A Culture of Fear

Fear is the best form of control. Cultivating a culture of fear ensures everyone tows the line.

Have you ever been to a live animal show? The circus or somewhere you can ride the animals? What happens to the stronger or the smarter ones? The monkeys and the elephants? The lions and the tigers? You’ll notice they are either chained up or beaten into submission. Bent to the will of man.

And they take it. Even though they could easily overpower their captors, break free and run for it. They obediently do as they are told, following the leash wherever it drags them, diligently doing what they have been trained to do.

That’s what we do, right? We train our young, train our people in the ways of the world. Train them to look both ways before crossing the street; train them to stay away from strangers; train them to wash their hands and stay indoors; train them not to climb trees or jump in the mud.

And of course that’s all very well and good and pragmatic. No nasty germs or jihadists getting to your precious younglings. They live to see prom and puberty.

But what happens when they are old enough to think for themselves? How do you control them then? Can’t very well spank them or send them to their rooms anymore (well, I suppose you still can but good luck with that). How do you ensure your children grow up imbued with the values and virtues that you wish to instill in them?

Why, you tell them stories of course. Preferably ones with morals and lessons in them.

Remember all those fairy tales and folk stories? Neither do I, there’s so many of them. Well, how about the latest news updates? Family accosted by unruly gentleman! Fire hydrant explodes, spilling gallons of water onto the streets! I imagine they’re actually a lot worse than that.

Those places are far, far away, you say. We’ll be fine. No volcanoes or earthquakes or Tyrannosaurus Rexes where we live. We are the people that are never in the news. We are the folk that exist in between the lines, in the blank gaps where no ink or blood flows.

But what happens when it strikes close to home? When a neighbour’s house gets broken into? When a friend contracts an unpleasant disease? When a crazy dog bites someone?

We do what most sane people would do: we lock up our houses, avoid human contact, and stay the hell away from anything that isn’t human while we’re at it. Good strategy. Stay indoors, away from people, zero petting. Win.

This way, even if nothing of the sort ever happens to us personally, we’re prepared. Constant vigilance! Don’t go near the water because there might be jellyfish! Bring that mosquito repellant so you don’t die of dengue fever! Lather in that sunscreen so the black holes of melanoma don’t consume your soul! In fact, just don’t go out at all. It’s too dangerous.

Isn’t it ironic that we laugh at people who are afraid of little creatures many times smaller than their own body size, but a lot of us fear the tiniest most minuscule of adversaries: micro-organisms. Dropping an acronym like SARS or MERS will easily strike fear into an entire population. Superbugs are going to bite you in your sleep! Take more drugs, people!

I’m not saying doing any of those things is wrong or foolish. I’m merely pointing out that such things are part of the risk averse culture that is driven by fear. Part of the smothering web that slowly eats away at your sense of adventure. Chips away at your resolve to do things you’ve never done before. Keeps you safe and proper and “civilised”.

And so you stay in your safe zone, your comfort zone, where everything is neat and tidy and clean as a whistle. Where you can surf the web on your phone in peace and quiet, with zero lag.

Even if you do travel, it’s to areas deemed safe with no natural disasters or epidemics or crime or crazy psychopaths. And you book everything doubly in advance so you don’t miss out on anything ever. Check the weather to make sure the prophets have decreed that it will be just the right temperature to hazard a stroll outside for that day tour.

When was the last time you tried something new? Travelled someplace that none of your friends had been before? When was the last time you felt alive?

Do you want to break free of this culture of fear? Someone has been holding you back all these years, filling your head with notions of bad guys and fearsome creatures and failure. And now someone can set you free: it begins with you.

Get out there and do something no one else has thought of before. Try that drink you’ve always wanted to try. Jump for joy when you feel like it. Whistle even if you can’t. Who cares what other people think? Judgment never brought anyone any real joy anyway.

One of our biggest fears is the fear of the unknown. We fear what we don’t understand, like weird viruses and prions and algebra. Well, it’s no longer an unknown if you’ve done it or had it before. If all else fails, adapt! You can either conquer your fear, or let it conquer you. Which one sounds better to you? Which one will help you look back without regret?

Yes, fear is healthy and pertinent for survival. But someone said you should never have too much of a good thing. Because then you get fat. Fat with fear.

So take control of your life today. Don’t let someone or something else control you, especially fear. Because once you let fear seep in, it will spread to more and more facets of your life.

We all feel fear in our lives; it is about accepting your fear and assessing realistically just how worthy this fear is of your attention. Whether or not you’re willing to let it force you into submission, or cast off the shackles of unnecessary fear and have more control over your own actions.

I leave you with this litany from a famous author, whose identity I shall leave you to guess (or Google).

Litany Against Fear

I will 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.

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