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Wednesday, February 23

The Power of Fear

Aside from whatever's been going on with The Cubs for the last one hundred and two years, it is my belief that there are only two emotional forces at play for homo sapiens: Love and Fear. Everything else inhabits a sublet from one of those two primary kinetics.


Fear is paralyzing, and when it does motivate to action, that action is reactionary, frequently expressed through disproportionate bluff and anger. It is a most unfortunate circumstance when the being reacting out of fear happens to be the most powerful nation on Earth—indeed the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, one that, when viewed from any distance at all, sits largely immune to any external threat.

As long as there have been persuaders, there have been demagogues: so-called leaders who seek to enhance their own personal and civic power to manipulate the public by preaching to gut level anxiety. Anxiety, worry, disease, fear, agitation, angst, tension. All circumvent rational thought. All can lead those so possessed to actions that only later can they see were at best misguided, and at worst repressive, psychopathic, homicidal, and genocidal.

The linked videos on the politics of fear, from BBC's amazing series The Power of Nightmares, draw a hair-raising link between the need for the Neocons on the American Right to create a new boogeyman after the fall of the Soviet Union's paper tiger, and the small group of pious Salafi luddites living in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both groups are acting out of what they feel to be in the larger best interest for their respective population. Both groups also believe that the ends justify the means. If thousands (NYC, Kenya Tanzania, Iraq, Pakistan, UK, Spain, etc.), or even hundreds of thousands (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan), have to be killed and maimed to achieve the goals, then that is a justified, but barely unfortunate, amount of collateral damage on the way to the objective.

I have done a lot of reading on this subject. A lot. And this video series weaves these two stories together in a way that I have not seen or heard in quite this way. The clear-headed Neocon lunatics meet the brilliant Arab reactionaries they once funded on the field of battle. The rest of the world gets trampled under foot.

The groovy Maria Popova at Brain Pickings assembled all of the youtube videos in one handy place so that they flow one into the other. While you watch this, you will no doubt be amazed and sickened. I do not recommend it all for one sitting. I do recommend frequent breaks and also having a potent emergency shot of cute nearby to take the edge off.

You can follow Maria on Twitter @brainpicker. I recommend it.

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