Is Fear the Root of All Evil?

By Sarah Beaver, Simpol supporter and blogger.

If I am what I have and if I lose what I have, who then am I? (Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be?)

Why are governments and people so scared of losing out? Why are most people governed by it in such an extreme way? Why are most people so adverse to change? So helpless? Is it maybe not so much money that is the root of all evil, but rather fear? How can this be changed?

Governments don’t implement restricting policies because they are scared of losing out. They know that if they do, businesses will move to other countries where production can be carried out without much limititation. This could lead to the country becoming economically uncompetitive, causing inflation, unemployment, or even economic collapse.

This fear of losing out cannot only be found in governments, but also in the people who are at risk of losing their jobs, not finding employment, and not being able to maintain their standards of living.

This means that governments hold a double responsibility – they are responsible for their economic competitiveness, and for the well-being of the people. However, because governments are helpless in the name of competitiveness, they often have no other choice but to abuse the power that they have, instead of co-operating with the public. This is why governments often make use of the public’s fear (e.g. by inducing it) to implement changes for their own benefit.

It appears that fear is increasingly becoming a pervasive emotion in Western society which hangs like a cloud above the towns, blurring our vision and consigning an air of discomfort and anger. We seem to be helpless in the face of action, facing a government that does not listen to us, that cannot listen to us. It is almost like a child looking up to its caregiver who it is completely dependent upon, not receiving any regard.

The sociologist, Frank Füredi has referred to our culture as the “Culture of Fear”. He illustrates how an increasing amount of people and politicians avoid taking risks and how a fear-mindset has embedded itself within society, exaggerating problems and overtrumping possible solutions.

Where does this fear of loss come from? Why are we so strongly governed by it? Do we after all, maybe not live in a “Business-ocracy”, but rather a “Fear-orcracy”? Is fear the root of all evil? How can “People power” be achieved?

According to the Erich Fromm (humanistic philosopher and psychoanalyst) many people are scared of any kind of loss because they define themselves by what they have rather than what they are. They are going through existence in a having mode as opposed to a being mode. This having mode was brought forward by the industrial age during which we were promised unlimited happiness, freedom, and wealth. If people define themselves as what they have, they are constantly in danger of losing what they have, and thus losing themselves. This makes people prone to being defensive, suspicious, and greedy.

Another idea that stems from Fromm is that people are scared of freedom. Since European and American history revolved around the fight to gain political and economical freedom, the freedom that we have gained has made our society a neurotic one. Rather than making use of this freedom to obtain happiness and self-realisation, some people feel aswoon by their freedom, making them feel anxious, isolated, and powerless. To escape these feeling, many people escape into dependency and submission of/to e.g. status, money, authoritarian figures, or even ideas.

Erich Fromm believes that in order to break away from our fear of losing out and our fear of freedom, we have to individually develop and co-operate with each other and be in touch with our humanity. Interestingly, in his book “To Have or to Be?” Erich Fromm quotes Mesarovic and Pestel’s (two scienticts) work in which they claim that major and global catastrophe can only be avoided by drastic economic and technological changes on a global level, according to a master plan. This very much represents the idea of Simpol.

Why is it that so many people are adverse to change? Why have people given up on politics? The reason for this, again, is most likely to lie in the emotion of fear. According to Frank Füredi, western societies are dominated by the politics of fear which has embedded itself in the cultures, making most people feel like there is no alternative. The politics of fear is a result of the decline of the enlightenment idea of personhood (using politics as a means of conquering one’s own fate) which in turn has exhausted public life, and created apathy towards politics. According to him, the idea of personhood has decline because we have a wrong idea about what personhood is, not seeing ourselves as able to be autonomous, free, and able to take risks. The suspicious and cynical attitude that many people hold toward politics is the same one that we hold in relation to each other. To be able to break free from the politics of fear, humans need to not see themselves as vulnerable, and grasp a positive attitude toward individual autonomy, freedom, risk-taking, and experimentation.

The problem of competitiveness thus seems to lie in the fear of losing out, the need to gain evermore, a lack of confidence, and the fear of losing ourselves, because we define ourselves externally.

But how can we possible get everyone to change themselves on an individual level? Since many people are adverse to change, they may not want to make any changes. I think the best that can be done is for the people who do want change, is to make use of fear in a strategic way, because it seems to be the only and best option, as opposed to sitting and waiting.

I believe that this is exactly what Simpol is about. Turning the fear that politicians have no other choice but to impose on us around, and using it in a positive way. The strategic plan of Simpol is to tell politicians that we will only vote for them if they adopt the Simpol pledge. Because they are so scared of losing out on votes, they will have no other option but to adopt it – or they will “lose themselves”. Sociologist Anthony Giddens came up with the idea of using people’s fear as a resource for moral renewal – a universal value driven by the heuristics of fear. It could be argued that this is part of what Simpol does.

We can no longer remain apathetic and helpless, and hope for good things to come from above, because it will not happen. Most politicians are scared because they are unable to make changes due to global competitiveness. We need to stop blaming politicians (or anyone else) and look into ourselves, develop individually, but also co-operate, and strive for humanity, and take action in to our own hands. If changes are achieved in this way, they may have an effect on an individual level, and again influence things on a social level, and so on.

I believe that if we all come together and re-build a democracy that has been lost due to fear both politicians and the people will regain their power and we can focus on living rather than guarding, taking, fearing, and hating. The power to change comes from within and together.



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