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The healing of trauma, and the creating of room for growth in the nervous system of our children and other human beings, does not only happen in therapists’ offices. Our everyday lives present us with endless opportunities to heal—through the things we say and do, the harmful things we are able to not say and do, and the ways in which we treat ourselves and others. We all have the capacity to heal—and to create room for thers to heal. Our relationships, communities, and circumstances all call us into this healing.

(from Resmaa Menakem, 2017, p. 305 in My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies)

 

Today, September 18, 2020, I received my absentee ballot to vote in the USA elections from my home in Canada. The United States has been politically, emotionally, and spiritually shaken the past 4 years. The truth of its darkest side unleashed for the world to see. And yet many in the USA still do not to see it. Including some of my devout Christian American relatives who support the current White House resident.

Last night I reread the letter I wrote in the early morning hours on the day after the 2016 election in my desire to not be caught in the deep fear that I could feel so viscerally in my body. I could not imagine going to my office and teaching that day as “normal” so I wrote to my community of students and faculty at the university where I was teaching and administrating. After I sent this letter many told me that they kept turning back to it in their state of shock and despair in the days and weeks that followed.

In less than 2 months we will face the next moment of truth and I find myself preparing.

Dear WGSS Students and Faculty 

I will be sharing the regular newsletter later today but felt the need to share these early morning thoughts in the aftermath of the election. I am a Canadian who chose to become an American 7 years ago after coming to teach at SIU. I have found it hard to understand American thinking and ways of being on so many levels. As a new American I have experienced the significance and responsibility of voting that I never felt as a Canadian. There are many gifts to be found in America. May the peoples of American now become leaders in the recovery and healing of deep systemic institutionalized oppressions that perpetuate hatred and fear. May Canada and all the world allies come forward to join in. The presence of WGSS in institutions of education is an essential part of that recovery. The work is undeniable and we have the knowledge and tools. We teach them in our classes, share them our research. I echo many of my WGSS colleague words on FB. It is time to get to work. 

Barbara

November 9, 2016.

Reality and Recovery

Accepting reality is the first step in recovery. Last night I chose to go to bed before the final election results were known. Awakening this morning at 5am my thought was “Trump has attained the Presidency of the United States of American. This is a reality.” Immediately I moved into thoughts of what I could share in my weekly newsletter to the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies community in which I am the Director of at SIU. I realized what I do know is that a number of disenfranchised groups in America have risen and won over other disenfranchised groups in this current political system. The familiar win-lose binary that keeps racism, sexism, homophobia and every other oppression in place is alive and well. The backlash for the losers is excruciating, full of pain and horror. I feel overwhelmed and ill-prepared for what is to come. I wake my partner up in bed as I weep and shake and ask him for attention. Attention is what we can give each other as we do the conscious work needed to release the collective trauma that has surfaced so blatantly in this 2016 election. It is a trauma that invokes with its worst side the use of intimidation to silence us and keep us isolated and in fear. On its better side it asks us to keep moving from crying to singing. I know from my experience that it is crucial to not silence the voice even when words feel impossible and/or inadequate. While being held by my partner I shift from shaking to singing. As I sing, thoughts of how oppressed groups utilize singing in times of political, cultural and religious oppressions arise in my memory, both in mind and body.

I begin to ask myself questions:

How can I step out of this rampant political binary and step into what can be clearly seen as fearism now that all politically correct hiding strategies have been blown up? How can I model something else more unifying with diversity for those who are part of my professional and personal life? The WGSS conference that I am in the midst of planning with students and faculty is entitled “Allies Across Differences.” We have been preparing to address the binary of win vs. lose, us vs. them. We have an opportunity to offer a hospitable space on campus for the collective trauma that this political election has brought to the world’s attention. The fall-out from the election results calls for attention and healing. We have the opportunity to keep teaching truth to power in hospitable ways, and yet, not be cooperative with oppression.

I am grateful for my wise colleague Cade Bursell’s FB post in the hours prior to the final election results. Reminding us/me to continue the work; to not return the hate that we feel directed at us as women, people of color and diverse sexual and diverse gender identities. Instead let us stay connected, give attention to each other’s fear but do not succumb to projecting it back out as attacks. Stand up for each other. Gather allies, strategize and continue to use your voice and gifts to build allyships across differences. I grieve for and with the young especially as they have been born into this legacy of fear.

I begin this day with a simple commitment to remind people to sing [and create]. To keep walking the path with allies and those not yet allies with love and compassion. From chaos and destruction eventually comes new order. Keep teaching and speaking truth to power in your classes [and lives]. And remember that the formal political realm is one of at least three realms that make up our world. The others being equally important, the natural and the spiritual realms. Take time for recovery. Spend some time outside today and remember the unconditional life-giving forces that sustain us as humans on this planet. 

Please contact me if you would like to set up spaces for dialogue. WGSS will do what it can to support initiatives and gatherings for recovering and generating creative and critical ideas and initiatives for the future. 

 

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Black Lives Matter & Policing Reform(s)

Black Lives Matter (BLM) has become a pivotal, and controversial, social movement. Triggered primarily by repeated incidents of black males being killed (murdered) on the streets of America by police officers (particularly white officers) has left a mark that is now indelible and performed in the Floyd Rebellion (street protests). It has not been pretty and disturbs and terrifies many. And, not all people of color agree with the way things have gone down on both sides--the authorities and the rebellion protestors. But lots of good things are also coming from the rubble, you might say.

So I give hats off to the BLM better aspects of liberation and its allies generally for the 'wake up' call; and especially my focus here in this blog is on the positive push of some BLM folks and other sensitive educators and therapists to help get to root causes of racism traumatization (and/or racialized trauma). I use these latter concepts, from a healing and fearlessness perspective or paradigm for social change and transformation. I am less a fan of the politically and ideologically driven 'playing the race card' and 'fanning the race wars' strategies on all sides of the battles today between opponents. Thus, with this distinction of my work and interest, I would argue that nowadays, it is really questionable if the term "racism" or "race" are actually of any value to healing, just like the term "racists" is to me only a way to continue the worst of racism traumatization [1]. The cycle of domination-fear-conflict-violence is hard to break, but I believe breaking the language and making ourselves more aware of emanacipatory and healing language is a good start to the 'rebellion' that all of us could participate in and not just BLM on the streets. 

