Shackling Our Own Freedoms
By Pratap Antony
12 October, 2015
Excuses to Ourselves - Learned helplessness, Willful blindness and Amor fati
Freedom to be what we want to be, is, and should be, an undeniable, unalloyed right. Yet we accept curbs on our freedoms by authoritarian pronouncements:
We easily concede to a voice of authority without questioning, slavishly following political leaders whose charisma stems from theatrical rhetoric.
We willingly dumb ourselves down and don’t air our point of view though we disagree with what is being said and done.
We are non-partisan when we hear of how forests and indigenous people are violated for mineral mining!
We ignore brazen and open displays of destructively aggressive capitalism.
We are detached from the reality of religious fundamentalism even when a fellow human is slaughtered out of suspicion for eating beef.
We are indifferent to violence against women, and to the poor, deprived and marginalised, as they are ousted from their traditional lands and livelihoods.
We silently escape from reality while our private and public freedoms are encroached upon - we cannot read what we choose to read; watch what we choose to watch; eat what we choose to eat; speak what we choose to speak.
We watch from the sidelines when people are killed for their views and rationalists are murdered.
Fear silences and keeps most of us from openly disagreeing and voicing our views.
And some of us, the unthinking, shiftless-non-thinkers and the fence-sitters, are not sure what or whom to fear, and so we are generally fearful; some of us do not declare our views for fear of being wrong.
We fear going against the will of the majority that surrounds us.
We suffer paranoia that the repercussions of our dissenting views would spiral out of our control.
We fear our own peers. We fear persecution, ostracism, isolation - being cut dead from our social groups.
We fear the loss of the freedom to dissent. We fear vilification, victimisation, assault and violent opposition as punishment for our dissenting views.
We fear harassment and extortion from a near-fascist government and authorities.
Many thinking, thoughtful people prefer to remain silent, go with the flow and stay in our comfort zone, though we know that voicing dissent or commenting in public about possibilities (good or bad) of authoritarian pronouncements, or, speaking the truth and spreading awareness of the facts-of-the-matter, or offering alternate choices for the greater common good is the right thing to do. But, most of us do not dare to disagree due to our instinct to avoid conflict, and so we submit to the pressures of the popular and yet unthinking opinionists and become part of a herd, like cattle
What keeps the ‘thinking’ from speaking their minds and airing their thoughts? Many thinkers submerge their identities and thoughts with the intellectually incapable masses and resign themselves to fate. We capitulate to the prevailing atmosphere of fear and surrender to our own insecurities. We pull out spurious equivocations for our servile obedience in following political leaders who use synthetic expressions, dramatic gestures and make false promises.
The defense mechanisms of thinkers - to themselves and to the world - for their apathy and non-action are ‘Learned helplessness’. ‘Willful blindness’ and Amor fati. But these are not coping mechanisms, they are escapism.
Many thinkers and people of conscience are reluctant to speak out or write about what’s in their mind due to Learned helplessness.
Learned helplessness is our willing acquiescence to our perceived
absence of autonomy or control when we voluntarily endure unpleasant stimuli instead of avoiding it or escaping it. It is when we endure-without-evading pain and hurt, because we believe it is inevitable.
Learned Helplessness is when we feel helpless to escape from negative situations and so we avoid confrontation with the factors that cause unpleasantness because we feel we have no control over it. It is our abject and helpless surrender without protest when our rights are infringed.
Wilfull Blindness is another escape route for most thinking people who do not wish to take responsibility for themselves. We pretend that we don’t see, or don’t know about a situation. Willful blindness is like the ostrich-mentality myth (that an ostrich buries its head in the ground to avoid danger, assuming that if it can’t see - it can’t be seen). So we too, deliberately put ourselves in a position where we will shelter our senses, to ‘not see or know’, feigning ignorance on the hypothesis that if we are perceived to be unaware of the facts, we are not liable. Willful blindness is not oversight. Oversight is an excuse for wilful blindness.
Willful blindness, is what most privileged people in the country I live in, practice. It is what we do when we come face-to-face with the inequality and injustice that we encounter every time we go out on the streets, we become willfully blind to the corruption, dirt and poverty around us, insulating ourselves from reality. Keeping ourselves guilt free. We shut our eyes to the facts, willfully.
Amor fati (love of our own fate) is the third excuse to ourselves. Amor fati is when we accept the view that we are not in control of our own lives and that we are merely actors, acting out a predestined, pre-written and perhaps divine script. We use Amor fati as resigned acceptance of injustice towards ourselves and to others. We therefore accept the occurrences and state-of-affairs in our lives as though it is preordained and an inevitable fact of our existence which we cannot do anything about.
If we see something. We must say something. The thoughtful people amongst us must reject Amor fati, Learned helplessness & Willful blindness from our beings. We must conquer fear and turn our thoughts to ‘Willful action’, ‘Learned helpfulness and ‘Love of freedom of choice’ and express our right to compassion, humanity and individual dignity and our right to freedom to live in a plural community in peace, love and understanding.
After a long stint in advertising and corporate communications, I am a consultant in corporate communications, marketing-communication strategy and brand management. I also write advertising copy and work as a freelance copy-editor. I am Founder member of the Ecological Literacy Forum (ELF). Was a member of ‘Climate Change - Hyderabad Platform, Founder-Trustee of the Hyderabad Western Music Foundation (HWMF). I write as ‘Passive activist/Active pacifist’ - on ecology, our environment, need for compassion and humanity, dogs, social justice, music and dance: http://pratapantony.blogspot.in/. And essays on Management Ideas and Issues: http://reformcommunications.blogspot.in/