All humans live in fear.
It is part and parcel of the human condition, a legacy in part of evolving as prey for some pretty formidable predators there on the savanna. (If you are not too afraid of admitting that we are not some hobby project that God decided to whip up in his garage 6000 years ago, that is.)
The first part of the human brain that evolved, what many folks call the reptile brain, evolved for one purpose only. To keep us from being eaten. To this day, that part of the brain reacts first, before we can control it. It reacts to the stimulus of fear…any fear…and there is basically nothing we can do about it.
Then the ‘animal’ part of the brain evolved, bringing what we would identify today as ‘social fear,’ the fear of being shunned out of the protective pack or herd and being cast out into the night as individual prey, unloved and on our own. This reactive fear still shapes a huge amount of societal behavior. Are YOU a Real American? Or should the rest of us Real Americans shun you out into the night. Are you one of the pack? Or are you the dreaded “other,” something to be feared?
Only when we get past this level of fear do we get to the fears brought on by abstract thought, the so called rational fears, the fears of the developed cortex. Though in my experience, these fears are mostly just embellishments of our abstract imagination on the same old fears. But our “new” and shiny brains are capable of soaring flights and complexities of fear that can v=be truly amazing. In the course of a few minutes of “thought” we can invent whole worlds and timestreams, entire alternate universes in which all of our truly impressive fears are realized. We do it without even having to think. In fact, not thinking is precisely the condition necessary to create these worlds.
And these are the worlds that Conservatives live in. These worlds are the reason that Conservatives fight against any form of change. Because they fear the future and the catastrophes that their reptile brains are constantly on the lookout for, their animal brains make very personal, and their higher cortex embellish to amazing levels.
These are the worlds the Conservatives insist we join them in. This IS the reason for Conservative politics. When the Conservatives whine about Liberals, it almost always some form of “Can’t you Liberals see this enormous threat???”
And of course this is what Conservative electoral politics is all about, every Conservative politician is, in essence soliciting you to join them in their fear. And they fear….everything.
But we seem to be in an extraordinary and rare time in American politics. A time when Americans are rejecting the politics of fear and, at least for the moment, embracing, dare I say it, the politics of hope. Whether this is merely because they fear the present mess the Republicans have created or because they are truly ready for a new kind of politics and a new kind of world that is not based solely on fear is impossible to say. Whether Obama is truly a figure of hope over fear is still unclear because of this. Is his popularity a true manifestation of change? Or just a reaction to the current all pervasive assault of the Republican propaganda of fear under Bushco? The fear that they have imposed on all of us to keep themselves in power has spread and magnified and created a world in which there is even more to fear.
Their fear has created the financial crisis, has created MORE terrorists, more war, a Police State in which we must fear the surveillance of our own government etc. And right now, they are engaged in creating and exploiting fears of every solution (Socialism!!!) to the problems that their politics of fear have manufactured.
Yes there are unquestionably things out there that are fearful, some very very scary changes are hitting us now, and more are on the way. In some ways, especially due to Climate Crisis and over population, the human race faces a very uncertain…and thus scary…future. We only truly have one choice though, do we react in fear and retreat from these problems? Or do we press forward through the fear?
Do we shrink from these challenges and hide under our Conservative beds at the approach of the boogeyman of an uncertain future, or do we reject the ancient primal fear of the unknown? Or do we set aside of the worst of our fears, do we reject the power of those fears to stop the Progress of the human race?
We are at a potential pivot point in the history of the human race. If we allow ourselves to embrace fear we produce one future. If we allow ourselves to be courageous, we produce another. The real hope of changing the world for the better lies in enough humans putting aside their fear of each other and their fear of the future to create a new and different world from the one which we have always lived in.
FDR famously said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Now we are at a point where we cannot even afford to fear fear! We simply MUST press on and make the hard and sometimes painful choices we will face. We must each in our hearts reject fear and especially the politics of fear and as someone once said…boldly go where mankind has never gone before!
Electing Obama is the first step in rejecting fear, where we go from there, the world we create after that pivot point is up to the courage, sacrifice and hard unflinching work each one of us. The bulk of that challenge lies in taking the first step of rejecting the fear within us and walking into the future with our heads held high, ready to face the challenges of a new world. Just as the Republicans have had a huge influence in creating the world of fear we now live in, we can have a huge influence in creating a new world. A world based not on competition inspired by fear of each other, but based on the courage that it takes to cooperate with each other, to trust each other…to love each other. To act not as warring tribes or nation states, but to come, finally, to the realization that we are one big tribe, the human tribe. If we can do that one thing, there is nothing we can’t do. no challenge we cannot face and defeat.