The Politics of Fear
I sometimes think about the background against which we live our lives and realise that there is so much about our society that encourages us to feel insecure and fearful – images of violence, murder, conflict and war dominate the news channels. There’s rare coverage of good news. No less than the British Medical Association has even come up with the term the ‘politics of fear’ and has said:
‘Human beings live their lives burdened by fear of what the future might hold; the task of doctors is, as far as possible, to reduce that burden because fear and anxiety are, in themselves, causes of significant suffering and ill health. The sadness is that leading politicians seem to be developing a pattern of using fear as a political tool.’
Where is the Good News?
Where are the stories of selflessness with people risking their lives to help others, often at great danger to themselves? The medics who volunteer to work in war-torn territories and the firefighters who risk their lives entering blazing buildings?
And why don’t we hear about all those people who devote their lives to caring for others, often with high stress and low pay or the armies of volunteers who are helping the vulnerable in their community?
In recent times, even the environmental movement has come round to understanding that their limited success in bringing about meaningful change is largely because they have been homing in on people’s fear. An increasing number of people now see that the reason the environmental movement has had very limited success in alerting people to the environmental crisis we face is that engendering fear as a way of dealing with climate change and other environmental problems just does not work.
Pulling up the drawbridge
So there I have it: If we are frightened we are more likely to pull up the drawbridge, look after number one and not work towards change. If we want a better future we need to start by being optimistic and seeing people as basically nice.
As Noam Chomsky said:
“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because, unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”
I’ve been on something of a roller coaster ride in trying to make sense of what’s going on in our crazy world. Some writers claim that the end of the world is nigh (and it often feels that way) while others have faith in the ingenuity, resilience and adaptability of humankind to lead us to a better world.
Let’s concentrate on the Good Stuff
So, my resolve now is to concentrate on the good stuff.
I’m gaining strength and hope from all the people who are questioning our 21st Century world and are taking action, protesting and changing the way they live. Groups who are going against the flow, have given up on striving for ever more material goodies as the bringer of happiness and are finding strength in joining together in more fulfilling ways of life.
What a surprise I’ve had! In fact so little of the good stuff appears in mainstream media that there almost seems to be a cover-up to keep it secret!
But, here we go: SECRET NUMBER ONE – More and more people are gradually coming to see that the acquisition of ever more material possessions as a path to happiness just doesn’t bear close examination. There is an increasing understanding that excessive material consumption might be good for the profits of companies trying to sell us stuff but doesn’t seem to help either those who have it all or those who feel the stress of not being able to keep up to society’s expectations. And it’s not too good for our natural world either!
If you are well off you may suffer from Affluenza (Oliver James), Stuffocation (James Wallman), Status Anxiety (Alain de Botton) or even body dysmorphia.
If you can’t afford to keep up to society’s expectations of how you should look, how your house should look, where you should go on holiday, you may suffer from depression/demoralisation, anxiety, poor self esteem.
Mental illness and suicide rates continue to rise, especially among teenagers, leading to a new term ‘death by despair.’