Everyone’s talking about death these days. I guess it’s more fun than following the campaign ads. Depending on who you read, the fear of death may make you a bigot, or a Republican, or a Buddhist.
- Amanda Marcotte writes, “As Lorraine noted in her post on this the other day, one of the primary features of turning someone into an Other that you can feel superior towards is to symbolically cast them as embodied and then implicitly or even explicitly cast yourself as superior and transcendent of bodily concerns. How does this work? Well, . . . you have racists who think that white people are smarter than black people and concurrently that black people are better athletes, which is a way of saying that black people are embodied but white people are somehow transcendent. Fundie homophobes obsess over anal sex because to them, penetration is about humiliating and embodying the penetrated one, showing that she is just a fleshy thing that will die. That men can get penetrated means men are soft, fleshy beings that will die and this causes them to panic.” More, including the application to torture and some good links.
- The omnipresent Cass Sunstein blogs about a 2004 study (abstract here) that found people were more likely to approve of Bush’s policies and to vote for him after being reminded that they would die someday. “Unless circumstances have relevantly changed since 2004, Bush — and almost certainly Republican candidates more generally — are likely to benefit from any reference to terrorism or the September 11 attacks. So Karl Rove knows exactly what he is doing.” More. The generic name for this kind of research is “mortality salience.”
- My one-time classmate and longtime friend, philosopher David Loy, has published in this area too, but he takes it in a different direction. “Consciousness of death is our primary repression [contra Freud]. The Buddhists claim that, since the self is insubstantial, the death-denial represents quite valid suspicion that ‘I’ do not really exist. Fear of physical death is one manifestation of the deeper fear of the death of this ‘I’.” The cure is to recognize the truth. “When I am no longer striving to make myself real through things, I am actualized. When I stop trying to become something, I discover that I am everything.“ Bad news for fundamentalism, both political and religious. Much more.