bell hooks is a prominent writer on many topics but she is most well known for her branch of feminism. This explanation will not be about her feminist arguments, but for a brief overview, she is a big author for intersectionality (I could be wrong/oversimplifying here, but oh well). She does not capitalize her pen name “bell hooks” because she thinks it would draw too much attention to the author, so do not capitalize her name on your blocks. This explanation will focus on one chapter from one book and how that is the basis for the fear of death critique. The book is All About Love, the chapter is about love and loss. A quick heads up: due to the small amount of literature from bell hooks that this argument comes from, this will be more an argument explanation and less an author explanation.
The Basic Premise
This is a critique of representations. The affirmative’s (or negative’s) representations of death cause us to fear death. The fear of death causes us to live a life without meaning or value. Reject those images in favor of a love ethic or images based on love. It’s pretty simple.
The Link/internal link Debate
So the other team will almost always have lots of death impacts in their case. This critique does NOT work against teams whose impacts are just value or quality of life. Impacts like genocide, nuclear war, any war really, extinction, ecological devastation, disease, starvation, or really anything with a body count are fair game for this critique. The more graphic these representations are (hint: if they’re say things like “bodies piled upon bodies” or “won’t stop until everyone in your neighborhood bleeds to death” ) the more they link. These representations cause us to fear death because they make it seem as if death is everywhere. We develop anxiety towards life because of how present and imminent death seems. We then begin to see everything as a harbinger of death, and therefore not something that could enrich our lives.
It’s possible to use some other arguments, like saying the affirmative attempts to find an ultimate cure to death (like saying, for instance, that more free speech rights would end all wars) and therefore is an attempt to conquer the unconquerable—and when our dreams are inevitably crushed, we’ll withdraw from the world and never live life to the fullest. That said, the representations link is really the main one.
Alright, the fear of death is really, really bad. When we’re afraid of death, our actions and our thoughts are used to prevent death. We obsess over death and therefore cannot appreciate life. hooks says that there is a zero sum relationship between living and being afraid of dying. The fear of death consumes all of our energy that would be given to loving. Love gives life beauty, meaning, purpose, and ultimately happiness. Without love, we may as well be dead. She calls this state “soul murder.” You cannot impact her arguments with death—if you do, you link back into your own critique. Only value to life arguments fly.
With that said, you can still turn the affirmative. There are still several other related impacts. The first is securitization. When we see death everywhere, we try to protect ourselves from everything. In addition, we become afraid of the other. We see difference and the unknown as bringers of death. Why do we fight wars, if not to preserve our own life? You’ll have to be more creative here, and these arguments apply more towards critical affs, especially if one of their internal links is otherization or securitization.
Here’s where it helps to leave bell hooks. If you research online or in books, you can often find cards which say the politics of fear applied to X problem are counterproductive. For an example from this year’s topic, using fear with disease causes us to seek cures and not prevention, or causes us to stigmatize the people with the disease, or any number of other ways. A simple google search of “politics of fear” and “aids” brings up this wonderful card (merry Christmas)
Using fear-mongering to prevent the spread of AIDS not only increases the spread of the disease through the creation of a perverse fascination but destroys human dignity and love
Gilbert, writing for the National Post (Canada) 1998 (Sky, AIDS and the Politics of Fear, http://www.virusmyth.net/aids/data/sgfear.htm)
Since the first discovery of what was called a mysterious "gay cancer" in 1981, the politics of AIDS has been ruled by fear. Fear of disease, death, difference, and ultimately fear of touch and human love. Early statistics implied AIDS would soon become the most devastating infectious disease since the bubonic plague. For instance, The New York Times stated in 1985, "1,000,000 Americans . . . are believed to have been infected with the AIDS virus, and the total could be climbing by 1,000 to 2,000 per day." These fear-mongering statistics, like so many associated with the disease, proved to be false.
On the contrary, while new AIDS cases increased 60% in 1987, the Centers for Disease Control reported that they plummeted to 34% in 1988 and finally to 5% in 1991. Every death is a devastating one, and a disease like AIDS deserves generous government support. But these statistics are certainly atypical of a "plague." The exponential increases in AIDS deaths have simply not materialized. Some claim worldwide infection rates are still on the increase. But since 1993, a tiny minority (3%) of all those diagnosed with HIV die annually of AIDS. It's important to note reports of massive increases are invariably based on numbers from Africa, where expensive HIV tests are often not used. Statistics can be easily manipulated. And those who wish to warn us about the dangers of AIDS have invariably used statistics to frighten us into submission and abstinence.
My argument is simply; it cannot be done.
