An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Discussion on Fear

Fear.jpgLast night I had an interesting discussion with a friend, Puneet. He is an ex-Indian Army officer and a very dear friend. Also, he is probably the source of a lot of the wisdom that gets attributed to me because of the posts.

The topic last night was “Fear”.

Needless to say, that in the aftermath of the Mumbai Attacks – one thing that has come to the fore is this central human quality called “Fear”. It was Fear that set those killers on the journey to kill – the fear of diversity or a world of differences or opinions that do not work with our opinions.

Their answer to “fighting” that Fear was to instill Fear in others by killing those “others” that they thought would end this dichotomy of opinions. Little realizing that the differences of opinions are because the minds are different (because the baggage they carry is different). So, killing a person will not eliminate that difference.

Once the killings happened, the people in the city and elsewhere were full of Fear. It was a more physical fear and that of the unknown. The unknown nature of this beast that had descended on the country and this society.

Everybody’s reaction – including mine, those I support and criticize – are fashioned by a certain level of fear. The degree may be different, but fear is at the center of everyone’s response. We are not looking at the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that dichotomies and the differences and the diversity (forced and natural) will stay in this Universe (or multi-verse if you so insist). The entire existence itself has a basic dichotomy – of Creation and Destruction. Both are its natural states.

Fear and Army Training

In Army, a certain way is taught to deal with fear. The new chaps are given “ragda sessions” – basically ragging by seniors and punishments by instructors. Sometimes there is a reason for the punishment, and often times there isn’t. For example, this senior is walking and sees the new guy and just because he hasn’t gotten a letter/email from his girl friend, he would order this junior to start doing this tough exercise.

Such treatment probably goes through a series of reactions in the new entrants – Anger, Anxiety, Apathy, and then Action (to fight back). It is this long chain of reactions that Army probably needs to short circuit. So when the new soldiers graduate and get to the real world – they don’t sit around seething in anger or sulking because the world is so cruel…. they jump to action in the most efficient way possible given the circumstances. Army is ALL about shortening this chain of reaction… and that is how it should be to discharge its duties!

Fear and Life

As I said earlier, Fear is the most central human emotion. In fact in this world, even Love is defined by Fear. The fear of losing leads to possessiveness which we mistakenly keep calling love.

Now, Fear and Violence are two different things. You can resort to violence without having any Fear and you can be Non-Violent because you have Deep Fear!

You can either Deny fear or Acknowledge it. Almost 99% of the human population lives in denial. Fear is not just fear of death or of heights or other such phobias, but the Fear itself! Fear of disagreements, the fear of losing a loved one.. etc.

Denial does not lead to anything except reinforcement of Fear even harder. We try to run away and avoid the situations of Fear but the entire avoidance does nothing.

On the other hand, Acknowledgment of Fear is a more constructive way out. However, even when we acknowledge the Fear, most of us are Reactive. very few are Proactive. The difference between a person in Denial and that who Acknowledges-but-is reactive is very important but not completely healing – the latter keeps taking measures after the fact. The former does nothing.

The proactive management of fear, on the other hand, is all about Identifying the source and Definition of Fear itself. If you don’t know what you are beset with, it is very difficult to find a path out of such a mess. Once you have identified the source and defined the fear itself, then we need a Short term (immediate) and Long Term solution.

I personally feel, and as suggested by Puneet himself, that in Bhagwad Gita, Krishna provided a perfect blend of both. He asked Arjuna to fight because that was his duty NOT because that would make him a great man. Yes, that would happen, he said (the accomplishment and the honor that came with winning), but fighting a war that had already been set in place without his wanting, is probably the only way out. The fight was his duty and there was no way out of it.

Identifying and doing what is our duty as a Ruler, as a Police Officer, as an educationist, as a Professional or as an Artist…to the best of our ability to create open minds and strong analytical and inquisitive people is what is required.

If Violence does occur in the course of our duty, it should happen not because we want to hurt, but because the one who wants to hurt has left us with no option. Inaction in the face of Violence and making pleas for an eternal peace does not heal. It merely encourages the Universe’s tendency to negativity. Destruction is a form of Healing. And that to me is an important message.

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