Posts Tagged mortality

Confronting the Fear of Death

“The more you fear death and the emptier you are, the more you people your world with omnipotent father-figures, extra-magical helpers.”  – Ernest Becker

In Republican Gomorrah, Max Blumenthal cites some very fascinating research:

After studying Solomon, Greenberg, and Pyszcynski’s experiments, journalist John Judis of The New Republic concluded that the surprising breadth of Republican success during the Bush era could be attributed to a single tactic: mortality reminders. “Mortality reminders not only enhanced the appeal of Bush’s political style,” Judis wrote, “but also deepened and broadened the appeal of the conservative social positions that Republicans had been running on.”

Research studies have shown that people who receive “mortality reminders” become harsher toward the world around them, more rigid and rule-bound, more punitive.  In a word, more conservative.

As I think back over the last 18 months or so, what I see is a string of conservative tactics exciting the fear of death in people and using that fear to motivate voters.  The grotesquerie of the death panels is a prime example.  That it was utterly fact free was unimportant; the right used the fear of death to anger and excite people already terrified about their own deaths.  Suddenly you have raving mobs of people screaming about imaginary death panels, terrified that not only would they have to face their own deaths but that someone else was going to force them to do it.

Death, simply, is a reality.  We all leave the world the same way.  You can either face the reality or deny it but death isn’t going away anytime soon.  The problem is not that right wingers are using mortality reminders and scaring the holy shit out of people.  The problem is a huge chunk of the population that can’t seem to grasp that we are all going to die.  Being afraid of it, refusing to face it, surrounding yourself with magical thinking and explanations isn’t going to put it off or stop it.  Confronting the fear of death seems to me one of central jobs of human life.  Once you do that, you can live with far more grace, far more balance, than you would imagine possible.  I hope to get there someday.

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