In this regard, obviously my work is about moving from a culture of fear to a culture of fearlessness, and that ideally would be what BLM is attempting to do. I am not telling BLM what to do nor speaking as if I know all about them and their work. I certainly don't and I am willing to be informed by them as they see fit. I will listen, and I will open up opportunities for healing on their side and my side--and, all the other options of our juxtapositioning as human beings attempting to figure out how to live together well on this fragile planet. I am concerned that forces of tyranny take many forms, and no group is immune. So, to counter the fear-based tyranny movements of all kinds, on all sides of the conflicts in societies, let's take a look at the notion of racism traumatization as a learning and healing process. I have not delved a lot into this field but I have come across a book my life-partner is using for her own liberation via ancestral healing work and is planning to use in a local non-profit organization in the urban setting of the city we live in. The book is by Resmaa Menakem, a person of color and expert on conflict and violence and healing (individual and collective). The title is "My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathways to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies" (2017). It is radical on many fronts, but what it does not do is 'pit one race against another' nor attempt to show any superiority in any group that is innate or given by God, or any other power. Menakem writes with wisdom and compassion and a lot of street smarts about racialized violence and oppression--and, better yet, about racialized trauma work. I have included a couple pages from the book, particularly on Menakem's advice for reforming policing. I have also written a book with two colleagues on this topic but more general on the relationship of fearism to law and criminology [2]. Menakem's work is very pragmatic and I trust you'll find these couple pages useful for knowledge and as potential to take into action in your communities. 

 

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Notes

1. Another angle of understanding racism traumatization is through a critical analysis of "white supremacism" and an even more interesting angle is through critical analysis of tribalism-ethnocentricism and their worldviews (e.g., in Spiral Dynamics integral theory). No doubt, societies today and in the future will best be served by multiple angles on the problem of "Race" in America or anywhere in the world. For me, I always have looked with great focus on the problem of fearism-t (toxic form) as the core root of terrorism of all kinds and those are the isms that are articulating the other isms--that is, sexism, racism, classism, adultism, and so on. Oppression is fear-based in an ideology of fearism-t. All that said, my owning responsibility for my white caucasion historical situation and current privilege is well taken as something I have to always look at as part of white supremacism agendas--that is, oppression. 

2. Fisher, R. M., Subba, D., & Kumar, B. M. (2018). Fear, law and criminology: Critical issues in applying the philosophy of fearism. Xlibris.

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7927130280?profile=RESIZE_584xI think this is one of my best (sociopolitical and economic) applications of a design for how to re-form our societies, and I also bring in the concept of Fear (i.e., culture of fear) and Fearlessness into the UBI model which has radical implications to transform society not just tweak it (the latter, which is mostly what I see in the vision and thinking of those promoting UBI at the present time). Let's talk about this folks! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ-IhnblIRA

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Fearosis: Ernest Becker's Theory of Health

As a fearologist, also practicing feariatry (and fearanalysis)--all part of the philosophy and psychology of fear(ism) and fearlessness, it behooves me to take seriously any writer's work that probes deeply into the "human condition" (or "human situation" as Aldous Huxley called it [1]) and search for roots to the human problem--human predicament--to human contradictions--and, ultimately to theorize (at least) a way beyond those great problems and limitations, if not pathologies--onward to 'better' thinking about who and what we are and how to achieve as Ernest Becker named it--"Health as an Ideal" (even if, it is impossible to achieve under world and environmental conditions) [2]. For recent discussion of Becker & Education (theorizing) go to: https://fearlessnessmovement.ning.com/blog/educators-engaging-ernest-becker-s-philosophy-terror-and-its-role

I won't go into the finer details and complexities of Ernest Becker's particular offering (following somewhat Kierkegaard, then Otto Rank) of a theory of health (and illhealth--that is, neurosis) but I want to let readers themselves scan the couple pages I pulled from Becker's (1973) Pulitzer Prize winning book on the human condition and the nature and role of fear (of death) as fundamental. Yet, in these couple pages with my years of going back over and marking and commenting many times, you'll have a sense that Becker's theory of neurosis is based on a "natural" philosophical, theological and psychological approach--where he does not want to make "neurosis" (in his definition, at least) 'bad' or 'wrong' per se--but rather he seems to construct neurosis as based in three problems (largely, but not entirely, beyond the will-control of human beings and their society's functions): (1) the problem of character-formation, (2) the problem of reality vs. illusion and (3) historical [environmental] circumstance. In these two pages there is enough richness to follow and dwell with to keep a theorist like me busy for years. What did come out of this reading this morning is a new fear(ology) term for the way Becker (rather uniquely) defines and makes meaning to "neurosis" in the largest sense--which, I so appreciate the way he does this. The new term is fearosis

Although, I would perhaps be inclined to be offering (in initial stages) a theory for fearosis which no one has yet done on the planet (using this word fearosis)--it behooves me to acknowledge the insight of B. Maria Kumar, in fact, who first coined the term and it has been published in Fisher (2020): 

fearosis- (BMK) the pathological state of chronic excess fear at the base of neurosis and/or psychosis (p. 13). [3]

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 You'll see in my notes at various times, I have both embraced the Beckerian theory and critiqued it for some serious flaws, and, yet, I acknowledge I am not at all a Beckerian scholar, so my critiques still need to be studied and critiqued themselves. I welcome others to do so. I am convinced however, that Becker's work offers immense value to our current world dilemmas--our wicked problems and the need for new solutions that are more than band-aids. He is after solutions that come from deep analysis of not only individuals but of culture itself [4]. I have often claimed in my work that how he talks about culture in general, even at times naturalizing it and that that is just the way culture is--it is neurotic--and humans are neurotic and always will be (more or less)--he is talking about the "culture of fear" (dominated by fearism-t) and, yet, I believe he has limitations of seeing this himself--now, perhaps, that limitation on his part is due to him dying so early in his career at 50 and in 1974--as his own historical context of the early 1970s was just the beginning of a slowly increasing exacerbation of the predicaments and crises that humanity was going to have to face in the 1980s- through to 21st century. Becker just didn't have the near 50 years more (as I have had) to see where the culture of fear dynamic was going to grow--and thus, fearosis was going to grow in unbelievable proportions. 

