The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, April 10, 2006

Fear Itself

The Dark Side is the belief that the wrongs which were done to you in the past justify your current behavior.
            My parents were mean to me, so I will be a mean person.  I got dumped by a girlfriend once, so I'll cheat on my wife, because women are evil.  I had a hard life, so I can do anything I want, because the world owes me.”

The above was sent to me by a reader pondering the nature of evil, and how it effects us. 

Here’s the truth: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a perfect excuse to be a bad person.  A failure.  To strike out at the world.  Every human being on this planet feels alone and afraid. 
The only question is: what will you do with your loneliness and your fear?

Another reader commented that the Neocons use fear to manipulate the public.  Yet another commented that Democrats do the same thing.  Let’s be even more honest: Politicians use fear to motivate us.  No, let’s be even more honest still: human beings use fear to motivate each other, and themselves.  Fear, and loneliness.

The vast majority of commercial products are sold using the hot-buttons of fear and sex and power.  It is arguable that power is only desired because it protects us from fear, and enables greater access to sex (especially for men.)
So we’re down to the lower two or three chakras.  Brothers and sisters, if you are trying to get a crowd moving, and you appeal to their intellects while the guy across the street is talking sex and fear, YOU WILL LOSE.
After 9-11 America, like virtually any country that wants to survive, went into crash mode, collapsed to a two-dimensional view of the world, and heightened the “If you’re  not with us, you’re against us” attitude more severely than I’ve ever seen it in my lifetime.  Anyone who disagreed with the administration was a traitor or a coward, an attitude that shut the Democrats up so soundly that they’ve yet to really recover.  Do you think that Bush invented this?  Or that America invented this?  NO! It is ancient stuff.  I am hurt, the world turns red, I lash out and destroy anything that isn’t instantly identifiable as “family” or “ally.” 

EVERYONE gave Bush the benefit of the doubt.  His approval ratings went through the roof. Absolutely predictable. We wanted, needed to belief that he was the right man, in the right place, doing the right job.
There is only one way to stop politicians, or Hollywood, or Madison Avenue from manipulating you with your fear: you must face it yourself.  You must, on a daily basis, look at the demons crawling in the depth of your mind, and realize that you are NOT, regardless of what you may think, primarily motivated by logic.  Nope, and never have been.  Logic operates at the pleasure of your emotions, which are linked directly to survival drives.

In other words, most people think that they think, and then they feel.  No.  They feel, and then try to justify their feelings with thought.  This is why two intelligent people can look at the same situation, and have completely different sets of “explanations” for it—there are ALWAYS multiple ways of looking at things.  Whenever you get the “you  fools!  Can’t you see!” response, this is a person with a frozen emotional attitude, whose intellect is scurrying to justify a pre-set point of view.
I have a friend whose father owned land with black sharecroppers on it.  He was told by his father that god made these poor people lesser, and that it was the white man’s obligation to care for them.  He was also raised Catholic, and taught by nuns.  He believes in a literal, burning hell.  This man, highly intelligent, is intractable on the issues of race.  He discards any data that might infer that black people are as intelligent and capable as whites, or that slavery caused any long-term damage.  (In fact, he insists that the only damage to the black family was done by liberal welfare policies!)

Over the decades I’ve known him, ever so very slowly, he has begun to admit that maybe…MAYBE…the racial IQ differences have some environmental basis.  But every time he heard an expert speaking on the subject, unless the expert agreed with him, he simply branded the man a fool or a liar.

His beliefs about race are tied together with his belief in God, don’t you see?  His fear for his soul makes it impossible for him to dig deeply into the attitudes he was given as a child.  They are the bedrock of his reality.  You couldn’t get to his racial attitudes with a jackhammer.
And we ALL have prejudices and preconceived notions that evade the light of consciousness.  If you meditate, you merely become more aware of them, which can be depressing for some, and drive people away from the very practices that would set them free.

Don’t blame the Neocons, or Republicans, or Bush, or the Democrats for using our fear to motivate us.  If you want someone to blame, look in the mirror and ask why you are so afraid of your own fear.  Why human beings, whom some say are the only animals conscious of their own deaths, tend to use that knowledge to weaken rather than strengthen themselves. 

And as you question, question yourself.

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