Necrophilia – The Affliction in Servants of Death

By Abel Merawi

War and destructionJune 18, 2021 ( -- Every life form seeks to perpetuate itself. This is evident in the primacy of reproduction in every species. As Tupac Shakur beautifully articulates, a rose bursting out of concrete seeks life. Human beings are no different as the survival instinct equally operates in us. In Greek mythology, this affirmation of life was personified in Eros, the god of love, or by the Roman Cupid. But Eros fails to explain war, torture, suicide, and the legion of evils that destroy life. This perplexed the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, who coined it a ‘death instinct’ that operates as an unconscious urge to die. Long before, Greek mythology personified death in Thanatos. Building upon these theories, the psychologist Erich Fromm explained these two forces competing for mental orientations using the labels ‘Biophilia’ and ‘Necrophilia’ to refer to ‘love of life’ and ‘love of death’, respectively.

Human history presents us with productive and destructive forces residing within us. Shakespeare’s ‘to be or not to be’ represents this polarity, which makes us both the makers and destroyers of life. The unique volitional and creative aspect of Home Sapiens continues to serve both life and death. When creativity serves life, poverty is alleviated; diseases are cured, and parochialism gives way to global allegiance. But creativity transcends good and evil, and we become servants of death when the aftermath of our ingenuity is carnage and destruction. We must recognize that absolute necrophilia is for the clinically insane, while pure ‘biophilia’ belongs to the saintly. We are dealing here with the human condition that makes us swing from one pole to the other. In light of historical and current appalling events, I want to reflect on ‘necrophilia’ consistent with the theory of Erich Fromm.

‘Biophilia’ or the love of life triumphs when individuals enrich their personal lives through social interactions and engage in the sort of productivity that augments spiritual, mental, and physical health. Collectively, life prospers with the social, economic, intellectual, and political unity formed between groups and nations. But all is in ruin when ‘necrophilia’ enters the human spirit to blindly lead us astray into the path of annihilation. ‘Biophilia’ is a force of gradual progress with a virtuous ideal as its fixed mark, but ‘Necrophilia’ is swift and rampant as it is devoid of a conscious goal. Verily, it is easier to demolish than to build; to kill than cultivate humans; to burn and pillage than foster a thriving community, or to destroy than build a nation. But the easier route is not necessarily the right one. It boggles the mind to see rational beings strive to extinguish life; perhaps Freud is right to call it an unconscious urge for death. The present atrocities committed on innocent people in Ethiopia, and the global atavistic desire for isolation and truncated identity is a mark of Necrophilia. We can no longer deny it; we must overcome it for the sake of life.

Necrophilia is an orientation, just as biophilia, which translates into an integrated set of attitudes and beliefs concerning life. As Erich Fromm argues, there are distinct orientations of necrophilia in individuals, which also creep into our collective systems. Fromm explains how necrophilia, while primarily defined as a sexual attraction to the corpse, indicates a generally decadent and antilife attitude towards life. Hereunder, I will expound on the dominant necrophilic orientations with their experiential proofs.

Primarily, the necrophilic is consumed by the obsession with death and suffering. This preoccupation with death is identified as abnormality in the individual but gains acceptance when collective. Ever wonder why we suddenly become interested when a building explodes while being indifferent to its construction? Isn’t it odd that we mostly are eager to discovered killings and pillaging but not so much when rehabilitation takes place? Perhaps this obsession is the offspring of media that only consider violence to be newsworthy. Or maybe, it emanates from politicians who obsess with the suffering of their people, while failing to mention the cultural and economic contribution of the people or the benefits of unity. But this will not free us from blame because both the media and politicians need an eager audience that willingly welcomes narratives of decadence. It seems – I hope I’m wrong – the social and political atmosphere of the world is continually employed to serve death.