Okay, I'll leave this here for now. 

Notes: 

1. Huxley, A. (1977). The human situation. Lectures at Santa Barbara, 1959. Harper & Row. 

2. Becker, E. (1973/97). The denial of death. Free Press/Simon & Schuster, p. 198.

3. Fisher, R. M. (2020). New fear vocabulary. International Journal of Fear Studies, 1(2), 10-14.

4. I think on of Becker's most powerful indictments (analyses) is of culture itself as a buffering defense mechanism to terror, to vulnerability, to hyper-awarenss of this animal-human that can perceive and imagine the future so intimately and (often accurately)--especially, in the psychological sense of imagining one's own final demise (death)--if not one's suffering and those of the one's we love. Becker's cultural thesis presents a case, of a culture (dynamic) that really is essential to contextualize how humans behave. He calls it above in the passage the "cultural project" which is formed by several forces (fearosis included) and which is unique somewhat too due to various cultural and historical settings--yet, he is onto a universal understanding (a kind of socioculturalanalysis) and I appreciate it. I think he's quite accurate. The "cultural project" has many other dimensions and terms used by Becker (and Rank) of which particularly of interest is "Immortality Project" (which I have recently written a technical paper on, soon to be available). I go further in my recent thought to revisioning what culture is as Immortality Transference Formation (ITF)--as a foundational psycho-cultural unit of evolution itself in the Cultural and Spiritual domains of existence. 

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On left (Marianne Williamson, former Democratic leader hopeful in 2020 US election) and right, Jimmy Dore, podcaster (interviewer)- see the whole interview on Youtube "What is Enlightenment? With Marianne Williamson" Sept. 9, 2020.

Why watch or listen to this interview? Many reasons, as children are this fall going back to schools, youth are going to colleges and universities and their teachers are sitting with them on Zoom classes and/or in real face-to-face encounters we as a society like to call "education" (Education). MW is leading to this day and will continue I predict until her leaving this planet, one massive "Education" campaign (and, yes, it is heavily cloaked in "political" symbols, language and her activism as a leader for a healthy and sustainable democracy). She is an educational leader of the rare kind that does not come along very often in human history. That is the point of my bringing her and her work to the surface of public access and for public debate and dialogue. I have dedicated years to study of her work and recent 2020 campaign and now her following-up work before the Nov. 3 Presidential election (probably the most important US Presidential election in that country's history--the results of it will impact the world in powerful ways). With my study I have written and now had published my new book [1]. But my book is not what this blog is about. 

Even take 12 min.'s (less than 1/2 of this interview) into your living room in the next day or two. Dwell with it. If you are a professional educator, take even more time to re-listen to this over a few times. It is not that this particular interview is totally unique from her other thousands of such interviews/speeches/writings--she has a plethora of her 'voice' out there in published form (over 35 years of doing this)--but it is worth pulling out in this interview how she is an "educator" not just of spiritual things (her forte') but of material things--her "holistic" and "systems" perspective on reality, on learning and unlearning, on enlightenment itself, on love, on fear, etc. is all there brief and to the point in this short section of the interview. Not that you ought to agree with it all or anything. I have lots of my own critiques, including in my book--but that also is not the most important thing, I would argue. I am basically saying, it is profound to listen to a leader talk about education (of all people) in a transformative (yes, spiritual-centric) view, on mass social media, and with such clarity and conviction--and, with real answers of how to get through the mulitple cascading crises we face. 

Just a few teasers I pulled out this morning, to share here, and offer as prompts for you to listen to her teaching (some call preaching at times)--are the following: 

(a) the big healing and transformation required individually and collectively, "...won't be easy, and there will be truths we'll try our best to avoid" [2]

(b) we'll go not far in changing only surfaces of society and our crises if we are not "facing the darker Shadow of our past" [3] 

(c) we require a "deeper holistic understanding of what is happening" for "it's an all systems breakdown" [i.e., emergency] and only an "all systems" solution will do [4]

(d) real "understanding" is what our education and socialization processes need to be focused on--priority #1 and we can look to a couple sources to find that understanding (at least)--that is, watch a baby and watch the "big misunderstanding" that our learning systems virtually everywhere perpetrate as 'normal' (as 'truth' as 'reality') [5]

OKAY, that's a sample for you and, oh yes, let's not forget here why I get excited about her teaching about teaching our kids and youth (and everybody)--is because it is near impossible to find present educational and/or world leaders with such futurist, holistic, transformative and depth vision of how to proceed to "educate" ourselves as a species. Once again, it is not the issue of whether she has it all right, and is infallible in her vision, diagnosis and prescriptions--no, that is not my point, and I think she too is open to such critique--but the issue is that someone with such clarity of breadth and depth, spiritual and material, acumen is here and standing out and willing to 'run' for politics and/or to participate so sagaciously in the political sphere--that is remarkable and ought to be supported in and of itself. The world doesn't need MW to be President--necessarily (perhaps in 2024 if she runs again) but the world desires this kind of quality leadership, as I see it. And, let me close with my favorite quote from her intro bit in this interview: 

MW: "We're all so misinformed. From the earliest time in our lives, we are taught such false interpretations of living that we instinctively become more prone to fear...and defensiveness, where natural loving thinking feels unnatural to us, and unnatural fear-based thinking feels natural". 

