The Only Thing We Have to Fear

Quote of the Day:

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts…perhaps the fear of a loss of power.”     John Steinbeck

TB read this article yesterday and I found it enlightening. It caught my eye because it referenced Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Keep Fear Alive, but it kept my attention because it presented a fascinating viewpoint on collective irrational fear as a remnant of our ancient past, a feature of our evolution, even a strength advantaging us in the battle for survival.

The author, Dr. Rick Hanson, seized on Colbert’s ironic rallying cry and used it to make a greater point. He says that early man had two choices when it came to fear: (1) hear a rustling in the bushes and not worry about it or (2) hear a rustling in the bushes and run for cover. Well, it only takes one tiger in the bushes to naturally select which early man’s genes would bear the most fruit–the fearful one. Interesting, even if you take the postulate no further. But really interesting if you think about what it means to each of us personally and as a whole.

On a personal level, it is a reminder that most of us are a little too focused on the negative. I’ll admit to being accused of that more than once over the years; the funny thing is virtually all of my accusers have been oblivious that I see them the same way. Turns out we’re just survivors. But it also highlights the importance of working on our own positivity because we are hard-wired to ease into the luxurious negative via the highway of fear, be it economic, interpersonal, physical or other–something I realized many years back, and something I have success with. Off and on.

As a group, particularly as Americans, this article has particular relevance right now. We are a scared-shitless nation. Justifiably so in many ways. The economy has been teetering on the edge of collapse for years. Our home values have crashed. Our jobs are insecure. The (insert party opposite your preference here, or both if you are so inclined) are driving us over the cliff. Osama wants to blow up our cities. BP wants to poison our oceans. The truth is, there is a lot to fear and to act upon.

But here’s the trick. We must learn to discern what is rightly feared, thus combated or run from, and what should be ignored as just a harmless breeze rustling in the bush. Much of what we fear is pure unmitigated bullshit. Death panels? Please. Eliminating social security? Will never happen. An incoming missile from Iran or Venezuela or Libya or Grenada or Vietnam or whoever the enemy of the day happens to be? Not bloody likely. It is of these and a thousand other groundless fears driven into us mercilessly by right, left, right again, and the media that make life a lot harder than it ought to be.

The article immediately brought to mind one of Franklin Roosevelt’s most famous lines: “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” I decided to look up the speech in which the great line was uttered.  I’ve always associated it with the need for courage in the face of foreign enemies. Not so. Roosevelt was hip to what Dr. Hanson writes about way back in 1933, at his inauguration in the midst of the Great Depression. Read it yourself. 

Here’s the whole “fear itself” quote:

This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure, as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

“Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” Damn, some things never change. Setting aside what you believe about how Roosevelt dealt with the Depression and the accompanying national fear, it is amazing how perfectly he put his finger on the root problem facing the country. Fear. The whole speech is about overcoming fear, and the money line is still known to all of us almost eighty years later. It is a shame we have no leader in place nor any leader on the horizon willing and/or able to acknowledge and confront our deep-seated and rapidly growing national paranoia the way Roosevelt did. And that my friends, is the one thing to fear.

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About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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17 Responses to The Only Thing We Have to Fear

  1. Kathy Parker says:

    So timely and true. Excellent writing as usual.

  2. TDW says:

    If I fear the fear that is the only thing I have to fear, then I’m one fear removed from the initial fear. Now I’ve got 2 fears, the initial fear which is the only thing to fear and the fear generated by that fear. While I shouldn’t fear the fear of the fear, because the initial fear is the only one truly worthy of fear, how do I deal with the 3rd fear? For it I fear it, then I’m three steps from the initial fear and you can see how this can turn into the exercise of looking into a mirror while holding a mirror. It just goes and goes.

    Damn, this is some good pot.

    So, anyway, good post, TB. There is a ridiculous amount of fear-peddling out there. And it’s a shame. On a related note, today, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Madison County Tea Party.” The rest of the bumper sticker could have said, “When fascism just isn’t far right enough.”

    • Far right enough is so far right fascism has become the new left. I swear, nothing the TP does pushes my buttons like when they use non-sensical pejoratives for left wingers. Once and for all Beck, Limbaugh, et al…..Nazi equals FAR RIGHT, Communist equals FAR LEFT.

      Per your first paragraph, I fear that you just blew my mind.

  3. Jessie Lou says:

    The two of you need you own show – that I would watch.

  4. Madd Dawg says:

    Note: Beavis and Butthead is already taken.

    TB,
    Why didn’t you list global warming on your list of irrational fears? I think that the developments of the past few years have relegated that to the category of “pure unmitigated bullshit”.

  5. Jessie Lou says:

    I think MD needs to be a guest on occasion. That B&B comment was perfect.

    Hey I’ve dabbled in astrology, um, I mean witchcraft ….. can I be the token curly haired person on the show?

  6. Madd Dawg says:

    and the only red hed…..JL is versatile!!

    TB: Hopefully the two recent US Supreme Court decisions stating the obvious (that the Second Amendment grants individuals, not just government militias, the right to own and keep guns) will cause the gun control crazies to find another doomed cause upon which to waste their time. However, I will still keep paying my NRA dues every year…..just in case.

  7. ZEEK says:

    I saw a great bumper sticker this morning- “I’m not racist- I hate Obama’s white half too!” LMAO

  8. Smilyj says:

    I will tell you the only things I ever fear anymore. Bridges that I have never crossed and even some I cross regularly. Hate dem thangs! Also, I was scared to death right before my boy was born. He still scares me sometimes.

  9. Marilia says:

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  11. Nur says:

    I had no idea how to answer the poll busceae quite honestly I just found this episode really creepy. Probably the creepiest ONCE episode I have ever seen.This was mostly due to the interations between Rum and Regina in FTL. I can’t be the only one who was a little uncomfortable during that, right? Also the end with Cora was also creepy and just Cora in general. And Regina killing Snow in her imagination. I don’t know, I was just really creeped out.However I also felt really bad for Gina and Gold in SB. Gina busceae she does love Henry, and I hate that he can’t love her as much. Gold busceae I think we can all agree he wants to get out of SB and find Bae and now well This episode was really weird. I’m really not sure what to think of it at this point, I’m going to have to watch it a few more times, I think.

  12. Titia says:

    More insurance money could be saved if cars were manufactured so as to decrease property damage incurred in minor mishaps. Among the Quotes Chimp that should be required are the following.

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