Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

State of Fear

"Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled,
more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line
postures. . . . They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises
to relieve their insecurities." George Gerbner

A month or so ago, I read State of Fear by Michael Crichton. I am not normally a reader of Crichton's books. Too techie for me in general; but I felt I should read this one because it was about global warming and taking an opposing view to a lot of what is being put forth. I was surprised to find I did enjoy the book and I believe it had some valid points that are worth considering whether you are a believer in global warming as a catastrophe waiting to happen, whether you think it's a natural cycle, or whether you think it's all an environmentalist plot to block successful industries.

State of Fear is a reminder of how fear manipulates. It should remind us how statistics can be misused and to warn us that because someone says 2 + 2 = 5 does not make it so. It warns us that ruthless people are willing to use anything to gain their way. In the book it's environmentalists but it could just as well be any other body with an agenda that becomes more important than 'how' you get there.

We are bombarded by things to be afraid of and over and over told disaster awaits if we don't trust someone to take care of it. Terrorism, pandemic, catastrophic storms, mad cow disease and on and on. Add to it our personal lives, where we have even more fears-- disease, aging parents, job loss, etc.

The movie Good night and Good Luck retelling the story of Edward R. Murrow and his television program challenging Joseph McCarthy has come out on DVD. I recommend it highly for a vivid illustration of how easy it can be for a government to use fear to control; and how we should not assume something is true that we have not checked for ourselves.

When I was growing up, McCarthy had been mostly debunked; and most then seemed to agree his fear mongering in the name of protecting us from Communism had not been right, that he had been caught up in his own power trip. The problem back then went beyond him to a whole mentality that allowed someone to be accused of being a Communist with no real proof. Recently Ann Coulter wrote a book called Treason and as so often happens with what we see as history, she challenged what has been accepted. She said McCarthy was right.

It's not too surprising we'd see such a movement right now given the same patterns that McCarthy followed are being repeated today supposedly to fight terrorism but, it seems to me, are in reality to limit dissent.

It's a scary time but we cannot be swallowed by fear because it's destructive to quality living, to real freedom. The answer to fear is knowledge. McCarthy used lies and innuendos. People didn't check out what he said. We are seeing that repeated today in many arenas. A lot of what was discussed in Good Night and Good Luck is as true today as then-- and as true as it was a hundred or a thousand years before.

Freedom has always required fighting to maintain because there is always someone willing to take it away and to give us good reasons why we should let them.


Idler said...

It's interesting that you end your piece appealing to the fear of the presumed enemies of freedom! You're certainly right about using knowlege (and by implication good judgement) to adjudicate claims that we should be fearful.

I don't know whether Gerbner is quite right. Fear is certainly a great motivator, but for dependent people and dependent types alike. Perhaps large numbers of people feel helpless, and about certain kinds of threats. One has to give fear its due, as does Gavin De Becker in his book The Gift of Fear. Fear is, in the end, a survival mechanism.

Ultimately, the question your post raises is which are we to fear more, terrorism and its related woes or repression? I haven't read Ann Coulter's book, so I don't know precisely what she said. I will say it's one thing to criticize the modus operandi of Joe McCarthy and quite another to say he was wrong about Communism being a threat (and being a very popular political system in Hollywood and elsewhere in American society during McCarthy's time).

"Good Night and Good Luck" is of course an appeal for viewers to fear the McCarthys of the world rather than Communism. Not exactly a novel theme. And if it is timely by way of metaphor, it may be as wrongheaded as Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," which failed its cautionary mission in as much as witches really don't exist, but Communists do and were in an expansionist mode at the time of the play's production. A recent essay finds "Good Night and Good Luck" a sort of failure in as much as it suppresses the very significant fact that Edward R. Murrow himself became a vocal opponent of communism. In the absence of that context, the film is unquestionably misleading.

Getting back to the main point, one can certainly be alert to both the demonstrated threat of terrorism and the possibility that counter measures might threaten liberty.

