Monday, March 21, 2011

Who benefits from your fear?

The fear is ratcheting up again. Again I’m reminded of the scene in the movie V for Vendetta when the mad tyrant Adam Sutler demands that the citizenry be reminded “why - they - need - us!!!”

I turn on the news this morning and the U.S. is leading a coalition to make war against Libya. The fallout continues from the Japan earthquake - literally, as crews continue to work to avert catastrophe at a crippled nuclear power plant. In my home state of Wisconsin and elsewhere, a battle is brewing between the private sector and public employees, with either side claiming the other is motivated by greed. Like the bar patron in V for Vendetta, one is tempted to wonder aloud, “Do you believe that shit?”

The other option is to be afraid. Fear kills reason. Fear leads to irrational decisions. When fear wells up in your throat, the only rational thing to do is to force it back down. Refuse to be afraid.

Then consider: Who benefits when you are afraid? In the story, the tyrant Sutler clearly felt he had the upper hand when ordinary citizens were cowed. A fearful citizenry is more easily led. The forces of tyranny can advance their attack on freedom more easily against people who don’t want to be afraid anymore. They have a tougher row to hoe against people who simply refuse to be afraid, people who see through the ruse and preserve their freedom.

As H.L. Mencken famously said, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Don’t let them alarm you. If you are afraid to speak out, speak anyway. Refuse to be afraid.

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