Objective fear, Part I

In trying to understand the Objectivist mindset and related worldviews, I’ve come to a surprising awareness of the amount of fear that drives these people. When people who subscribe to the Just World fallacy are faced with the unrelenting evidence of their own experience that bad things do happen to good people, a suppressed fear of something like that happening to them can provide fuel for the fire of their anger at others who are needy. If they know, deep down, that the homeless beggar is a vision of themselves, of who they could be with a few accidents and disadvantages, their anger can be a kind of self-protection mechanism that is trying to eliminate their own fear. It’s self-hate turned outwards.  I think something similar can happen on a society-wide level, where the reasonably secure people express a near-hatred of those less fortunate. Deep down, I think that hate is often a defensive anger driven by fear.

One of the hallmarks of this response is that the answer doesn’t match the question. The anger isn’t a reasonable response to the problem presented; it’s a response to an entirely different problem which is brought up by the mental interpretation of the angry person. The defensive mechanism gets triggered by something related to the deep problem within the person’s mind and worldview, and the defense is a defense against the problem they experience, not a defense against the question or issue that was raised.

Slacktivist expressed something like this as a situation where I see a child drowning, and say to another bystander, “Look! That kid’s drowning!” and the bystander responds with an angry scream: “But I didn’t throw her in! It’s not my fault she’s drowning! I didn’t do it!” The answer doesn’t match the question. In this case, the answer entirely bypasses a question, because in the bystander’s mind, me pointing out that the kid is drowning triggers a whole sequence, and what the bystander hears is some imaginary version of me. I might say, “Look! That kid’s drowning!” but what the bystander hears is Imaginary Literata saying, “That kid’s drowning! Jump in and save her! I don’t care if you can’t swim! If you drown too, that’s your own fault for not learning how to swim! I’m going to throw you in too if you don’t go help her!” The bystander’s response makes more sense if he’s responding to Imaginary Literata, whose observation has morphed not just into a question but into a threat.

The anger that Objectivists and similar-minded people express towards those less fortunate than them is actually a response to a perceived threat. It’s not about the “fairness” of who benefits from whose labor, and it’s not about the suppression of the heroic by the moochers. When people like this, individually or in political groups, respond to the needs of others with an anger that misses the point of the need, it’s not just victim blaming. It’s a response to the imaginary threat that Objectivists will be hurt just as badly or worse than those who are in need. When what I do is point out those who are in need, or ask for help myself, I’m not making that threat. The perceived threat is a projection of the very real fear that the Objectivist himself could end up in need or asking for help.

This worldview makes the existence of those less fortunate into something to be perceived as an active threat and responded to with anger, a defensive posture caused by fear. In the end, that fear is the most objective thing about the so-called Objectivist response.

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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One Response to Objective fear, Part I

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