The Culture of Fear

fearPeople around the world are so afraid in so many ways that it prevents humanity from evolving – from moving forward to be what we (humanity) can be.

We are continually bombarded with propaganda about what we can and can not do – what we should and should not have – what we should and should not aspire to – what is and is not truth.

The propaganda comes from governments, religions, marketing, the media, and the society we live in. Whether it is a law or someone in our circle of friends saying something to us, we receive so much information during our daily lives that it can be hard to find time to think for oneself.

One of the most basic human needs is to be wanted, to be accepted as a valid human being within the society in which the person lives. We are social animals and need the company of others to make us feel as though we ‘belong’ – perhaps to give reason for our existence through reinforcement of our validity.

We will comply with the demands of our society so we are not shunned – do not become separated from other human beings who are also complicit in the demands placed on them. Whether that is in society as a whole or as part of smaller groups, we need to feel as though we are part of something much bigger, because not to be makes us feel bad – makes us feel lonely.

In seeking our place in the world – our ‘belonging’ – we will often comply with external demands which may challenge our inner ‘morals’ or ‘beliefs’. We will allow what we think is ‘the right thing’ to be compromised so we remain part of the wider social group.

In effect we are trying to stay connected to the rest of humanity through our societal interactions, even though we may believe them to be incorrect and sometimes very wrong. We may make a gesture of defiance, a meagre vocalisation of our views, but ultimately we will return to a state of compliance.

Some people may feel like outcasts in their society because they are unable to reconcile their innermost core beliefs and feelings with those of the majority within society – or what they are led to believe are the views of the majority. Some of those who feel outcast may find others with similar beliefs and will join with them, but for many more who feel outcast they are at odds with the general view and feel stuck in a society that they don’t really want to be a part of, or which doesn’t seem to understand them.

This is very apparent when governments take decisions which do not reflect the core beliefs or morals of a citizen.

A citizen will comply so they are able to continue to exist in their society even though the government decision challenges, or is in direct contraventions of, the person’s core morality. The person may (depending on the environment they live in and the likelihood of ramifications) make some expression of protest then return to general compliance. If there are others who share the same or similar views, and they are aware of each other, they may join and form groups within society.

Governments and religious leaders in particular are very aware that negative public opinion can lead to rebellion against the organisation. The government, or whichever organisation it is, will attempt to protect its privileged position through propaganda (or through brute force in very oppressive regimes).

The purpose pf propaganda is very simple. It is to promote something the government (or other organisation) wants the public to believe, and works on the principle that they can ‘fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time’.

Organisations will go to great lengths, often feeding information to the media as authoritative fact, employing ‘experts’ who support the information they want the population to believe, and campaigns that seek to influence the population’s opinion more directly – such as introducing mandatory procedures and laws.

The public are then bombarded with the information which the organisation wants them to believe. Some people will reject the information immediately, but the majority who remain unaware of the tactics being employed will tend to believe their ‘trusted’ organisation to some extent. As majority opinion takes on the propaganda as ‘truth’ so more people are likely to believe it.

There will be others who will believe the information initially and then change their minds when they start to analyse it more closely.

Two of the most powerful emotions an organisation can instil in a population is hate and fear. Once triggered, these emotions will be self-perpetuating throughout the majority of the population over a long period of time.

When people are in a state of fear they are more open to complying with any perceived solution, therefor the organisation can present changes which appear to be a full or part solution to the problem which will be more readily accepted than if their true meaning were known. On the pretext of protecting the public, the organisation uses the opportunity to covertly introduce more control mechanisms for the general population.

The current propagation of a terrorist threat is being used around the world as an excuse to bring in more rules and regulations which take away many of the rights and freedoms previously enjoyed by the general population. The threat of a potential domestic terrorist attack is frightening to most people, especially when attacks or threats occur on home soil.

The government will use this fear and build on it – very subtly. It will make public announcements, include the subject of terrorism in other speeches, will feed its desired information to the press, and will make sure that terrorism maintains a high profile within society. Once the fear is established, the government offers solutions which the public will readily accept. These ‘solutions’ can be small and gradual, as well as large initiatives.

Although there may be a potential threat from terrorists, the likelihood and level of the potential attacks is generally exaggerated for impact. There have been occasions when former high-ranking officials have publically condemned the scaremongering of their governments and media.

But it is not only major topics which instil fear in people.

One of the most subtle and long-term propaganda campaigns has been one of ‘political correctness’.

‘Political correctness’ and probably done more to prevent society evolving than any other propaganda campaign.

You may be wondering how something which is supposed to promote the equal treatment of all citizens can be detrimental, and that it must be a good thing.

Not so. ‘Political correctness’ is a restriction on communication which artificially forces people to stop communicating with each other – especially if they come from different backgrounds.

It is one thing to have a policy of equality and mutual respect, but a different thing altogether when people are prevented from communicating properly.

One of the ways humans learn is through communicating with others. We learn about different cultures and ideas through our contact with a diverse range of people. Most people show each other respect, but there are those who do not and hold on to prejudices and false ideas about people who are different.

In normal human communication, we learn to develop a natural respect because when we express an opinion or view the other person disagrees with a dialogue ensues. This dialogue is important as a learning process because our pre-conceived ideas are challenged. Through that challenge we learn something about the other person – even if we do not agree with the whole of their perspective. It is a two-way street, the other person also learns something about us and our perspectives – even if they do not agree with them totally.

Through the mutual interchange of information we gain factual knowledge on which we base our views in the future – this is natural development and analysis.

Gradually we become more aware of the other humans around us, and so more people will become aware as we engage in further honest dialogue. This then develops into mutual acceptance of people who are different provided that their views and opinions do not directly affect our safety or wellbeing. And so society evolves.

‘Political correctness’ is restrictive. It prevents people from expressing their true feelings because they become confused about what they can and can not say. So they will either resort to saying nothing, or will engage in a bland, grey, non-confrontational dialogue which has no meaning or substance. The learning experience is therefore stopped and the parties involved end up learning nothing and society as a whole remains stagnant.

This causes two main problems.

Firstly, people feel restricted in their natural need to communicate with other humans – especially with those who are different to themselves. This frustration and fear of communicating in some ‘wrong or offensive’ way will build to a point where either the person will not attempt communication, or communication will be restricted to what is necessary. It will also breed resentment against those who are different as they become seen as the reason for the person’s frustration.

Secondly, ‘political correctness’ can be used as something to hide behind rather than engaging in intelligent and meaningful conversation to express an opinion or be answerable to others for one’s own actions. It can also lead to unacceptable behaviour because someone may take advantage of the perceived weakened state of society to criticise them.

The most common fear is one of loss.

The loss of perceived status, the loss of possessions, the loss of a home, because of non-compliance with the expectations of a government or society. This is often linked to the perception that one has to be economically productive in order to be accepted by the majority of society, and the myth that the only way to achieve that is my working hard.

Despite the propaganda, in reality the majority of people who ‘work hard’ see very little economic or social benefit, increase their levels of stress, and reduce the time that can use to develop themselves as members of humanity or engage with others.

From child to grave we are trained to be afraid.

These are a few of the ways in which humanity is kept in fear, whether it is through a direct threat, an insinuated threat which plays on the conscience, or the instillation of fear of loss.

There are many other examples of where fear is used to keep people’s attention diverted from the truth and to limit the number of alternative possibilities they will consider as viable for humanity to continue to exist and live together.

 

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