Notes: 

1. My new book "The Marianne Williamson Presidential Phenomenon: Cultural (R)Evolution in a Dangerous Time" (Peter Lang, Inc., 2020) available later this fall but now ready for online pre-purchase

2. Her educational philosophy is one of 'truthing' as I call it--and, yes, fear as the ruling motivation will guarantee us to not move toward the truth but away from it

3. Shadow, in the Jungian psychotherapeutic sense, is core in her recovery, healing and transformation work, and she believes that what an individual has to go through to heal their 'shadow-side' (unconscious, past, trauma, fear) is to engage shadowork and she believes a nation also has do this; two of the major political pillars that hold together in an unhealthy way the American way of life (at least) are the shadows unexamined, untruthed out, that are coalescing always to keep the systemic racism and militarism in place as the ruling paradigms of how to live and, yes, our educational systems are immediately in commission if not in perpetuation overtly of these pillars and their fear-based structurations

4. Bringing her experience with 12-Step Recovery model of A. A. is one great experience she brings, but she also goes way beyond that model and approach to a more esoterically informed "recovery" and "transformation." As an educator, terms like recovery, restoration, healing, transformation ought to be the core of all curriculum, no matter what the subject matter is that is being taught---and, that will only occur when "Education Faculties" in Universities really take this serious and governments and non-government organizations truly support educators (at university levels, at least) to teach future teachers about these concepts and new paradigms (e.g., a fearlessness paradigm of education--systems theory, critical theory, etc.)--but these are concepts being gutted rapidly out of the universities with the domination of neoliberalism and superficiality over all

5. I (and Ken Wilber) would have differences of conflict philosophically and developmentally with her view of "enlightenment" (way too over simplified and regressively romantic); however, I (and Wilber) would completely support the notion that defining "enlightenment" and giving it a place in educational discourses (all ages)--is crucial to us facing the truth about what it is that is really important in life and education--and the future. Typically, modernist and postmodernist schooling avoids terms like "enlightenment" as if it is the plague. Universities have also grown an allergy to such discussion. Big mistake. 

 

 

 

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My critique notes, as a fearologist, of two pages on the evolutionary paradigm used by TMT core theorists and researchers [1] from pp. 66-67 in their recent 2015 book. As much as I respect TMT (terror management theory) and its universal attempt to understand human behavior (drawing heavily on Ernest Becker's work)--I find more and more  there are deep philosophical (theoretical) problems in this work and in TMT's very lens it uses to try to understand human behavior--of which it overtly focuses on fear management as a primary shaper of human behavior in human evolution and history (which I agree on as that primary shaper). However, how the TMT folks go about their argumentation is troublesome in that it seems not to be self-reflexive as to its bias as Fear Management System-5 [2] itself doing the discourse construction of the fear management (i.e., terror management) that they are describing. I won't say more... I know the above image cuts off lots... my scanner cannot figure out how to not do this... and, so, whatever, the case I am making is based on a fearological position and theory of Fear Management Systems which is core to my own theorizing on fear management/education and beyond. 

I share this note-taking and text from their book--so as to stir up and truth out what is actually going down with TMT these days, as it grows in popularity and applications, but needs a lot more critique than it gets, but that ought to come from specialized fields like fearology that study fear management--from a transdisciplinary perspective--unlike TMT itself which is still social psychology-based, and what I point to in my notes here somewhat, it is dominated by existential-cognitivism (and, the ideology of that way of thinking, of that empiricial paradigm of experimentalism and of general modernist thinking for the most part)--these, latter terms I throw out here because they need a lot more clarification as critique of TMT, I realize, but they are coming to me as I study TMT more and more. I'll leave this here... a much larger work is required for a thorough challenge to these dominating hegeomonic and paradigmatic components of TMT, which is a terror management theory (i.e., fear management theory) that is dubious on several grounds, as I say, its bias as FMS-5 itself and as existential-cognitivism. Oh, and on top of that, I keep wondering if Ernest Becker himself, if he were alive today, would be 'happy' on all levels as to the integrity (or not) of TMT, which the latter is supposed to be based on Beckerian philosophy and theories. Questions need to be asked. Another question I keep asking myself and have not fully answered it is: What would make a fearlessness psychology today? And, I look to TMT, and other theories, and I am not satisfied they would meet the criteria, although, they may not even want to--yet, they are, as I see it, on the way to such a fearlessness psychology--arguably, the latter takes humanity beyond fear-based psychologies (and FMSs) themselves. The Fear Problem cannot be solved by fear-based psychologies (and their concomitant fear-based curricula of fear management/education; and TMT is included because it is FMS-5 under my classification system). 

[p.s. for more FM blogs on TMT search this website and/or go to https://fearlessnessmovement.ning.com/blog/fearanalysis-2-wilber-s-induction-to-terror-management-theory

Notes: 

1. Solomon, S., Greenberg, J. & Pyszczynski, T. (2015). The worm at the core: On the role of death in life. Random House. [although TMT has many authors and researchers now a days, these three are the core co-founders of the theory]; and note, they do not cite my 31 years of researching fear management

2. Fear Management Systems theory, way too complex to outline here, is evolutionary too--but best to check my thinking out as delineated in general in Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education in the 21st century. University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield; note, my cursory classification of the discourse domination in TMT (using pp. 66-67 as exemplar) also includes, besides FMS-5, some FMS-6b (typical of most all existentialist discourses on fear management). FMS theory, revolves around and upon the evolution of consciousness theorizing of Ken Wilber, integral philosopher, amongst others. In my version of FMS theory there are ten evolved 'structures' for doing fear management (or terror management, it matters not), I name them FMS-0 to FMS-9. You can see, TMT's largely FMS-5 is modernist and 1/2 way in terms of complex fear management systems available on this planet. That's great ,but in a sense it is 'half-baked' or 'half way' on the way to even better fear management systems. That said, FMS theory (integrally-informed) holds that no one FMS of the ten is absolutely more functional than any other--all have a role to play in the evolution of consciousness (individuals, and cultures). 

 

 

 

 

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Swami Vivekananda

 


 

The Vedantic message of Fearlessness

The human mind in India needed a new education in fearlessness and strength, and in a cheerful acceptance of life and its responsibilities; it stood in urgent need of education for manliness and true godliness. And it got this from the Upanishads through Swami Vivekananda. This education in fearlessness has the power to awaken the people as a whole to the heaven of freedom and delight. Under its influence the people will see the world, and their own life in it, a new light. Swami Vivekananda says (Complete Works, Vol. III, p. 160) :

If there is one word that you find coming out like a bomb from the Upanishads, bursting like bombshell upon masses of ignorance, it is the word fearlessness. And the only religion that ought to be taught is the religion of fearlessness. Either in this world or in the world of religion, it is true that fear is the sure cause of degradation and sin. It is fear that brings misery, fear that brings death, fear that breeds evil. And what causes fear? Ignorance of our own nature.