Rain said...

hi idler.

To start (not the most important area to comment on from what you said, but one) witches are real, just don't have long crooked noses, wear black and fly on broomsticks-- well maybe some of that they don't. *s* If someone, in the time of witch persecution, had admitted to what is done by some today in terms of spells, rituals, fortunetelling, etc. it'd have cost them their lives. Could in some countries even today.

If you haven't seen 'Good night and Good luck for yourself,' give it a try as well as the commentary by Clooney. The film uses wherever possible real text from the time and actual video tapes of say McCarthy and some of the hearings; some of the Republicans who stood against him also. And Eisenhower's video was strong and a warning for today as have been many things he said. As Clooney said in the commentary, it wasn't everything that happened (as is true in any book or movie) but it was a piece of a time that seems relevant to many for today.

There is an acronym for fear that I like-- False Expectations Appearing Real. Not to say that all fear is not based on what could happen but often it works against clear thinking. I agreed with Crichton on how we have to be careful wherever we hear people trying to make us fearful and look to see their real purposes as well as whether what they are saying is true.

I am guessing you are the same Idler as on another blog where I sometimes read your comments; so we know we don't see things the same way but it's always good to read thoughtful dissent. Makes us all think.

Idler said...

Rain, I grant you that witches do exist, though not quite in the way the judges of Salem believed—which is really the point, after all.

I'm sure I'm the same Idler. I've seen you at other blogs too. Just stopped by here for the first time today. Nice place and buena onda, as the Spanish saying goes. Wish I could have been on time for the polygamy thread.

Rain said...

hey, no thread is dead here as long as someone has interest in commenting on it. I have my email set up to notify me with new comments; so for anyone who finds an old topic that is interesting to them, please feel free to comment. I will read it even though I won't always comment as I don't believe we should always rain on someone else's parade. Hmmmm maybe rain is not the right word given it's my name.

Trying again-- I aim to respect what others say, realize there are often (not always) two sides to any issue, and mostly comment when I would like to clarify my own point... usually.. Not that i have any set rule that says I can't :)

Idler said...

I think I'll take you up on that. Kind of busy, but I wrote something a little while ago that is relevant to the discussion. Hope it might be found thought-provoking.

Mary Lou said...

I have not yet seen GOOD NIGHT....but plan on it this weekend. I am starting to think that all of the media dotes on FEAR tactics...wind up the population, and get them scared, then we can have our way with them. I have never been one who follows the way of the masses, I tend to look around and see how what they spew MAY affect my life and environment, and then act accordingly.

Bird flu for example. one would think that the whole world is doomed because a few people have died from a flu-like disease. However if you look at the total population, and the number of people that have actually died, The cahnces of me getting sick are very very slim. I do know of people who are upset, because I feed the birds in my back yard, and they are terrified I will be introducing BIRD flu into the neighborhood. (SHEESH)

I also have a tendency to believe that our government (whom ever is in charge) will in the end have our best interests in mind. Unlike my friend who is so paranoid that he is thinking about leaving the country, and/or living with no ties to any data base, as he thinks we are all doomed.

We may be doomed, but I think not. And since this friend Is retired US Navy, and draws a paycheck every month from them, wether he likes it or not, he IS hooked into a data base. ANd I asked him if he was ready to send his retirement check back every month, and he quickly changed the subject.

I personally will not be afraid at least for today.

(and the ice ages are cyclical!) (sun is going Nova tomorrow!)
(and my toilet water is monitored so they can test for drug use!)
LOLOL Im sorry!

Rain said...

*laughing* Mary Lou :) Good thoughts

Rain said...

oh and btw I also feed the birds. It's the one thing that makes me love winter, when I can start feeding the seed eaters. :) I used to feed hummingbirds also but I am not faithful enough on being here and cleaning out their little feeders; so now I just enjoy them in lesser numbers but at least don't have to worry I made them sick :) I feel as you do about the bird flu-- it's a way to panic us. They mentioned our last pandemic was 1968 and I didn't even know we were in one that year. The media does seem to thrive on trying to generate fear.