People cannot be frightened away from having sex. They cannot be frightened away from loving or touching each other. In fact, when fear is used as a method of social and health control, it invariably backfires. Historically, the fight against syphilis tells us this. Despite fear mongering about sex, Victorian private perversions flourished. Most modern day parents understand this principle. A dramatic lecture on the evils of smoking and the tortures of hell will certainly frighten an impressionable child. It is far more likely though, that the child will ultimately develop a fascination (and perhaps even an addiction) for that which is been so dramatically forbidden.
From the beginning, AIDS fear has been used as a method of social control. Everyone -- from public health officials, to homophobes -- have jumped on the "fear" bandwagon. One can agree or disagree with the goals of those who manipulate the politics of fear. But it's their methodology I challenge. Ultimately, when fear is used as a method of social control, it destroys the dignity of life.
A human life is a sacred thing. It is a complex, violent, beautiful, tangled and contradictory mess of love, mistakes, missed chances, and ecstatic discovery. Every time we use an AIDS death as a moral warning, when we wag our finger and say -- "Watch out, or you'll end up like him!" we desecrate the purity and sanctity of a human life.
More than that, we threaten freedom to live, freedom to love, freedom to enjoy a different "lifestyle."
Good, right? Now, you’ve turned the affirmative in addition to claiming value of life impacts. So, even if you lose the utilitarianism debate, you can win the round.
Researching for specific cards/impacts like this is also crucial to win the debate against impact turns. The other team will frequently say things like “fear of death key to colonize space” or any variety of scenarios. It IS possible to win the utilitarianism debate and therefore make all of these scenarios irrelevant, but this way, you can have a more flexible argument. This also puts tremendous pressure on the 1AR, because they have to win util AND their other scenarios.
Another cool reason to run this argument is that many critical authors, when searching for a reason why a certain very, very deep, ingrained bad thing occurs blame it on the fear of death. Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and others do this. Why are we patriarchal? Because we’re afraid of death. Why do we even have identities? Because we’re afraid of death. Why are we consumerist capitalist exploiters? Because we’re afraid of death. Seriously. You can turn so many critical affirmatives this way. Just go looking for the cards. Another merry Christmas. Here it is for Heidegger
ACCEPTANCE OF DEATH IS THE ONLY WAY TO ACHIEVE AUTHENTIC EXISTENCE
Howarth and Leaman, prof at Univ of Bath and Univ of Kentucky, 2001 (Glennys and Oliver, Eds. The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying)
One cannot fully live unless one confronts one's own mortality. This hallmark of existentialist thought owes much to the works of Martin Heidegger. Heidegger (1889–1976) was born in Germany's Black Forest region. He held an early interest in theology and the priesthood, but soon shifted his attention to philosophy. At the University of Freiburg he studied under Edmund Husserl, and eventually succeeded him as chair of philosophy. Heidegger went on to become a leading exponent of phenomenological and existential philosophy, which he blends together in his Being and Time (1927).
In this monumental work Heidegger addresses issues related to death, exploring the human being in his or her temporality. This connection is important. For Heidegger, the human being cannot achieve a complete or meaningful life, or any kind of "authentic existence," unless he or she comes to terms with temporality—a uniquely human awareness that a human being is a finite, historical, and temporal being. The awareness of death is a central beginning for understanding this temporality.
According to Heidegger, the human being must understand that he or she is a "being toward death" (Being and Time). "As soon as man comes to life," he says, "he is at once old enough to die" (Heidegger 1962, p. 289). Therefore the awareness and acceptance of death is a requirement for authentic existence. Heidegger refers to the inauthentic self as the "they-self." This is the self that is influenced by the crowd or the "they," rather than by its own unique potentialities. The they-self sees death as a subject producing "cowardly fear, a sign of insecurity" (p. 298) and therefore a fit topic to be avoided. Avoidance of death can be achieved by an evasion technique Heidegger refers to as the "constant tranquilization about death." In so doing, the they-self "does not permit us the courage for anxiety in the face of death" and promotes instead an "untroubled indifference" (p. 299) about death.
hooks argues for a love ethic in order to combat the fear of death. I would recommend an alternative of “rejecting the affirmative because of their images of death” in order to promote a love ethic. This phrasing helps apply the love ethic in round. When we reject imagery based on fear, we can promote imagery based on love. This is a community effort. It’s just like supply and demand—if you vote against the team with fear-creating images, then you create a demand within the debate community for images which promote love. Yay. No more soul murder.
It helps to be able to support your alternative (and win the framework debate) if you can back up your critique with some more standard images create reality evidence. But that’s everywhere.
This is a really strong argument, and it’s unique among most critiques by being easy to read and having plenty of evidence on the internet. hooks writes for a common, not academic audience, and therefore it’s easier to explain this argument. If you’re willing to put in the work to cut specific impacts and links, you will do very well with it. PM me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions