Freedom Starts with Navel-Gazing
Posted by PintofStout on February 28, 2006
In Erich Fromm’s Escape From Freedom, he explores the roots of Fascism and authoritarianism. In order to define some psychological terms there is a discussion of the motivations and manifestations of Sadism and Masochism, which, he continues to theorize, are the base desire(s) of submission to authority*, be it sexually or socially/politically. The drive for such feelings is derived from insecurity and doubt about one’s self and their place and role in nature. It is the anxiety of not knowing one’s role and feeling alone, isolated, and powerless as we realize our individuality that drives the escape from the individuality to being dominated or dominating to feel part of a group and thus escape from doubt and uncertainty (only seemingly, though).
When I read that escape from uncertainty to questions like, “Who am I? Why am I here?” and “ How do I fit in” often lead to submission to authority, I immediately thought of the quote I had posted at the top of this site for a while: “Know Thyself,” from the inscription above the entrance to the Oracle of Delphi. Philosophically, it has been said that the vague answers that the Oracle gave had no particular meaning but what the questioner believed the meaning to be, thus the answers were from “thyself” and not really from the Oracle and an understanding of thyself would hold your true answer.
In slightly less lofty terms, a question can be a quest to reach a certain destination. The answer, though many would say it was the destination, is the path which leads to understanding – the real destination. The very first step toward an answer has to be a realization of a starting point, an anchor that the path will grow from. The anchor or starting point of a path toward understanding is the Self; all answers building the path start at the anchor. In relation to Fromm’s explanation of escape from freedom and the doubt and insecurity that may come with it, knowing clearly one’s self provides an anchor in relating to the world and one’s place in it, which would reduce or eliminate the tendency for submission and escape. If that tendency can be eliminated, one will not be ruled, but achieve true freedom. Where did this freedom originate? Knowing Thyself and the security that comes with a firm understanding of thyself. When searching for freedom, start by looking inward.
*Yes, they are the same drive, just manifested differently. Read the book, it’s pretty good.