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.