Sunday, February 6, 2011
Human Comfort: Challenge And Opportunity For Liberty Advocates
People want comfort. From a certain standpoint, it can be credibly stated that comfort drives the human animal more strongly than any other factor, though one must be careful when taking the idea to such extremes because he faces the risk of distorting the meaning of "comfort" too wildly. Suffice it to say that comfort is one of the truly central aspects of a human being's moment to moment existence.
In the interest of knowing better that of which we shall speak, let us once again turn to the dictionary that we may have the definition at hand. From dictionary.com:
4. relief in affliction; consolation; solace: Her presence was a comfort to him.
5. a feeling of relief or consolation: Her forgiveness afforded him great comfort.
6. a person or thing that gives consolation: She was a great comfort to him.
7. a cause or matter of relief or satisfaction: The patient's recovery was a comfort to the doctor.
8. a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety: He is a man who enjoys his comfort.
9. something that promotes such a state: His wealth allows him to enjoy a high degree of comfort.
11. Obsolete . strengthening aid; assistance.
1175–1225; (v.) Middle English comfortien, variant of confortien, conforten < Anglo-French, Old French conforter < Late Latin confortāre to strengthen, equivalent to con- con- + -fortāre verbal derivative of Latin fortis strong; (noun) Middle English < Anglo-French, Old French, noun derivative of the v.
Note the etymological origin of the word, meaning to strengthen, which brings us to the concept of power. In my experience, all people seek power in one form or another. Toddlers strive to walk, then run, and as they grow take on new and more difficult challenges, the attainment of each increasing their immediate personal power. Once again from dictionary.com:
1. ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.
1250–1300; Middle English pouer ( e ), poer ( e ) < Anglo-French poueir, poer, noun use of infinitive: to be able < Vulgar Latin *potēre (replacing Latin posse to be able, have power).
One can clearly see the interplay between comfort and power. To be empowered is in some manner to be comforted.
Generally speaking, people will attach themselves to whatever it may be that brings them the comfort they seek. Different people derive that comfort in different ways. Some find it in food, others in drugs and alcohol, religious devotion, love, and even anger and hatred. Paradoxically, others are comfortable often or even only while in a state of some form of discomfort. There are many dimensions to comfort.
Emotional comfort may stem from relationships, religion, politics, etc., the latter being one of the big sources. In that context, people choose the political views that offer them the best fit for comfort in accord with their needs and desires. This often translates into truth-be-damned adherence to a set of belief, as is most often the case with religion, to cite another example. Comfort is, for many people, far and away more important to them than is truth . This is readily verifiable by observing how their behavior comports itself with respect to their statements regarding the place that truth occupies in their lives. One will often find that those who claim truth as ultimately significant often behave in ways that betray the claim as false to greater or lesser degrees. It may be also observed that the greater the claim of truth's significance is, the greater that degree of falsehood. If the truth threatens their comfort, they often reject it out of hand. In many cases, they will become violent and even kill to protect themselves from truths that threaten their comfort sufficiently.
When some fundamental aspect of a person's comfort is perceived as being seriously threatened, almost anything is possible in the way of a reaction. This can be readily observed in the areas of religion and personal relationships. The screaming believer, so thoroughly convinced that his "faith" is the absolute and only truth in existence will actively reject any evidence contradicting those beliefs, no matter how undeniably the facts may establish the falsehood of his belief system. Press the issue with sufficient force of logic and persistence and you may find yourself sporting a radiating shiner.
Consider the housewife whose husband stands accused of molesting their children. Perhaps as often as not the spouse will stand by her man and remain in utter, stoic denial regardless of the fact that irrefutable evidence has been presented, proving the charges without any room for reasonable doubt. Because their comfort is so heavily vested in their relationships, to acknowledge the facts present a truth too terrible to accept, and so they hide in the comfort of their fantasies.
And so it is with political beliefs, which in many ways occupy analogous positions to those of the religious in the belief systems of people and the comfort they provide. This fact assumes particular significance when one attempts to engage in the act of altering the most closely held political beliefs of others. It is, therefore, something that must be recognized and understood by those holding dear the truths of personal liberty. Many, and perhaps even most, people fail to understand what freedom actually is. They mistake what I call "pretty slavery" for freedom and regard actual freedom as a state of chaotic and dangerous insanity - of brute anarchy where there are no rules save that of the jungle such that those with the most power rule over the rest without mercy. What they fail to see is that this precisely describes our current system to a 'T'.
The challenge, then, is to make this apparent to them, and the only way to do this with any hope of success is to discover and understand the relevant factors of comfort as they apply to those in question. One of the fundamental requirements in the method for bringing such people around to the ways of true freedom is the need to be able to identify and understand a given individual's comfort with respect to his objections to liberty. One must understand what makes such people tick - what it is that attracts them to whatever flavor of pretty slavery it is to which they cling. Without this information it is at best very difficult to change anothers' point of view, given the near-religious fervor with which some hold such opinions.
Once one has the basic understanding of the others' comfort in hand, and assuming the person to be convinced is an intelligent, honest, open-minded individual of nominal mental health, addressing and assuaging the threats to his comfort regarding his attachment to slavery becomes the first step toward the elimination of this objections to real freedom. Getting one to recognize that his version of slavery is not freedom is an uphill battle at best. If you are going to engage in such efforts, best that you proceed as well equipped as possible because you will likely have your work cut out.
Comfort is of central importance to all humanity, regardless of the fact that it takes on such wildly varying forms between individuals. We all have those things that "make us tick". Comfort is very much a two-edged sword that has both helped us and harmed us. Understanding the form comfort takes in any given person is central to understanding him and key in helping you determine what approach to take with them in your efforts to illuminate them to the beauty and virtues of freedom.
Until next time, please accept my best wishes.