Sunday, April 10, 2016

Do Something About the Climate of Fear

These are scary times, aren't they? Or are they? What makes it scarier than other times? Violence? There has always been violence. Uncertainly? There has always been uncertainty. But we now live in a climate of fear. That is what makes terrorism so effective.

And it isn't just the media. Politicians use fear to get voters to support them. Merchants use fear to sell their wares. Power brokers use fear to wield their power. 

So what is this thing called fear that exerts so much power and permeates our lives? Where does it get its power? How does it wrap us up so completely?

The increase in our exposure to violence keeps us anxious, I suppose. The ongoing threat that something bad is going to happen fuels it. Direct and subtle threats bombard us.

"Protect yourself, your home and family" is urged by voices all around us: Get a burglar alarm, carry a gun, keep a guard dog, don't speak to strangers, buy more insurance, stock up on foods, avoid crowds, use antiseptic hand cleaner more often, be wary of bankers, build up the military, build walls between countries, segregate races, prohibit what you don't understand, don't fail - ever, you need more than you have in case you lose some, you must be liked/admired by everyone, and on and on. The messages keep you anxious. We are encouraged to believe we need everything we want and if we don't get it something bad will happen. 

An acronym for fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.  Most fear fits that. It makes sense to be aware of your surroundings, but if there is no immanent  physical threat, like a hungry tiger in your living room, it doesn't make sense to go through life fearing tigers.

It makes sense to take reasonable measures to prevent harm to self or others. But the knee-jerk reaction to the miasma of warnings does nothing to make life safer. Actually, it increases the risks. Bigger military creates more fear in other countries, which then creates more likelihood of bigger military clashes. Cooperation is more likely to create peace - and safety - than violent confrontation.

Gun owners are more likely to use a gun than to look for other solutions when confronted with conflict. We don't even train our children in conflict resolution so that they have the personal power to solve their problems without threatening others.

Fear is more likely to incite anger than does reason. And anger tends to lead to violence of some kind, which doesn't make you safer.

Fear can be very helpful when the threat is real. It makes you move to safety, to diminish the threat. You then have time and space to resolve the conflict. But staying fearful leads to making decisions that work against you in the long run.

So, I'm not saying don't be afraid. I'm saying use some logic regarding threats. Avoid knee-jerk reactions and don't increase the climate of fear by gossiping or making threats yourself. Don't pass it on if you don't know how real it might be. Be careful of the "what if's" that heighten anxiety. Be more aware of solutions than potential problems. Live more in the moment than in the imagined future.

Terrorism is intended to disrupt the peace. Obviously, vigilance is good. But hyper-vigilance when there is no credible imminent threat does not create a peaceful life. It doesn't even make you safer. It makes you more vulnerable because you become "trigger happy". Exactly what terrorism intends.

People have rushed to buy guns. Now there are guns in more homes and businesses, and the rate of gunshot victims has skyrocketed. We aren't safer.

So what about fear? Tell me how you experience a climate of fear today? What can we do to be safe AND calm? What threatening messages do you hear frequently? What is your take on fear?


  1. The climate of fear extends far further than physical/violent fear. That's one of the reasons people like Cheney, Bush, Trump,and others have been so successful. They prey on (and create!) our fear of losing some status we have fought so hard to achieve. They prey on the things we use for comfort, like religion or the soundness of Social Security. They find our vulnerable spots and exploit them for their own agenda. What I don't understand is why. They don't really benefit financially from our fear. Could it be purely power? The ability to play with us like pawns? Even those of us who actively oppose these people and tactics are being drawn in by the fear--fear that our countrymen--or even our family members--would be seduced into that climate of fear. The fear that we are powerless to stop the spread of lies. The fear that our beloved country will suffer irreparable losses simply because of the rhetoric.

    And yet if we don't buy into the fear, we are labelled (and label ourselves!) as naive and vulnerable. If we have hope and faith, we are out of touch.

    I don't know what the solution is. But I do know that I have a lot worse things to deal with than fear that is based in lies and deception. I think that's why I try so hard correct things that are posted that have been dis-proven. Reposting not only gives energy and momentum to the fear mongering, it also makes us part of the problem.

    Off my soap box. For now.

  2. Personally, I think the answer is to confront the fear within ourselves and determine how real the threat is. And then we face it anyway. I don't have to wrestle with anyone trying to manipulate me. I just keep living a life of doing what feels right, no matter who thinks it is naive or foolish. Yes, I'll make mistakes. And I'll learn from them. But being true to myself, my values, is what keeps me strong, Calling the manipulators out on their lies when appropriate may or may not change them in any way. But it is my personal power to do so. And often just letting their verbiage/garbage go without a response can deflate its power and slow its momentum. It is like the choice of responding or not responding is where our power sometimes lies.

    Good for you, Robin.