I recently made a post where I wrote, “I think we need [methods] to get people to rise up to become the bravest and most disciplined versions of themselves, in a way that doesn’t compromise their intellect but actually grants things that the intellect has sought but not found through any other avenue and thereby cleans, nourishes, and strengthens the intellect.”
I think one thing—and possibly one of the most important things—that will strengthen and purify the intellect in this way is the removal of fear: fear of sacrifice, and fear of death.
Because fear blocks you from considering certain things:
Immediately, it blocks you from considering the viability and validity of courses of action that may lead you to risk sacrifice or death.
But maybe even more importantly, it also blocks you from considering certain more general possibilities or theories that, if they were true, would lead you to feel it was necessary to risk sacrifice or death (e.g., accepting the validity of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism entails accepting the truth that protracted armed revolution is necessary for the liberation of humanity).
I could be way off base, but I think the way this works is mostly that the subconscious often “goes on ahead” and scouts things out, tentatively investigating the logical conclusions of theories and courses of action, and if those conclusions look scary after a quick investigation, we become emotionally disinclined toward consciously exploring that theory, either angry or afraid of it. And in this process our subconscious only more rarely investigates and tells us about the possible fruitfulness of accepting and embracing these theories and courses of action.
And I mean this in a deep and philosophical sense. We already know that in the bourgeoisie, their fear of sacrifice is part of what causes them to miss important basic aspects of human psychology and therefore to fail to understand the fundamental laws of motion of human society and history. I think that to the extent that communists also fear sacrifice and death, it prevents us from observing and understanding deeper aspects of those same laws. But we must grasp them as deeply as we can, because without that we have nothing.
Mao wrote, “Dialectical materialism is in the service of the proletariat.” And so if something leads us to a more true grasp of the material facts, it serves the people.
And so then the question is about what will allow one to reduce one’s fear of sacrifice and death. Ultimately I think it entails living in a way that has truly incorporated the facts that:
(a) You have deep motivations that are often in contradiction with more shallow and immediate cravings, and you will live the life you are most deeply satisfied with by living as completely as possible within those deeper motivations and basically ignoring the more shallow and immediate cravings.
(b) Your well-being is bound up in how well the broad masses of people are doing, so in a very real sense the broad masses of people are you (that is, materially, your “self” really does include them). Put another way, you get the same results caring for the broad masses as you seek when you care for your own body and mind, so in this full material way, they are part of your self.
And these are really two aspects of the same thing, because those deepest motivations are best met by wielding one’s creative labor in a way that serves the people.
(Edit: Let it also be said that you are going to die one day no matter what you do. You could die today. When you confront yourself with this knowledge regularly and force yourself to look directly at it, the question of “How do I want to live my life? Who do I want to serve?” becomes a much more real and meaningful question than “How can I avoid death and loss?” because that question is literally and truly nonsensical.)
If you live within this knowledge, you will be in a mindset that fears sacrifice and death the least, because you will be in a state of minimized concern for your short-term pleasures and your own immediate physical body.
You may object that you can’t well have those deep motivations met if you’re dead, but can’t meet them at all ever if you never let your fear of sacrifice and death slip from you. And the iron truth is, no amount of fear will prevent you from dying one day one way or another, so the question is how you want to live the life you do have.
And I don’t want to pose as someone who has definitively mastered these fears, at all. But this is without a doubt the truth, however scary, and something we as communists should move toward and embrace enthusiastically.
Mao says it again and again:
“I agree with this slogan, ‘First do not fear hardship, second do not fear death.’”
“Give full play to our style of fighting—courage in battle, no fear of sacrifice, no fear of fatigue,”
“Be resolute, fear no sacrifice.”
“Communists the world over are wiser than the bourgeoisie, they understand the laws governing the existence and development of things, they understand dialectics and they can see farther. The bourgeoisie does not welcome this truth because it does not want to be overthrown. To be overthrown is painful and is unbearable to contemplate for those overthrown.”
“Fear? I believe that fear and lack of fear form a contradiction. The point is to take up our ideology, and unleash the courage within us. It is our ideology that makes us brave, that gives us courage. In my opinion, no one is born brave. It is society, the class struggle, that makes people and communists courageous—the class struggle, the proletariat, the Party, and our ideology. What could the greatest fear be? Death? As a materialist I know that life will end some day. What is most important to me is to be an optimist, with the conviction that others will continue the work to which I am committed, and will carry it forward until they reach our final goal, communism. Because the fear that I could have is that no one would carry on, but that fear disappears when one has faith in the masses. I think that the worst fear, in the end, is not to have faith in the masses, to believe that you’re indispensable, the center of the world. I think that’s the worst fear and if you are forged by the Party, in proletarian ideology, in Maoism principally, you understand that the masses are the makers of history, that the Party makes revolution, that the advance of history is certain, that revolution is the main trend, and then your fear vanishes. What remains is the satisfaction of contributing together with others to laying the foundation so that some day communism may shine and illuminate the entire earth.”