Monday, January 21, 2013

Americans motivated by fear

I have written about fear in the past - a few years ago. It seems that since then fear as a factor motivating the behavior of Americans has expanded.

At a hip-hop concert one of the rappers wears a T-shirt with text: "Marijuana is safer than alcohol". So now safety is again a major justification. At a gun rally, where people openly carried firearms, someone comments on the experience on facebook: "I never felt safer". I agree with the sentiment for the marijuana as well as for gun rights, yet these minor expressions of the desire for safety are cropping up very frequently nowadays.

These sometimes innocuous expressions of the desire for safety are likely manifestations of a deeper seated issue. That is the issue of fear. Why are people fearful? Where is the threat? Where is the enemy? This sense of fear allows them to tolerate the US government's lethal activities abroad: in Pakistan, Yemen and now Mali. It allows them to tolerate the abuses of and outright attacks on civil liberties - such as spying on US citizen's private communications and even activities in their homes through drone technology, such as the right to indefinite detention and even assassination the President arrogated to himself under NDAA. Americans tolerate unspeakable cruelty of US criminal law that recently drove an admirable young human rights activist - Aaron Swartz - to suicide after he was threatened with 35 years in prison for clearly a victimless crime of improper use of so-called intellectual property. And they tolerate cruelty against immigrants, drug dealers and their often clueless helpers - allowing the prisons to be populated by perpetrators of victimless crimes.

This all is motivated by fear! This happens because we will allow anything that makes us safer! Fearful, rich and heavily armed - we are spending ourselves into the ground and spreading violence and hatred!

Similarly much of the left-liberal agenda is responding to the fear of capitalism and the market system. The free market system has advanced our material well being enormously over the last century. The poor people of today have much more at their disposal than the rich of 100 years ago. Of course we face problems, such as global warming, environmental challenges, health care market issues - but we are capable of facing them. Somehow the left-liberal view is that we are not and must call in the greatest coercive forces around - those of the US government, EU and UN and what not - and police and regulate the free forces of the market. This is condescending as it deprecates the genius of enterprising individuals and values the overbearing inefficiency of the officials.

The impulse for the federal health care mandate is another expression of fear - or anxiety that we as freely cooperating individuals cannot take on the challenges of life, its individual decline and death. Fear that for the challenges of life we will not be able to turn to our fellow humans but will have to rely on the paternal hand of the government. For all the talk about a spiritual renewal of the world among the left-liberals the drive toward government-controlled health care system sounds a loud tone of resignation from the hope for a change of the human heart.

The fear comes from the distrust of the fellow human. Directing all the trust toward the coercive hand of the government leads to violence and decline.