Deal With Fear

It seems to me that fear is at the root of so many of the problems we are facing today.

People fear:

  • Physical threats
  • People they feel threatened by
  • Unknown

The following is from the movie After Earth.  As often happens, art provides thought provoking messages.

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”

I like that statement because it highlights that people’s fears are often baseless.

Fear may be an appropriate response to physical threats (danger).

But fear of the unknown is common.  We have all been conditioned to function in the society we are part of.  Much of that involves learning what is acceptable, including the consequences of breaking the rules.  Intimidation, to invoke fear, is commonly how society maintains order.  Society aims to maintain itself, the status quo, and sees change as a threat.  Tensions related to social justice often arise when some members of a community feel change is needed, either to correct an existing wrong, or to address new or changing situations.

Fear of people who look or act or believe differently than we do is a variation of fear of the unknown.  But this is especially hard for me to understand.  I love the Native term ‘all my relations.’  We are all human beings, all related.  The differences among us should be celebrated, not feared.

The current political climate is actively manipulating people’s fears in order to get them to accept a political agenda.  Using fear to divide us, and distract us from political corruption.  Because we have allowed our government to be corrupted by money.  As long as various groups are fighting among themselves, they will be distracted.

The immigration issue is about fear of others.   Immigrant workers are needed by our economy, not a threat to it.  Our birth as a nation of immigrants, that welcomed other immigrants, is completely ignored in the face of the fear that one among them might be a terrorist.

This is the real danger of fear–that it makes so many willing to deny our ideals if we feel our safety is threatened.

It is ironic that giving in to fear by demonizing refugees and by military/drone strikes (with so many civilian casualties) dramatically increases anti-American sentiment, making us much less safe.

Fear, and convenience, has also been at the root of climate denial.  In retrospect it shouldn’t have been surprising that as increasingly threatening news of climate change appeared, people retracted more and more into their shells of denial, fearing changes in their known circumstances.  Making it nearly impossible to consider rational responses.

We continue to have a choice.  We can continue to hide in fear.  Or we can choose to bravely face reality, and move on to work on solutions.

If we are to overcome the problems we face, we need what I have called a sense of universal responsibility rooted in love and kindness for our human brothers and sisters.
In our present state of affairs, the very survival of humankind depends on people developing concern for the whole of humanity, not just their own community or nation.  —Dalai Lama



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