How to Be Free
Author: Joe Blow

Chapter 23
Fight Against Only That Which You Wish to Become

Since the purpose of our armouring is to protect us it stands to reason that criticism or hostility towards the armoured individual will generally be an ineffective approach to getting them to change their behaviour. Anything which makes them feel less secure will reinforce their armouring.

Very often when discussing things with those who cling to rigid dogmas, Iíve tried to point out that that dogmatic thinking is irrational or illogical in some way. I canít ever remember a case of them giving consideration to this criticism, rather, in most cases, they would respond simply by strongly restating their faith in that dogma. This makes sense, because dogma is precisely a defence against the brainís capacity for free thought based on the fear that such thought might lead to a scary place.

The way that things change for the better in the world is not through fighting against what is wrong but by developing an alternative to it. A good example of this is the intolerance of some conservative societies to some forms of sexuality. Such intolerance is not gone. In some societies it is still dominant. But if we look at what happened in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States where homosexuality was considered socially unacceptable by the majority of the population and sometimes illegal throughout the first half of the Twentieth Century, we will see that what brought about the change to the relatively more tolerant attitude we have today was not criticism of the conservative viewpoint, although that certainly occurred. What changed things was that a few individuals openly defied social expectation. When those who were still ďliving in the closetĒ saw the example being set and that those who were being true to themselves, while still treated appallingly in some cases, were, in general, happier than those, like themselves, who were giving in to social oppression, they began to follow that example. It is always hardest for the first individuals who break free of oppression. The more who pour through the crack that has opened in the dam of the dogmatic society, the easier it is for them all. Those who oppose homosexuality were once powerful individuals who could crush and kill the brightest in society as happened to Oscar Wilde, now they are just pathetic individuals waving placards at AIDís victims funerals. That happened not through fighting them, but by refusing to be intimidated by them and showing that a life free of sexual repression could be a happier and more productive one.

While criticism and other forms of attack rarely bring about positive change in those whose behaviour is destructive, we also have to consider the danger that, in fighting against them, we are liable to become more like them.

During the Second World War, Great Britain fought against the Nazis in Germany and the Fascists in Italy. Now the Nazis were an example of a group of individuals who were so severely neurotically armoured that they had developed such a powerful fear of certain racial groups (and certain other groups) that they felt threatened as long as those individuals were present and so tried to exterminate them. Such an unhealthy society would, at some time, have to implode, but it was very efficient at killing people, so it had the capacity to take millions of innocent individuals with it on its path to self-destruction. And that is what it did.

But what happened when Great Britain fought a war against this horrific evil? Germany was in the thrall of a charismatic leader who was unquestioningly followed. So Great Britain got its own charismatic leader - Winston Churchill. Germany instituted state censorship and engaged in extensive propaganda. Great Britain instituted state censorship and engaged in extensive propaganda. Germany armed its young men and trained them to become effective killers. Great Britain armed its young men and trained them to be effective killers. Germany carried out the wholesale slaughter of civilians through the bombing of cities. Great Britain carried out the wholesale slaughter of civilians through the bombing of cities.

This does not mean that the fight against Naziism was wrong. In a world in which neurotic armouring is the norm, you have to do whatever you can when a society starts carrying out an act of genocide.

The point is that the price we pay for that approach to fighting evil is that we become contaminated by it ourselves. We may not sink the the depths of our enemies but we follow them a good deal of the way.

Another example of this is the behaviour of some of those who fought against communism in the United States during the height of the Cold War. During the McCarthyist period individuals were fighting against communism by instituting censorship, jailing dissidents, encouraging citizens to inform on their neighbours and promoting patriotism, i.e. the submission of the individual to the concept of a collective state. And yet, surely, these were some of the very things which were wrong with communism.


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