Follow by Email

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Fear of Hell

Those who act out of fear aren't really acting at all. They are reacting and as such are not free. I hope I never act out of fear of hell or hope of eternal reward.

But here is a hell that I am afraid of. Sartre said it best: "L'enfer, c'est les autres": "Hell is others" or "hell is other people," he is often translated. Adversaries condemn Sartre for being anti-social in this statement. He is demeaning people, they say, and praising an existence without others.

Just the opposite! What Sartre is saying is that hell is the place we create where persons have been "otherized." In a hell, as Sartre experienced in Nazi occupied France, people are objects to be used to achieve a goal outside them. They are things to be manipulated, threats to be conquered, outsiders to be controlled by force. Hell is the place of demons, that is, where persons have been demonized, given names that make them less than human and so treated as such. They are foreigners, aliens, enemies, losers, perils, rather than neighbors, relatives, friends, actual or potential.

This is the danger of the populist movements we see expanding throughout the globe. It is the danger of Trumpism resting on Tea Partyism. The masses are bering manipulated into making persons into others "les autres," objects to be feared and hence becoming objects to be feared themselves--not as individuals, but as a mass. Mass democracy is demagoguery; and that is the hell to be avoided.

A civil society is one where all residents are citizens and no person is considered illegal. It is a community in which all persons are related or at least relatable. That is why I believe that the most basic civil act is recognizing another person as a person; and the most basic political act is saying hello, (bonjour, qué tal) to a person passing on the street. And the most fruitful political act is hearing and sharing their story.

Dividing people into sheep and goats, the elect and the condemned, good guys and bad guys, winners and losers, nationals and aliens, liberals and conservatives, lazy and industrious otherizes persons. And by demonizing others, we create our own hell. It is a fearful place because it is created by fear. And the only way to avoid hell is to reject fear and make every alien a friend. "L'enfer, c'est les autres"

No comments: