Several articles in recent days have reminded me of the reality of fear, and how it prevents us from dealing with the realities that confront us. They've also reinforced the lesson that only if we overcome our fears can we move forward with our lives.
There is a medical family who lives in the mountains near me, and they’re friends of mine – but they are afraid. They had the plague, they had the vax, and they alone, wear masks. The plague made them sick – more or less like the flu. Same with me. Not my first flu. Not theirs either. But they’re afraid.
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Nobody likes to be sick and to take it a step further, nobody wants to die – but both are in our future. None of us will live past 110 so do the math, count backward, and decide how you want to live what you have left.
I’ve had chronic pain that I’m not able to kick after not being treated for non-plague issues, and then when I was close to dying, they operated. Too late. But I suck it up and I don’t go out and lift heavy things very often. When I do, I pay. My point is that fear always makes things worse. Prudence usually makes them better but not always.
I revert often to Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl, a Psychiatrist. The memoir is riveting with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Frankl discusses how to cope with unavoidable suffering.
The new Dune movie is out covering the first half of the book. I re-read the book and may go and see the film, but to my point, there is this quote: I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. Frank Herbert knew what he was writing about. Fear and panic create more harm than a resolute view of life and living said life – and hopefully dying well.
There's more at the link.
Larry's article resonated with me. I've had two heart attacks, about ten years apart. Statistically, it's a near-certainty that I'll have another, and that my heart problems will eventually cause my death. It may be sooner, it may be later, but it's coming. Am I to sit here, worrying myself to death at the prospect? Or am I to get on with my life, accepting that certainty, but not allowing it to dominate or control my life? I'm going to die one day. It's as certain as the dawn. I don't look forward to that, but if I can't change it, why be scared of the inevitable? Why not make the most of the time that is given to me, and enjoy as much of it as possible?
Larry referenced an article by Thomas Harrington, "The Frightened Class".
They’re all around us, especially those of us who live in relatively prosperous metropolitan neighborhoods in the US or Western Europe. Despite being—at least in material terms—among the most fortunate people who have ever walked the earth, they are very scared. And they want you to be very frightened too.
Indeed, many of them see your refusal to be as frightened as they are about life’s inevitable risks as a grave problem which entitles them and their often powerful and influential fellow travelers to recur to all manner of authoritarian practices to insure that you adhere to their increasingly neurotic view of reality.
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It has been said that, over time, we tend to “become what we do.” It seems that after orchestrating campaign after campaign of fear on behalf of the truly powerful, the “literate” comfortable classes have come to believe their own schtick to the point where they have trouble understanding, or even tolerating, those who have always consumed their mercenarily-produced fear porn with a large helping of salt.
Worse yet, these self-frightened elites seem to think they can now remedy their lack of credibility with those living outside their grim prison of angst by simply amping up the volume on the scare machine. I suspect they might be in for a bigger and much more “physical” set of responses than they ever imagined could come their way.
Again, more at the link, and well worth your time.
Back in pre-pandemic 2016, Rolling Stone magazine asked: "This is the safest time in human history. So why are we all so afraid?"
According to Lewis & Clark College president Barry Glassner, one of the country’s leading sociologists and author of The Culture of Fear, “Most Americans are living in the safest place at the safest time in human history.”
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So how is it possible to be living in the safest time in human history, yet at the exact same time to be so scared?
Because, according to Glassner, “we are living in the most fearmongering time in human history. And the main reason for this is that there’s a lot of power and money available to individuals and organizations who can perpetuate these fears.”
For mass media, insurance companies, Big Pharma, advocacy groups, lawyers, politicians and so many more, your fear is worth billions. And fortunately for them, your fear is also very easy to manipulate. We’re wired to respond to it above everything else. If we miss an opportunity for abundance, life goes on; if we miss an important fear cue, it doesn’t.
“The more we learn about the brain, the more we learn it’s not something that’s supposed to make you happy all the time,” says Andrew Huberman, a Stanford neurobiology professor who runs a lab studying fear. “It’s mostly a stress-reactive machine. Its primary job is to keep us alive, which is why it’s so easy to flip people into fear all the time.”
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Where fear is a response to a present threat, anxiety is a more complex and highly manipulable response to something one anticipates might be a threat in the future ... And that uncertainty is the exact lever that politicians regularly use to try to influence your behavior ... The crucial combination of uncertainty with perception of an escalating threat has led historically, according to Bader and other researchers, to an increased desire for authoritarianism.
Speaking of authoritarianism, Bari Weiss reminds us: "We Got Here Because of Cowardice. We Get Out With Courage".
What we call “cancel culture” is really the justice system of this revolution. And the goal of the cancellations is not merely to punish the person being cancelled. The goal is to send a message to everyone else: Step out of line and you are next.
It has worked. A recent CATO study found that 62 percent of Americans are afraid to voice their true views. Nearly a quarter of American academics endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences. And nearly 70 percent of students favor reporting professors if the professor says something that students find offensive, according to a Challey Institute for Global Innovation survey.
Why are so many, especially so many young people, drawn to this ideology? It’s not because they are dumb. Or because they are snowflakes, or whatever Fox talking points would have you believe. All of this has taken place against the backdrop of major changes in American life—the tearing apart of our social fabric; the loss of religion and the decline of civic organizations; the opioid crisis; the collapse of American industries; the rise of big tech; successive financial crises; a toxic public discourse; crushing student debt. An epidemic of loneliness. A crisis of meaning. A pandemic of distrust. It has taken place against the backdrop of the American dream’s decline into what feels like a punchline, the inequalities of our supposedly fair, liberal meritocracy clearly rigged in favor of some people and against others. And so on.
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How did we get here? ... there is one word we should linger on, because every moment of radical victory turned on it. The word is cowardice.
The revolution has been met with almost no resistance by those who have the title CEO or leader or president or principal in front of their names. The refusal of the adults in the room to speak the truth, their refusal to say no to efforts to undermine the mission of their institutions, their fear of being called a bad name and that fear trumping their responsibility—that is how we got here.
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If cowardice is the thing that has allowed for all of this, the force that stops this cultural revolution can also be summed up by one word: courage.
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It is our duty to resist the crowd in this age of mob thinking. It is our duty to think freely in an age of conformity. It is our duty to speak truth in an age of lies.
This bravery isn’t the last or only step in opposing this revolution—it’s just the first. After that must come honest assessments of why America was vulnerable to start with, and an aggressive commitment to rebuilding the economy and society in ways that once again offer life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the greatest number of Americans.
But let’s start with a little courage.
Courage means, first off, the unqualified rejection of lies. Do not speak untruths, either about yourself or anyone else, no matter the comfort offered by the mob. And do not genially accept the lies told to you. If possible, be vocal in rejecting claims you know to be false. Courage can be contagious, and your example may serve as a means of transmission.
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Every day I hear from people who are living in fear in the freest society humankind has ever known. Dissidents in a democracy, practicing doublespeak. That is what is happening right now. What happens five, 10, 20 years from now if we don’t speak up and defend the ideas that have made all of our lives possible?
Food for thought from all concerned.