Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm Afraid Fear Has Gone Too Far

The link between ignorance and fear is well documented in human history.

From ancient Rome. . .

 “Fear is not in the habit of speaking truth.” Publius Cornelius Tacitus.

. . . .through The Enlightenment. . .

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.” Edmund Burke.

“Fear always springs from ignorance.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“The slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. " Thomas Paine.

. . .to modernity.

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” Bertrand Russell.

"Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear." Bertrand Russell.

“Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.” Albert Camus.

“Misunderstanding arising from ignorance breeds fear, and fear remains the greatest enemy of peace.” Lester B. Pearson.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Those who would seize and abuse power have always known that fear is a valuable tool in manipulating the ignorant masses. Mounting evidence suggests that the American far right has been more successful in exploiting ignorance and fear to its own ends than any political organization in human history, including the National Socialists of Germany in the 1930s.

Katie Couric (fear and ignorance among the town hall mobs) and Tom Ridge (Rumsfeld and others pressured him to ramp up the fear level) are only the latest messengers to remind us of this political phenomenon.

The optimists among us believed that the tactic peaked in the Bush administration and that the election of Barack Obama and a Democratic-controlled congress effectively brought it to an end. The optimists were wrong.

When the President sought to reverse the policies that had engendered incredible hatred of the United States in the Arab world, the far right told us to be very afraid because he had weakened our country, made it more vulnerable to another 9/11-like attack.

When the President sought to reduce our dependency on foreign oil and put us on a path to energy efficiency from renewable sources, a new industry that would provide new jobs, the far right told us to be very afraid because energy costs would skyrocket to the point that we couldn't afford to run our air-conditioners or drive our SUVs, and jobs would vanish.

Now the exploiters of fear and ignorance are telling us that a law to provide health insurance for all Americans would somehow euthanize Grandma.

Ignorance and fear have been called the twin pillars of bigotry. The bigotry that has lurked in the white American soul since slavery undoubtedly accounts for the sheer meanness, the ugly passion, with which Obama's critics have attacked his efforts to fulfill his campaign promises and electoral mandate. Ignorance, fear and low self-esteem fuel these passions -- and there'sa black man in the White House. A black man!

One progressive soul in Arizona wrote recently: "The key to removing discrimination is the banishment of bigotry and fear. And the only way to do this is to remove ignorance wherever it’s found."

Surely some right wingnut in his neighborhood said that he was advocating frontal lobotomies for those who disagreed with him, and that if he had his way we'd all become lobotomized zombies.

Then again, maybe "we" already are.


  1. I find this to be a fairly typical mind set for those left of center; a dissection and injection of 'feeling' into an intellectual debate, because without the sole benefactor of feeling a leftist position holds no merit. This particular entry speaks of ignorance and fear, but I challenge any self-proclaimed ‘optimist’ to set aside their feelings for a logical debate on the substance of legislation. If, by your logic, knowledge sets you free from the fear of tyrants, than I challenge you to demonstrate the knowledge of the written legislation.

  2. Interesting, it seems that we are both destined to write each other off as prime demonstrations of opposing ideology. The major difference being that I encourage debate and the exchange of ideas, whereas the only encouragement I am to draw from your conclusion is that opposing point of views can serve no purpose than as part of a political theorem.

    quod erat demonstrandum

  3. Sir, you you want to "debate" the "substance of legislation." WHICH legislation, pray tell?

    The Mann Act? FIFA? The so-called Patriot Act? All the bills that have been introduced in Congress this term?

  4. The substance of any piece of legislation should be open to debate. Specifically mentioned here would be HR 3200 and HR 2454. All I suggest is that if your going to advocate against ignorance and fear, you should know the substance of what you support.

  5. Sir, I resent your blithe and utterly unfounded assumption that I have not read the material on which I comment.
    For the record:
    Not only have I read in its entirety the "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009," but also the complete texts of "H.Amdt. 286: An amendment consisting of the text of H.R. 2998. . ." and H.Amdt. 287: Amendment to strike everything and insert the text of H.R. 513, the "New Manhattan Project for Energy Independence" as well as the comments posted in The Congressional Record by several of the 59 members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which sent the bill to the House floor.
    Not only have I read the complete text of ‘‘America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009’’. (HR 3240), but also the entire text of the Senate legislation known as the Kennedy-Dodd Bill.
    And now I suggest that you take your hollow posturing to some other site. I'm busy.

    By the way, "your" is the second perso0n possessive; a literate writer would have written "you're," which is the contraction for "you are."