Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fear is our greatest enemy.

Our country is moving down a frightening path. The economy is in trouble; houses are losing value, the credit crunch and inflation are slowing growth. We are fighting two wars and are about to start a third that will make the other two look like a playground tussle. The public spirit has been corrupted by a steady diet of hatred and eliminationist rhetoric from conservatives. When people let their fears overcome them they often give in to their violent fantasies and tendencies. Chris Floyd discusses such a situation in Israel in a recent post.
There is no good outcome to the dynamic of eliminationism and
dehumanization. It leads, quite literally, to madness and death and ruin. Israel
is not the only nation on that road; the dynamic is not specific to any country,
creed, race, religion or polity. It belongs to all of us, it's a danger we all
face. And it requires vigilance, skepticism, action and awareness to break up
these patterns as they rise among us, to derail the dynamic -- before it's too
far gone and must play out, in one way or another, in the given extent and
circumstances of the historical moment, to the bitter end.

Many of us have convinced ourselves that people are inherently bad and can only be kept from violence through strict control. They have been told this most of their lives, from parents, religious leaders, and the government. This belief, this fear, overwhelms them, and they look for relief. Blaming someone else for their fears is very popular; it's the fault of the poor, the liberal, minorities, women, Arabs, Castro, Jimmy Carter, and so on ad nauseum. If only these people could be eliminated, the fear would be eliminated too.

But somehow the fear is never eliminated. When one enemy disappoints, another is found. Bush called it the War on Terror, but it's really the War of Terror. We are terrified, and we'll strike out at anyone who frightens us. We have always been afraid, though. Iranians, Al-Qaeda, Iraqis, China, Communists, Russia, Bolsheviks, anarchists, immigrants, British, Indians--from birth to the present, we are a nation of the terrified.

There's a reason we are afraid all the time. Fear operates where logic is rejected, where worship is valued over reason, where obedience is demanded--or else--from childhood. We don't trust ourselves, therefore we don't trust anyone else. We didn't feel protected by our parents, so we constantly seek protection. We want someone to tell us we are good, like all children want to be told they're good. So we do whatever we want to chase away the fear and say it's good and necessary. Even when the result is racism, fear-mongering, and murder through war.

It doesn't have to be like this. We don't have to be afraid all the time. Fear is a choice, as well as a drive. We can choose to look at our fear, take it to pieces and find out its origin, and then destroy it. We are not helpless. We are not evil. We are adults, and when the bad times come we must either dredge up the courage to face them, or drown in an orgy of fear and violence.


Anonymous said...

Fear is the stock and trade of the Right. Without it, they would have nada.

Susan of Texas said...

Yes, it consumes many of them and they'd be nowhere without it. The worst part of it is they demand that we be as afraid as they are. And they want so badly to believe that their inner fears are really exterior threats that they eagerly await disaster, just so they will know for sure they were right after all.