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Unformatted text preview: us Epicure’s argument
that, since we can not know death, there is no reason to be afraid of it. Even if we accept
Epicure’s argument, and reject death itself as a reason for fear, there are, Tamir asserts, still
four different implications of death which may incite fear in human beings. First, we may fear
the process of dying (which is different from death). If this process is painful, or terrifying,
there is good reason to fear it, even if we do not fear its outcome. Second, we may have an
existential anxiety caused by the very temporariness of human existence, and its “incidental
and nonessential nature”8. Third, and as Tamir claims, closely related to the second, we may
be afraid that of the implications of death on the meaning of our existence, that death will
somehow render our existence meaningless. And fourth, we may be concerned about the fate
of our loved ones, and the fact that we would no longer be there to protect them.
Tamir shows that it is exactly in tackling these issues that the usefulness of nationalist
ideology comes to full light. First, she shows that nationalist and patriotic literature pictures CEU eTD Collection death on the battlefield as peaceful and dignified, thus releasing future soldiers from fear of
painful and brutal process of dying. “Moreover”, Tamir adds, “nationalist literature ties death
with hope and promise for a better future, rather than to despair and destitution.”9 The deaths
portrayed in nationalist propaganda are “but a beginning”10, a beginning of a better and
brighter future for the nation, but also of the new and eternal life in national history, for the
fallen soldiers. 8 Ibidem, 234.
9 5 This brings us straight to the second point Tamir makes, that nationalism “shifts finite
humane experience from the sphere of the mundane and contingent to the realm of the
eternal”. 11 She claims that nationalist rituals, literature and imagery create a collective
memory which ensures a sort of secular belief in personal immortality for the soldiers fallen
in battle. That way, nationalism is able to appease the fear of mortality itself, of the fact that
the world will go on without us. If we layed our life down for our country, it actually would
not go on without us, because we would have continued living in the collective memory.
Third, Tamir claims that nationalism is able to assure individuals that dying in battle
may make their lives more meaningful then they would have been otherwise, even if they
were longer. The reasoning behind this claim can be summarized in the following way: if
what we fear when we fear death is actually that our existence will lose its meaning, than the
cure for this fear is not to make our life longer, but to make it more meaningful. And although
the longevity and the meaningfulness of one’s life may coincide, they may also diverge and
even conflict. My life may actually be more meaningful if I sacrifice it for a worthy cause,
than if I prolong it and then spend the rest of it in petty and self-indulging amusement. A life
of a fire-fighter who dies at 30 while saving children from a burning building can be
considered more meaningful t...
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