Parapluie said...

Interesting! I had been thinking that the bird flu could be one more attempt to raise our anxiety just to make us closer to panic and ultimate manipulation. Powerless people can bring about change of governments through rumors.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

The primary reason I began to study A Course in Miracles back in the 80s was because it suggested there are only two emotions: love and fear. Everything else is nuanced. I have not read the book you mention, but I appreciate your report on it. As for Joe McCarthy, I was being raised in those days in a very liberal household--my dad actually had dabbled in the Communist party himself in the 30s. He was appalled by Joe McCarthy and it can certainly be said now that the man mongered in fear, just as the religious right does. Control the people, at whatever cost. I will rent this movie this weekend. Thanks for recommending it. Coming up for air tonight.

Rain said...

I keep hearing of A Course in Miracles but have not read it. Everytime I look at it, it somehow doesn't register with me but I guess I should look again. Maybe it would now. I have heard before that fear is the opposite of love. They are ruling drives for many people-- one or the other; so can see the logic of them being the two base for everything else. I might write on this again as it would be easy to make it into more than a 'comment.'

Anonymous said...

Many people try to achieve goals. Most fail. Some strive, work hard and plan for all the details yet they achieve little or nothing at all. Others strive, work hard, plan and achieve huge success. Yet there are a few individuals who do little else than take small steps and seem to achieve a great deal with what seems like effortlessness. What is the difference between these people and which one would you like to be?
Most members of the human race fall into two categories - those who live in the past and those who live in the future. Most live in the past. Many of these are the people who achieve very little in their lives and are so fearful of the future that they dare not strike out to get anything. They are the under-achievers who hang onto bad episodes in their lives and either relive them time and again or look at new situations as similar potentialities. They say things like "all men are deceivers" or "all women are interested in is money" or "I can't do it. I tried before and it didn't work so why bother!". Due to bad experiences in the past they believe that all future events will turn out the same way if they dare to go after what they want.
The other type of person lives in the future. This type tends to create more of the things they want in life. They have a vision of where they want to go and exactly how they are going to get there. They work diligently at making concrete plans and they pursue those plans with a persistent ferocious appetite for success. These people are the high achievers - The Richard Branson and Bill Gates of the world. These people have much to teach us about setting and achieving goals.
However, there is a third type of person who almost goes unnoticed. They are the person who takes life in its stride and yet achieve most of what they want. I am sure you know of such a person in your life that just seems to saunter through life and yet they always come out on top. Or a person who you hear of that has decided to open a shop. You meet them a few months later and they have three shops all doing well! So what makes these people so successful and if they aren't living in the past and aren't living in the future where are they living?
I suppose you guessed it! Whether they are consciously aware of it or not they are living in the present. It is in the 'living' present that we have our greatest power. Everything happens in the present. You live your entire life there - even if your mind does not!
By becoming more aware of the present and by 'accepting' it as it is we are much more in control of our emotions and focus. When we live in the past we are fearful of making bad choices and/or getting hurt. We do not wish to recreate the past again! When we live in the future we can also be fearful of what might happen. But even if your future vision is full of power and worthy of working towards many people can, and often do, get stuck there. By constantly reaching for bigger and better goals they fail to enjoy what they have in the moment.
If you wish to start living a life that is almost effortless begin first by living in the present. Accept your situation the way it is and then you can enjoy what you have. Your focus changes from a memory of what was or a vision of what might be to a realization of what is. You become much more empowered to then see the beauty of life and also look at where you wish to make changes. But to make changes you must first accept the situation as it is. Trying to escape from your present only increases your focus on your problems by creating resistance to what is. Accept your life as it is now. Make no judgement, just accept it and then you will be free of doubt, worry, pain and fear. For you only experience these things when you live outside the 'moment'. self hypnosis

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