Friday, April 06, 2007

The only thing we have to fear is the culture of fear itself

There are only two basic emotions: love and fear. Whenever we face a situation, we can chose to respond or to react: to draw on our emotional reservoir of love or our sense of fear. The result is a myriad of responses and reactive behaviours, but all are foundationed in one or other of our primary emotions: love or fear.

Frank Furedi has written extensively on the contemporary "culture of fear". In this essay, Furedi offers a quick overview of the culture of fear and its principal causes. Paraphrasing, he suggests:
Fear is often said to be the defining cultural mood in contemporary society.Today's free-floating fear is sustained by a culture that is anxious about change and uncertainty, and which continually anticipates the worst possible outcome. This fear does not just happen; it is socially constructed and then manipulated by those who seek to benefit from its widespread acceptance. Moreover, popular culture has been the key element in promoting the discourse of fear, with risk communication, rather than personal experience, generating most fear these days.
These themes were brilliantly explored by Virginia Postrel in her book The Future and its Enemies. The propagation of ecomyths reflects an attempt by those with stasist ideology to co-opt the use of science and to instil in society a condition of fear for the future of the environment with the expectation that any future change is necessarily one to be feared. Their purpose is twofold: (1) to justify increased regulation of individual freedoms, and (2) to promote the imposition of their ideology as the default belief system for society.

In this context, ecomyths are a significant component of a larger ideological narrative. Is ours a culture best characterized by fear? Is a culture exemplified by fear, one that empowers the individual to be the best they can be? Is fear the best image we have of ourselves?

The point of a defining ideology should be that it defines our ideal. And isn't an ideal society one where love and not fear predominates?