike deep at people's wellbeing because they resonate with so many people's gut feelings of fear - the unspoken fear that in the anonymous, faceless world of big organisations we have made for ourselves, there is no one is willing to love and care for us.

To tackle the fear within us, we would be well advised to be wary of technological answer offered us, whether they be the building of walls to insulate us from others, or even worse systems to bend them to our will. Such selfishness will only spread conflict and terror further afield. A more feasible solution would be to let Love into our lives, and take steps to allay the fear of those around us. For example, if we live in a world of material abundance, not scarcity, we could share some of what we have with those who need it, allaying their fears of not being provided for. Charities are the institution supposed by many to fullfil this role, but large organisations are poorly placed to deliver compassion, and anonymous money is a poor conduit for signals of love, because of its impersonal nature. Just giving things away to people may well prove an effective boost to friendship, an antidote to the climate of fear that is being cultivated in too many societies.

To see how this relates to the social cycle, click on the picture below:

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