I was thinking about this as a result of comments on another blog. I've been struggling with trying to understand why some people seem so willing to limit the rights of others. Not just gun rights, but other civil liberties as well. It also happens in religion. Recently, I realized I was over-complicating this thing. The answer is not complicated, at all. It's this: Some people are afraid of freedom. While they may give verbal support to the idea of freedom, the thought of people actually enjoying and exercising freedom scares them. It scares them beyond what they can handle and far more than they will admit. In order to deal with that fear, they tend to do one or more of three things.
- They point to prior undesirable or even horrific events to demonstrate what happens when people exercise their rights. That it's only a relatively few who abuse their freedom to do wrong, is irrelevant. The fact that it has happened at all is proof of the danger of freedom. If freedom is to exist, it must be restrained or limited, is their cry. Interestingly, these folks may be in situations or live in places where they claim such things seldom or even “can't” happen. More denial.
- They raise the specter of vast chaos if more people were to exercise freedom. The horrors of the past are nothing compared to what will happen if there are fewer restraints on freedom or if more people choose to exercise it. Surely we are facing unprecedented mass confusion, at best and an explosion of abuses at worst. So, this "unfortunate" and "ill-informed" focus on freedom must clearly be opposed.
- They paint the proponents of freedom with a very ugly brush. Said proponents are accused of advocating anything from the mildest of offenses to the most despicable of behaviors. Only social pressure or lack of the proper incentive, trigger or set of circumstances has kept them from acting out on their most base urges themselves. Fortunately, our control advocates are there to oppose them and provide a solution.
But wait, there's more. See, this fear of freedom looks, on the surface, as if it's concerned with what will happen if a large number of people who lack restraint are suddenly empowered by freedom. That's not the way it really is. It has far more to do with the one advocating more control over others than it does anyone else. He or she is afraid. Afraid of a perceived threat? Often so, but also afraid of his or her own urges and issues. It's not simply about what others will do. It's what I (the control advocate) might do if allowed to be too free. And so, three things are done:
- The relatively small number of incidents is ignored or called irrelevant. The “controller's” neighborhood/social class/professional association/doctrinal group is declared free of the objectionable behavior(s). Objective reality is denied.
- The fears and insecurities of the control advocate are projected onto others.
- The person in favor of more control over others and more restrictions on freedom rushes to take up the cause as a way of countering his or her own issues.
There we have 3 classic, and common, defense mechanisms. Denial, projection and reaction formation. All as a way of dealing with their own fears, anger, rage and urges. Defense mechanisms are designed to protect us from psychological or emotional harm. We all use different ones at different times to protect us from both external and internal things. That's normal. External things might be something like the death of a loved one. Internal factors are often those things about myself that I find unacceptable, but that I'm not willing to consciously face and admit to.
The control advocate who fears freedom doesn't simply fear what will happen if you or I exercise our freedom. He fears what he might do if allowed to exercise his freedom. He fears his own issues, his own anger, his own rage and his own urges. And so, he denies his fear, he projects his issues onto others and he endorses something that opposes in some way the things he fears in himself.