Is fear the currency of Australian political, economic and social interactions?
In one of the most secure and wealthy nations blessed with great natural assets, fear seems to dominate our decision-making from the personal to the national levels.
How did we get this way?
How does it manifest in our daily actions, even with our loved ones?
What is the long-term effect of living this way?
Those in power fear that power will be taken from them. Those with wealth fear that too will be taken or lost. We fear change – even positive change; we fear the unknown. Conservatism is based on fear.
The current Australian government fears its own people – the people who did (or didn’t) elect it into power. While the US system was built on mistrust of government, our Australian system was not.
We therefore have systems built around us that generate fear; if we lose our job there may be no “safetynet” to prevent us from destitution. We can be coerced into fear through our desires. The Abbott government is going to extremes of cruelty to engender fear in potential asylum-seekers; many refuse to succumb and take the journey anyway. Ruling through fear and hate – what’s that about? It’s a choice, and a particularly abhorrent one. We have fought wars in the past to prevent this sort of oppression.
Fear of death is the grand old existential fear and religions have best harnessed that fear for their benefit. It [arguably] underlies all our fears. Not the topic for this short post. Today I’m talking about the psychological and emotional fears that are largely constructed rather than physical fears arising from activities such as driving a car, or walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon etc.
Our immediate emotional response to fear is anger. And we Australians seem to be more angry than ever now.
That said, we have overcome the worst of our fears around, for example, being an unmarried mother, being gay, being confined to a mental asylum by one’s husband and so on.
Travel is a great eye-opener; it changes our perspective from the myopic claustrophobia of habitual living. We can see new ways of living with more courageous, open and generous values informing cultures.
We DO NOT have to submit to fear. To be conscious of your fears – to explore and challenge them – can be a form of civil disobedience and certainly a life-changing liberation. However, revolutions of any sort demand courage!
I have learnt a lot about fear from my scaredy cat. She misses out on some great stuff because of her irrational fears. The same applies to us all 🙂
The tricky bit is working out which fears are irrational and which aren’t. And what the cost is to us. As individuals and as a community. Short term and long term. Sometimes there’s just no value in being fearful.
Conformity is enforced through fears generated purely for that purpose – by churches, governments, families, friends, and many others. Social conformity isn’t necessarily a bad thing – however, it is by far better to encourage desirable behaviour through positive reinforcement.
Recently I heard a neighbour call to her toddler girl child to “get away from that shed! There are horrible spiders in there!” This had nothing to do with spiders (soooo maligned) and everything to do with the mother’s laziness and need to control the child. The easiest course of (in)action was to instill fear that could be used long into the future. A little tug here… a little prod there…
Where does the fear of catastrophic climate change fit in? Deniers offer refuge from fear in their lies. Many take comfort from their distortions in spite of clear and unassailable scientific evidence. Maybe the deniers are right – climate change as an issue is religion. The fear is on the scale of fear of death and the deniers take the role of religion.