We also serve death in imperceptible ways, just as when we inhibit progress through fixation of thought and action in the past. Necrophilia compels people to live in the past; always running away from the prospect of future experience. For instance, in seeking acceptance, we see historians and politicians morphing into ‘gravediggers’, dedicating their lives to real and imaginary grievances in history. Their necrophilic narratives are abortive of any present and future progress. To clarify, history is essential when it helps us learn from our mistakes, but never when degenerates use it belligerently to divide us. This further leads to ‘Epistemological conservatism’; explained by Alexander Moseley in ‘A Philosophy of War’ as, “a stubbornness to change one’s opinion in the face of reasonable doubt.” Stuck thus in a myopic vision of how things used to be, we anachronistically force present reality to recreate the past. Such desire leads to a mechanistic and inorganic life that deprives organic life of spontaneity.

We face the gravest danger when necrophilia is combined with power. As the lover of death, the necrophilic develops a sort of mania for the destructive use of force and worships tyranny. Demonstrators are different from rioters dominantly as the latter are zealous mob executioners. I apologize beforehand because I will now let passion carry my reason! Ethiopians, for some time now, have endured carnage from evil forces: necrophilic bandits, rioters, politicians, and armed groups. How many riots, in the name of demonstration, are we to endure while their destruction has claimed innocent lives across the nation? How many communities must be sacrificed to quench the blood-thirsty vampires? Despite their false narrative, they seek to destroy the nation. These paragons of necrophilia, are intolerant to freedom; they will not rest until life is sucked out of our beloved country. Tyranny is their ultimate goal and we cannot be gullible enough to expect conscience or mercy from servants of death. Thus, the situation demands a unified front from the lovers of life.  

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing,” is the caution of Edmund Burke for the lovers of life. Every time we are indifferent to human suffering, we become indulgent bystanders who, at the very least, neglect the forces of evil. For the majority of Ethiopians and for every global citizen, life is a precious treasure to be nurtured. Life is a constant expansion through perpetual unity and integration. The creative life force of past generations has endowed us with civilization. Sadly, necrophilia employs an evil force that can swiftly destroy a civilization that took centuries to construct. If we love life, this is the time to show it. The creed of universal humanity must be manifested through our unified refusal to entertain injustice and suffering. Above all, it depends on the creative energy we employ to protect and nourish our spiritual, mental, and physical health.


Abel Merawi is Addis Ababa-based contributor for He can be reached through this form.

Other articles by Abel Merawi:

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Democracy and Democratic Institutions

Democracy and Democratic People

Paideia or Deep Education

Educational Purpose: Good Citizenry Vs Rational Autonomy

Crowd Leaders as National Enemies of Ethiopia

Ethiopia Under the Threat of Crowd Mentality

Conformist Realism in Ethnic Federalism

Alternatives to National Identity

Ethiopia in Conflict - Part II: A National Stand for Unity

Ethiopia in Conflict - Part I: EPRDF and the Creation of Ethnic Division

Forms of Human Violence (Part II)

Forms of Human Violence (Part I)

The ‘Having’ Mentality

Group Narcissism

Segregated Justice


Free but in Chain, Part IV: Personal Bondage

Free but in Chain. Part III: Economic Bondage

Free but in Chain. Part II: Social Bondage

Free but in Chain. Part I: Bondage of Worldview

Unemployment and Economic Growth in Ethiopia

The Underestimated Human Ignorance

Is America the Land of Freedom? (Part II)

Is America the Land of Freedom? (Part I)

Capitalism Becoming an Impediment to Morality

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The System and the 'Criminal'

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Do You Trust the Government?

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The Heavy Burden of Healthcare Workers

A Time to Reflect

The Plague by Albert Camus: Fiction Becomes Reality!

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Crisis Profiteers

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Determinants of Market Value: Part I

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Manifestations of Artistic Expression

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The Grip of Sacrifice

Injustice is Never Justifiable

Education Demands of the Future

Job Security, Life and the Unpredictable Future

The Shift From Racism to Culturism

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Culture and Market Forces

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National Myths: Makers and Destroyers of Nations

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The Value of Work

The Flaws with Ethiopian Political System

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