And so he exhorted (The Mission of theVedanta, ibid., p.193):

 

[Excerpt taken from http://faculty.ccbcmd.edu/~nghosh/Isha77.htm]

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Ernest Becker, cultural anthropologist, 1924-74. Won a Pulitzer Prize at the end of his life for his book The Denial of Death. 

I have recently been studying his work and writing about his important thinking for today, especially his contribution to Fear Studies, and specifically to terror management as an extreme existentialist form of fear management. 

The following Tech. Paper No. 99 I devoted to analyzing a bit of what Ernest Becker's work has to do with Education as a field and as a reality of socialization, and then summarized the ways various educators (not that there are many) have engaged Becker's work and what potential biases there are in their ways of interpreting his work. I then propose some alternatives and encourage a good deal more study of Becker for learning and teaching, curriculum development and for handling the kind of terrifying world that is here and coming as cascading global crises are inevitable. His work has much to offer us. 

See Tech. Paper No. 99:  "Ernest Becker's Educational Legacy: A Critical Reflection". https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/112381

See also Tech. Paper No. 108: "A Review of "Immortality Project" Concept: Mis-interpretation by Terror Management Theory" https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/112499?show=full 

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‘Ending the Culture of Fear’: Fantasy or Possibility?

A Dialogue between Nonye & Michael

R. Michael Fisher & Nonye T. Aghanya

 [Note:  Michael (Canada) approached Nonye (USA) recently and conducted this email exchange over a few weeks focusing on their interests and questions about the phenomenon called “culture of fear”]

 Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of competitive scaremongering, where different groups vie with one another about what we should and should not fear. So while one group of professionals advises parents to shield their children from the sun in order to protect them from skin cancer, another group points to the risk of children suffering from vitamin D deficiency because they have been shield from the sun. Competitive scaremongering surrounds the debate on whether vaccinating children carries more risk than letting nature run its course. People routinely accuse one another of promoting fear, playing the fear card, or allowing themselves to be manipulated by appeals to fear....Barry Glassner [sociologist] claims that “we are living in the most fear-mongering time in history.’ Perhaps he is right.   -Frank Furedi [1]

RMF: I have recently been working on a paper tracking the history of the “culture of fear” concept across disciplines [2]. Although, this concept has been in my research, writing and teaching since 1997 or so, it remains a sturdy concept for critical analysis of our individual and collective lives. In 2004, I was contracted to do a baseline study of the uses and definitions of “culture of fear” across disciplines. I directed it for leaders, although that report was never published widely [3]. I observe, unfortunately, there is still a good deal of (mis-)interpretation going on amongst those that throw the term around today. So, that’s one issue I’d be curious to explore with you in this brief interview.

Oh, I’m curious Nonye if and when you had heard of the term “culture of fear” or “climate of fear”; and have you pursued researching more into those at all? Do you teach about these concepts as contexts within nursing education or in your online program per se, what is it called?

Nonye: Thanks Michael, this is truly an interesting topic and I’m excited to explore and gain some insights from a fearologist on “culture of fear,” especially as it pertains to healthcare. In the context of Nursing/Medical education and healthcare practices, many institutions for countless years have implemented and embraced various methodologies for more efficient general care delivery. An example is the use of Wong Baker pain scale for objective assessment and better pain management for patients.

However, in my review of various existing empirical studies, there seemed to be a lack of methodology to effectively address patients’ apprehensions due to anxieties and fears in healthcare settings. Such patients’ state of anxiety is quite comparable to the “climate of fear” brought on by the feeling of unknown amongst other factors. Some studies highlight various contributory factors, for e.g. decline of practitioners’ empathy and compassion in healthcare practices and further suggest educational interventions for enhancing empathy in healthcare practitioners as part of a solution to the problem of fear/anxiety management. I’m optimistic about introducing my findings on the use of soft skills of communication as a vital tool for curbing patients fears and anxieties and improving the chances of trust development with healthcare practitioners. Contents of my online courses and book can be used as educational resources in Nursing and medical institutions.

RMF: Okay. But before we get to the conception of what makes a culture of fear, and how to best ‘know’ what a culture of fear is and transform it, I’ll ask you to respond to the recent article in the British Medical Journal (2018) that caught my eye, with a provocative title: “End the Culture of Fear in Healthcare” (Ladher, 2018). This is a prestigious journal in this field. And as a 30 year experienced nurse-educator yourself, I’m sure you are aware of the phenomenon itself where fear, mistrust, intimidation is very real in organizational cultures in the health field. Could you comment on this excerpt from Ladher (2018): “A key finding of the independent report into deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, where around 600 people received fatal and medically unjustified does of opioids, was a hospital culture of uncritical deference to doctors and a fear of raising concerns.” Ladher goes on to note that the report mentioned calls for “ending professional hierarchies in clinical practice”—you wrote a book or two on this have you not? What’s your take on this kind of finding from such a report, and I am sure there are many other examples of such reports we could find all over in various nations and sectors of society?

Nonye: First, from a practical perspective, I believe there needs to be further clarification of the latter part of Ladher’s article excerpt particularly on the “fear of raising concerns” within the hospital organization and how it may have contributed to the unfortunate fatal opioid overdosing of some 600 hospital residents.

I have written two books [4] in recent years on the issues of overcoming fears and anxiety in regard to the clinician-patient relationship—focusing on communication effectiveness as it relates to treatment effectiveness. This UK report creates more questions than answers. Did many patients’ hesitations and fears of expressing their opinions to their doctors and/or administration of the hospital contribute to strained dialogue and mistrust that made it difficult for the doctors to ascertain their pain levels accurately?

Did the doctors unwelcoming attitudes make it difficult for patients to be vulnerable and transparent about their pain levels? Did the nurses participate in assessing patients pain scales and response to opioid management?

