From the early ages people have stayed together and formed groups in order to protect themselves from the dangers of the external world. Being unprotected and vulnerable to physical threats, our ancestors felt their interdependence and vital importance of staying in the group. The basic need to feel safe and secure has been encoded in our genetic memory and became pivotal not only for physical, but also for the psychological comfort.
The need in protection and safety is of high priority and perceived to be worth compromising everything else when one faces a danger. The closer the danger is to a person, the more willingly, consciously or subconsciously the person compromises ethics and moral principles. There are very few people who are ready to sacrifice their lives, security and safety in the name of adamant moral stance. When in danger, humans are weak, because the survival instinct is a part of human nature. Thus, together with a sound sense of fear, security wins over morality.
When there is security, people develop individually; their basic needs are met and other needs become important, for example, need ability to take decisions and decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong. Development of critical and analytical thinking, time to think and analyze – it all comes when one does not need to live in fear or constant struggle for life, when people feel secure about their lives. And security requires giving away power, agreeing to the stated rules. Thus, urge for security leads to complacency with authority, and at the same time security itself gives birth to individual freedom. People who are born and raised in constant fear for their life will never doubt the righteousness of authority on which they depend.
With the direct threat to their lives, people would kill. Even fighting someone whom you do not even know becomes possible for many people, when they are faced with danger. In Ralph Ellison’s “Battle Royal”, boys who are blinded and scared start hitting each other with the only aim on their minds – to protect themselves (15).
We comply with the rules to feel safe and to avoid chaos in which we as separate beings feel unsafe and discomforted. The grounds of establishing authority may be manifold and complicated, but it is obvious that people unite for the benefit of all and everyone. To feels safe and secure people voluntarily give up part of their own freedom for the personal sake and for the sake of others.
In Sophocles’ “Antigone”, the main character Antigone faces a great challenge for her moral stance as a citizen and a human. Her two brothers kill each other; one is buried with honor as a hero, and another’s body is left unburied. The moral duty tells her to bury her brother and the order from the king forbids it. However, while nothing that kings have a privilege not to follow someone’s order, but act independently and make orders themselves (439), she does not base her argument on the urge to be free to make her own decisions.
She fears that she would be held accountable in her afterlife for not fulfilling her moral duty. “Longer the time in which to please the dead than that for those up here” (437), says Antigone to her sister Ismene. She considers the moral obligation to be stronger. This is another way of finding security – by conforming not to the authority of man, but to the authority of gods. And even though the fact that she disobeyed the king and buried her brother maybe considered as an act of individual freedom, it is also a clear urge to conformity and securing oneself from dangers in the afterlife.
Another argument to that can be found in “The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It” movie, where it is explained that to be a conscientious objector means to have faith and respect the fundamental value of “not to kill”. Thus, for religious people being accountable for everything you do in life means securing their place on heaven. On the other hand even those who are not religious can still be of high moral principles and would never kill another person.
Conscientious objectors did not go to Vietnam War and World War II, because they refused to kill people. But they probably would kill in order to protect themselves and their families, if the enemy would come to their homes. So, it would not be a matter of conforming to authority orders and compromising individual freedom, but protection of their own life. Thus, in immediate danger the need for security becomes prior to any moral value.
People can sometimes sacrifice their individual freedom to delusional comfort, when there is a risk to comply with actions that either harm you or other people. Here it is also very important to realize that authority and orders come from people who are vested with power by others. Authority of the state, an institute of power established and run by people, is opposite to the individual freedom. Thus, satisfying own urge to conform, a person at the same time satisfies others’ need to execute power, to impose decisions and to force someone do something.
No war can be considered good war, even when it seems obvious that you are fighting the bad guys. Very often those whom you kill are the same people as you are, conforming to their own authority in search of security. And same as you are they do not have enough strength, inner sense of peace and comfort to resist the authority.