Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Culture of Fear

I was reading the blog post here, where the blogger in question was trying to convince us all that what she considered common sense, sensible attitudes to "stranger danger" were not in fact the fear-ridden anxieties of someone who seems to think we live in the most dangerous of times.

We don't by the way.

The post itself is full of words like vulnerable, exposed to the mercy of others and harm, it reeks of fear but not of reasonable fear but hysterical fear, safety first fear, the kind that stunts your life experience, the kind that battens down the hatches and makes the world something to be feared rather than embraced. It also smacks of a fear of getting hurt, in whatever sense, as if pain (in all it's many forms) is something to be avoided, rather than a huge source of learning and growth.

I'm banging on about this blog post because I read this today, an article on a study by the Mental Health Foundation that quite clearly points to us being a nation of fearful idiots, scared of imaginary terrorist and crime threats, anxious about financial uncertainty and thus trapped in a crippling period of paralysis. Aside from the cretins who believe this nonsense, who are the ones keeping us fearful? Why, the ones with the most to gain of course!

Often exaggerated are fear of crime, terrorism and loss of community, the MHF finds. Increased access to information about possible threats to security via 24-hour news and the internet contribute to unease among the general population.

The report lambasts politicians, public bodies, the media and business people for what it calls institutionally-driven fear fuelled by scaremongering use of "worst-case scenario" language around issues such as knife-crime, MRSA and terrorism.

As Bertrand Russell said: "collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd" a perfect state to have the collective in for those in power. A fearful public are an easily manipulated one, are a selfish one caught in a destructive web of self-obsession at their own personal mores and issues; so not concerned with the struggles of the whole, willing to cede decision making to those in power on the grand issues.

More fool us. And worryingly, it is the young who are most fearful, no doubt under the influence of scare-mongering parents and the culture of fear we are building around us.

On a side note, something in the piece made me smile, the slightly piqued assertion from the police that even though the UK has more CCTV cameras than the rest of Europe put together (some 4.2 million), they don't seem to make us feel any safer.



  1. I must not fear.Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

    (that should be in blockquotes, but Blogger isn't that sophisticated.. )

  2. I think much of this fear, goes back to ideas of victimhood, popular in the 1990s.

    Spiked Online has several stories about the institutionalized fear ideas.

  3. Oh, this motherfucker's quoting Bertrand Russel again! Jump back! Out of sight, my man! :)

    Yes, fear stimulates the herd mentality absolutely. The herd mentality plays a very important role in biology and the survival of our species, however. Scientists say that our incredible success (men working together, building ships, space shuttles, 120-story skyscrapers, Broadway plays) lies with the extremely cooperative nature of our species. We are absolutely social animals.

    The herd mentality helps us to dehumanize the "other" and, if not for that, we would not compete very well.

  4. It's no small irony that competition also helps the greater good. We kill each other, yes. But we'll soon have 9 billion humans on the planet. Mother Earth has grown a central nervous system.

  5. Serr8d:

    Blockquotes is for losers. Heh.


    Hello, you alright there? Our blogging seems to have gone in seperate directions, would you agree?


    I'll check that out.


    I'm all over the Russell! And yes, I am aware that fear is crucial to humanity and a wonderful invention, I suppose it is the manipulation of fear that I have the problem with. Nice words.

  6. Sure, fear is a useful emotion, but only if mixed generously with rational thinking. Fear should make one take precautions for real outcomes, not cower behind multiple locks from boogeymen. Do a little odds-making, and go from there.


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