If and when patients attempted to suggest alternate pain management plans, other than opioids (e.g., heating pads, NSAIDS, non-narcotics analgesics), was there a perception that doctors were not accommodating of their suggestions? Did the patients disclose these concerns to nurses and did the nurses fail to inform the prescribing doctors? Did such communication breakdown create a sense of patient dependency and the disastrous impact of opioid over-medication?

RMF: You mention “communication breakdown.” You seem to frame everything in your analysis of your work on communication effectiveness? Is this something you were personally interested in, perhaps even before your training as a nurse? Where did that focus come from? It seems to be a lens you bring to determining what’s really important in reality.

Nonye: Effective communication is achieved via a “two way venture” and this became apparent to me very early in life, as early as 5 years old. I was always an anxious child and grew up into an anxious adult, very eager to please others around me. The realization that I could dramatically reduce my state of anxiety by aiding someone else, by any possible means, to become less anxious while they interacted with me was my eureka moment! Noted in one of my study analyses was a disclosure from Dr Stephen Trzeciak, the chief of medicine at the Cooper University Healthcare in Camden, N.J. In his 2018 TEDx talk which explored the existence of a healthcare compassion crisis, I was fascinated by his mentioning of a stark difference between sympathy and compassion. Sympathy is characterized by feelings while compassion is characterized by actions. Thus the practice of strategic and compassionate engagement became an actionable effective tool which needed to be shared with other healthcare professionals and nursing/medical institutions.

By recognizing human characteristics and behaviors, and adjusting engagement approach strategically, healthcare practitioners can help reduce patients anxieties while promoting the chances of trust development complementary with compassion development. 
 

RMF: Oh interesting about your core childhood strategy. I would call that a core base for a fear management system, based on the need for social acceptance and comfort, which then becomes a form of social conformity, which then functions “well” not only to lower your anxiety but it maybe adaptable in a career choice, maybe in a society as a whole, where the strategy gets rewarded via the culture’s need for cooperation, consensus, and being a good workers—or a good person, etc. All that conforming, I suppose is anxiety-reducing too; yet, it can also exacerbate anxiety further below the surface. I know you also are somewhat of a rebel too (smile). 

That’s very reasonable as a core fear management system, and is seen as part of the evolutionary history of our species; so, don’t get me wrong, in that I am not complaining about it, I’m more curious how it fits and works at one level; but my thinking is always critical and reflective too. I have mapped out at least 10 different fear management systems in human cultural evolution [5]—some which individuals may choose to stick with and sometimes they also change and evolve to meet newer challenging conditions when an individual or a culture is faced with bigger challenges that the old fear management system adaptations may start to fail to be serviceable. I guess, I’m always teaching people to examine both what fails and what works, when it comes to their fear management systems—and/or habits. Learn from both. There is always a possibility that even what “works” may have limitations and prevent growth and development. But that’s a larger topic, perhaps for another time. So, back to your professional work...

Nonye: I learned long ago to ask a lot of questions when I see a problem like that described by the article above. If healthcare providers failed to consider patients’ contributions towards the treatment plan, did this lead to a situation where patients just continued to overly ingest opioids because “doctor knows best”? Did doctors uptight and unfriendly demeanor make it difficult for patients to inquire about the frequent dosing of their opioids because they were afraid to upset the doctors by “asking too many questions”?

These are some of the factors that could have contributed to this tragic and unfortunate event and I don’t particularly believe that Ladher’s singular suggestion for “ending professional hierarchy in clinical practice” is sufficient to adequately address this issue and prevent recurrence.

RMF: I agree. If all an institution does, be it a medical and health one or not, is tweak the surfaces of the problems, and focus on the issue of “hierarchy” without focusing on the nature and role of fear, not much will change. I mean Ladher’s summary does note fear is a factor. That is not uncommon in issues when “culture of fear” is raised to a head as an organizational problem. The issue for me is that the thinking of “fear is a factor” is just too tame or euphemistic, and reductionistic. It tends to psychologize, even individualize, fear. It is easy to say “fear is a factor,” more or less—although, in some uptight fear-based organizations they won’t even allow that discussion to come to the surface. It is because “fear management” is a topic way off-the-radar. “Pain management” is on the radar, but not fear management. And, I’m generalizing but this is what seems to happen in health care generally. “Fear” is still like a taboo topic itself, often, and that’s what I see as a professional education and training deficit problem in many organizations. Have you noticed this? Have you thought about this, and what might be some solutions?

Nonye: I totally agree with your assessment of the lax use of fear as a factor that impacts many events in healthcare practices and other organizations. More often than not, there seems to be a reluctance of organizations to delve deeper and discover the root causes of fears that affect the organizational culture and employee performance. This is an important aspect of quality performance process as it can ultimately provide clues for implementing changes that will positively impact an organization’s performance, in healthcare and otherwise.

As part of a quality performance assessment process, this could involve the act of organizational and individual self-reflection. It could sometimes be conducted via a self-assessment questionnaire. This process of reflection may quite frankly be a bit awkward for some but it’s a necessary step for unraveling and successfully addressing the causes of many fears in various institutions and making positive and lasting changes from the result of the revelation of such assessment processes.

RMF: So what if “culture” or at least institutional culture is itself a phenomenon that is a defensive reaction against fear—as existentialists and social psychologists [6] say? What if the entire matrix of the system is so pathological and toxic, which is what “culture of fear” means?

Nonye: Culture of fear in healthcare is a complex one influenced by many factors such as patients’ behaviors, perceptions, healthcare providers’ personal ethics and consulting styles with patients and their abilities to identify patient characteristics and apply appropriate communication styles that lead to more sincere and productive engagements with patients.

These factors must critically be addressed to help reduce the risks of such unfortunate events as reported at Gosport War Memorial hospital. When you speak of culture itself as virtually a fear-based reaction—a defense—and thus seemingly toxic inherently, I don’t know what to say but that’s not a familiar notion to me. Can you say more?

