Governing By Fear

With a Terrified Public, Who is Thinking Clearly?

Fear and anxiety seem to permeate contemporary politics on all sides these days.  Conservatives are scared of illegal immigration, terrorists and liberals.  Liberals are scared of global warming, “big-brother”-style government and conservatives.  And no one, it seems, is thinking rationally about any of these problems anymore. What happened to the time when people were able to face up to serious issues with courage and determination instead of hysteria?

What happened to fearing nothing but fear itself?

It seems clear that we are all to blame for this sorry state of affairs.  What liberal doesn’t profess to a deep-seated fear of Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader H.C. Strache and his followers? What conservative isn’t scared of illegal immigrants from Muslim countries, bringing their radical values with them?  And, lets be honest, what radical Muslim isn’t also scared of “Western” culture, highly sexualized and decidedly consumerist?

What’s important to remember here is that it is only in the absence of panic and anxiety that rational, calculated decisions are made— just think about the student that is so scared of her math exam that she stays up all night studying, and as a result is too tired to think the next day.

It’s a shame that politicians have decided that the right way to rally people around their cause is to scare them half to death. Great leaders like Franklin D. Roosevelt understood the destructive power of fear, when it holds us by the throat.  Fear is of course a natural reaction in dangerous situations, but when faced is also one of the best catalysts for action.

Yes, global warming is dangerous and needs to be dealt with, and worldwide migration also poses major challenges. But it’s time to stop listening to those who derive their power from scaring the general public: they’re too busy putting fear into people to do anything productive anyway.

We need to pull together, stop being scared, and face up to the problems in our lives.  Who knows?  Maybe a society without fear is already a half-step toward a better world.

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