Freedom is not just a potential opportunity to do the things that one openly chooses to do, because most human actions are predicated on primal instincts such as fear. Moreover, most of the things that one makes others do are done out of fear. Of course they include not only fear, but also love and other passions, though fear stands out as the most significant component in the motivation for one's actions.
I can justify this statement by simply analyzing the fact that fear is a major factor that survives across generations throughout the entire span of biological evolution as a result of natural selection. Organisms that experience more fear and are more aware of their surroundings express due diligence and caution in their actions and responses, thereby avoiding more life-threatening dangers. In their aversion they are sustaining their bloodline, or rather their genetic contributions to future generations, and ultimately increase their Darwinian Fitness (pass their genes to the next generation). We can assume that our ability to experience fear is a result of lengthy evolution. Christophe Lambert, in his book "La socit de la peur" ("The Society of Fear"), argues that modern society is based on fear. It could be the fear of financial losses, unemployment, or inability to support one's family, but it also can include the fear of solitude, fear of growing old, fear of sickness, and of course the fear of death. Lambert makes a strong statement that modern society provokes most of this fear by imposing competitive values and an intense pace of life. One of his major concerns is television, which he calls "le nouvel' opium du peuple" ("the new opium of the people"). Once it started as a very positive feature of life in the early 1950s, extending the horizons and the abilities of common people to acquire knowledge about other nations and about world events, but with time it has become so manipulative that it is difficult for the viewer to distinguish between truth and drama. Lambert mentions that society at the beginning of the twenty-first century still remembers the consequences of attempts to fulfill the utopian ideals of some questionable minds of the twentieth century: Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud.
Nietzsche continued to explore concerns with the existence of God, and therefore finished the work of the philosophers of the Enlightenment and the philosophers of the French revolution. By stating that "God is dead" he started a deep crack in the once-solid belief in the Almighty. He also created the concept of the "superman" that provided the foundation for Nazi attempts to improve the human race.
Karl Marx created a utopian economic theory by criticizing the old brand of capitalism of the nineteenth century, but he also made false predictions about the future development of class struggle which ultimately laid the basis for numerous communist states. This almost led to global nuclear war and a complete extinction of the human species.
Sigmund Freud, probably the most innocent of this trio, developed a theory of the subconscious, arguing that most people's motivations are based on aggression and libido. This laid the groundwork for a series of sexual revolutions which occurred in the decades of the 20s, 50s, 70s, and 80s of the twenty-first century. Most likely Freud didn't do much damage on a global scale and was also quite successful in developing methods of psychoanalytical theories. But we cannot ignore the likelihood that his ideas had a certain influence on the rate of divorce and jeopardized the institution of the family by diminishing the value of people's relationships, bringing them down to the "libido-aggression" level.
Christophe Lambert, once again, brings up the statistics of divorce rates in France, which have grown 400% in the last forty years. According to other statistics, 1 in every 3 marriages in the United States ends in divorce. Solitude, absence of family support, confusing religious beliefs, indefinite sexual relationships, and frustrating and scary media provide a full portrait of our fears in a nutshell.
How is it possible to obtain freedom from fear? The only way that I can see is to combat the factors that create fear, the factors that we have analyzed above. In order to combat solitude we must learn to build our relationships on a mutual basis and not to expect more than the other party can give. This even though (as Lambert argues) the internet is separating people rather than connecting them, because it eliminates personal contact. Personally I cannot agree with this statement, because the Internet today allows video conversations and very intense socialization, even with the most distant parts of the world. So I would argue that we should praise the Internet as a wonderful medium for building great relationships and making new friends, because avenues now exist to meet professional colleagues and start relationships with total strangers, which would not otherwise be possible. We also must admit that the Internet is a safe way to do this, in so far as it is not possible to cause any harm in a physical way through such virtual means of communication.
We cannot diminish the importance of the basic needs of each and every individual to have some sort of system of belief that may or may not be based on conventional religious ideas. It doesn't matter whether the individual chooses to be a believer or an atheist, but it is very important that he build a system of beliefs that he will feel comfortable with and then stay consistent with.
Lambert further argues that the main occupation of modern society is consumption. "Sex idols" have become a commodity not unlike oil, wheat, and sugar. In the same way that excessive consumption of sugar is not good for one's health and may even cause diabetes, excessive consumption of "sex idols" is not good for your soul or your family and will eventually leave you in a state of isolation and solitude. Alain Delon, the famous French actor who ruled women's hearts all over the world for almost half a century, now spends his days completely alone in the pleasant company of his three dogs and one cat, as the magazine "Paris Match" reports to its readers. When he was asked in an interview why he is not happy and why he is alone, he answered: "I wasn't programmed for happiness. I was programmed for success." Those two things don't always come hand in hand. Therefore, the world is starting to turn its eyes from the wild promiscuity of the 70s and 80s to old-fashioned family values that we may choose to adopt in order to obtain freedom from fear of solitude and isolation.
It is important to move towards the restoration of the old-fashioned family values that have been destroyed in the wake of industrialization and post- industrialization. Emancipation, which granted equal rights to both sexes, also has a dark side in that it has deprived women of their privileges as the weaker gender which many women would love to restore. Society, in the era of total emancipation, has failed to provide basic childcare and educational services on a level comparable to that which could be insured by active parental involvement. There is a need to build strong family relationships using compromises and by expressing sincere interest in the problems and beliefs of your loved ones. This can provide us with at least a slight hope of not finding ourselves in old age suffering from solitude and isolation.
I believe that by limiting exposure to the media we may substantially reduce our level of fear and anxiety. We don't realize how strongly we are influenced by the images we see on TV. One young woman who resides in a tiny French village was interviewed by TF1 and reported that she experienced a lot of fear. When asked why she felt this fear she answered, "Avec tout ce que l'on voit la tl on a des raisons d'avoir peur" ("With all this that one can watch on TV, one has reasons to have fear"). If TV is negatively impacting the lives of modest inhabitants in distant villages, what can we expect from people living in the frenzy of modern cities?
Protecting ourselves from excessive exposure to the media might reduce our tendency to sink into consumerism, and therefore protect us from an obsession with consumption as the main focus of our lives. In abandoning consumerism as a lifestyle, we may be surprised to realize how few things a person really needs to support their existence.
When we manage to achieve freedom from fear, however, we will need to find a way to overcome our fear of freedom, because there is really nothing to fear but fear itself. The only question that remains is, are we ready to face the possibilities of a free existence?