RMF:  Sure, but let me first define what a culture of fear is generically, as a dynamics of a living system. And to quote Furedi, “The term culture of fear works as a rhetorical idiom rather than as a precise concept. Its meaning is often far from clear.” [7] I tend to agree with him, in part. At least, this is what I came up with as a first working definition (and, I did not find it in the dictionary or a sociology encyclopedia or in Frank Furedi’s or Barry Glassner’s books, as useful as those resources may be at one level). Rather, I came up with this after reading hundreds of documents across history and disciplines: culture of fear – is when a system tries to manage fear and ends up creating more fear. It’s a paradoxical fear management regime, you might say. That creates a dilemma because one has to really ask about ‘who’ or ‘what’ to trust in terms of furnishing us as citizens, workers, and leaders with good knowledge on fear management in the context of a culture of fear?

And, without going into further theorizing, the basic thing I discovered is that most people assess the culture of fear based on ‘scientific’ and measurable things, like fear factors, mistrust factors, intimidation factors in the organization, and of course self-assessed fear(s), and so on. The standard psychological fare of applying tools to understand what is going on. But there was in none of the literature (virtually none) any consciousness on the part of the theorists, the professionals, or those creating the assessment tools, that (arguably) 90% of fear (which motivates us; often as anxiety) is unconscious and one doesn’t know the root cause per se. Now, that is my existential, psychoanalytical and fearological lens being applied for that conclusion.

You can see that I go deeper than a rationale based on communications or cognitive behavioral psychological modes per se in the pursuit of understanding fear or what I also call ‘fear’ (culturally modified fear – analogous to culturally modified organisms). The world hasn’t yet caught up with the complex morphing and evolving of ‘fear’ in ‘culture’ (i.e., within culturalism as ideology; i.e., within a culture of fear context)—I mean culturalism as the process of dominating belief systems (and taboos)—mostly that are culturally-created meaning systems as defenses against existential terror—and thus social fictions are used to avoid dealing honestly with that deep unconscious terror).

That’s just one part of my thesis here, then there are all the psychoanalytical implications of say “staff” working under “authorities” and so on. Or patients trying to survive under “authorities” who have at times, literally, control of their life—that is, control of their death. I have written some about that in my latest Technical Paper No. 98. With all these conflicting dynamics as part of communications and basic existence, there is often as Furedi described above, a competition of scaremongering going on as part of people trying to control their world. I don’t mean a natural control within reason, I mean an irrational neurotic and obsessive control. At times, some critics have said, today people are addicted to fear and that glues the whole culture of fear system together. I often meet people who cannot stand the word fearlessness because they say they want to keep their fear. And, I wonder exactly what they mean? Do they want to keep their addiction? Anyways, most people are just not well-enough educated on the history of the culture of fear phenomenon at the base of social life and cultural formations and evolution. Anyways, maybe that’s deeper than you are interested or see as practical in the workplace (?). I’m a fearologist so I cannot restrict myself in researching deeper on the topic of fear (and ‘fear’) and society.

Nonye:  Sure, I absolutely respect your deeper exploratory views on fear as a fearologist. I’m truly honored to have gained more insights from your work about these other aspects of fear management that I otherwise may not have been privileged to learn about. Thanks so much Michael for this interesting dialogue and I wish you much success in your upcoming book project on the past Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson [8].

RMF: Not that there is any one clear all-decided definition of a fearologist and what they are supposed to do, but over 20 years ago, I made a commitment to be able to be informed enough, and maybe even bring some wisdom, to conversations about fear with virtually anyone, and especially to be able to do so across the disciplines and professions. So, it’s been great to have this conversation with someone in the field of Medicine and Health Care. That really means a lot to me. Thanks.

And as for Ladher’s comment, from a medical perspective in that article, my response is: Let’s not overly jump ahead too far when we call out the problems of a culture of fear dynamic, and especially let’s not think that the culture of fear is only in some workplace, the home, the school or on the streets of some ghetto; my point in this dialogue has been to show, there is no “end of the culture of fear” per se, in the concrete sense—more so, there is an educational project that is required from K to 12 and beyond, across societies—whereby we actually teach about how best to educate ourselves on what fear is and what a culture of fear is that constitutes the way fear takes forms. All relationships are inducted into this matrix. Once we understand better, then we can start thinking about the “end of the culture of fear”—but, from my view, that means we have to end this Dominant culture that pervades, that oppresses, and transform its worldview to a new and better one—not based on fear itself. I posit a culture of fearlessness is the replacement. For some, they might say, a culture of love is the replacement. And, from that point of contention—is a whole other interesting dialogue to be had.

End Notes:

  1. Furedi, F. (2018). How fear works: Culture of fear in the twenty-first century. Bloomsbury Continuum, p. 5.  
  1. Fisher, R. M. (2020). Culture of fear: A critical history of two streams. Technical Paper No. 98. In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.  
  1. Fisher, R. M. (2004). Capitalizing on fear: A baseline study on the culture of fear for leaders. Intellectual Architects, Ltd.  
  1. Aghanya, N. T. (2016). Simple tips to developing a productive clinician-patient relationship. iUniverse; Aghanya, N. T. (2019). Principles for overcoming communication anxiety and improving trust. Folioavenue Publishing.  
  1. To study the 10 fear management systems, I argue is a way to expand one’s knowledge of a full spectrum of consciousness and cultural systems, moving from more simple and immature to more complex and mature (i.e., ultimately, towards an emancipatory pull to ‘freedom’ and/or ‘enlightenment’ whatever one wants to call it); see the 10 fear management systems documented in Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world’s fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield.  
  1. E.g., see the work of cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death); and, the social psychologists who have ‘proven’ Becker’s theories and created “Terror Management Theory” (e.g., Sheldon Solomon et al.).  
  1. Furedi, pp. 4-5.  
  1. She is referring to Michael’s book soon to be released by Peter Lang, Inc. entitled: “The Marianne Williamson Presidential Phenomenon: Cultural (R)Evolution in a Dangerous Time.” Nonye wrote an endorsement review about the book, “The gradual advances of a change agent may encounter numerous hiccups on its pathway to implementing change; but with honesty, grace and compassion the committed will forge ahead towards success. The book reflects such a journey of both the author and his subject. R. Michael Fisher, in both an exploratory and objective fashion, provides riveting detailed accounts of many observers who have encountered the remarkable social phenomenon, which has grown in and around a once American presidential candidate—Marianne Deborah Williamson, a true change agent. One must applaud her clear moral stance as a driver of a movement gaining momentum because of this quality of leadership, with a mission for pursuit of greatness in service of others....It is a democratic mission not driven by personal gain but rather driven by eternal fulfilment and the awareness that the benefits of righteousness far exceed those of condemnation. We really need this ‘message’ today.”

Nonye T. Aghanya, MSc., RN, FNP-C, nurse, nurse educator, author, mother and so much more. Originally from Nigeria, she moved as a young person to the USA, now living in Alexandria, VA.  [for a recent 30 min. talk on her work go to: https://bit.ly/3k6HB1X ]

Michael Fisher, Ph.D., artist, educational theorist, author and teacher, has dedicated his life-purpose to the study of fear and fearlessness. He was born and raised in Calgary, AB and after traveling and working internationally, he has returned to Calgary to live and spread the word.

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Some (provocative) educational researchers have recently asked for all of Education and teachers to make a turn

"...we hope to re-orient [make a turn in] the educational project...one with lower stakes, a shift from immortality to more 'goodness.'" 

(van Kessel & Burke, 2020, p. 216). [1]

------

Whoa! that's a mighty 'Call.' 

On what basis is it made? The simpler interpretation perhaps is my own take from reading this paper carefully. They ask Education (all its stakeholders), but specifically teachers of school teachers, to: 'Be Humble, Be More Courageous' --a slogan for a T-shirt, don't you think? What do they mean by "de-escalation of teaching as an immortality project"? [2]

Where I got that slogan from was specifically from p. 226, where the co-authors wrote, "We posit an educational disposition [turn] that is humbler, which, paradoxically requires more courage." 

The implicit assumption behind their 'Call' is a critique, more or less, that all stakeholders in Education (specifically, teachers of school teachers, and teachers themselves) have been not humble enough, not courageous enough-- which, is a critique worthy to consider, and I have thought of it myself for over four decades (albeit, I might use different conceptual language and discourses). They are saying nearly everyone to do with Education is too arrogant (acting brave) but (paradoxically) also too fearful (i.e., they've been cowards, more or less). Strong stuff... they are going to raise a lot of 'hackles' I would imagine. Time will tell. 

On my part, I have taken their assumption and claims (and use of Terror Management Theory, via Ernest Becker's thought) very seriously. Only recently, in the past few weeks am I chewing and stewing over their papers; the other one is on "evil" [3]. 

For brevity here, lest it be said, in the field of Education, from my point of view, we have before us a 'turn' that is called out loud and clear by two contemporary North American-based educators of a good deal of breadth and depth, and it ought to be heeded--at least, to take up the "conversation" as they would say. I encourage any one to read these, albeit, they are rather academic works. I am particularly interested in this project of theirs, which I am now calling the van Kessel-Burke Hypothesis (i.e., 'Be humble, Be More Courageous' --and, that will lead to nonviolence and non-evil --that is, what they call "more 'goodness'" --in the world). 

The vK-B Hypothesis is particularly interesting to me because of its boldness (to say the least), paradoxically, while calling for more humbleness--in that it is their offering of what I will call from here on Terror Management/Education (TME), and that initiative needs to dialogue [4] with my own 31 years promoting Fear Management/Education (FME) [5]. Curiously, we as researchers and teachers, as writers and educators, have not prior to this last few weeks encountered each other before. 

Let the conversation begin... all are invited. 

Notes

1. van Kessel, C., & Burke, K. (2020). Teaching as an Immortality Project: Positing weakness in response to terror. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 52(2), 216-29. Both of these authors are professors in faculties of Education (Canada, and USA, respectively).van Kess Burke 2020.pdf

2. There's a large body of thinking (theorizing) on "immortality" relevant to Ernest Becker (and others), of which I'll not say more here, but "immortality project" has a deep historical and evolutionary, cultural and political, importance--for simplicity, re: van Kessel & Burke, the notion involves a meta-motivational drive/seeking, which is universal to human beings (theoretically)--brought on as a defense mechanism to ward off the "fear of death" (i.e., mortality awareness).  

3. Burke, K. J., & van Kessel, C. (2020). Thinking educational controversies through evil and prophetic indictment: Conversation versus conversion. Educational Philosophy and Theory. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/00131857.     2020.1767072

4. I began this dialogue with TMT theory (and Sheldon Solomon) recently; see a summary of these engagements in Fisher, R. M. (2020). Dialogue between terror management theory and fear management education. Tech Paper 94.pdf In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. 

5. E.g., a summary of near 25 years of my research on fear and fearlessness is put together in a first tome (a beginning synthesis) in Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. University Press of America/Rowman & Littlefield. 

 

 

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Of course this is just a preliminary 'thinking field' of potentials, latencies, and polarities--all which animate a larger 'picture' (representing reality)-- and that's about all. I would have to lecture and write a lot of words down to explain these relations and dynamics and how "learning" itself is implicated and conditioned by this arrangement (this 'design') of innate aspects which shape "why humans learn and unlearn" ... etc. That's not even all worked out for me at this point. Later...

p.s. to thank Dr. Deborah Britzman for some of the major parts of this 'thinking field' --came to me from reading her paper "Between Psychoanalysis and Pedagogy: Scenes of Rapproachement and Alienation" (in Curriculum Inquiry, 43(1), 2013.]

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International Journal of Fear Studies

Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Approaches

 

Call for Papers and Creative Submissions:

Theme ISSUE: “Living and Learning in Pandemic Times”

 

Submissions Due Aug. 1, 2020 for the 4th issue of IFJS.

Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic dynamics have really changed our lives. What are we learning in this context of such pervasive fear... and more...? Are there better ways to handle all this?   

FOR the full details of Submission and about the Journal IJFS fourth call Apil 12 .docx

 

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"...the [research] findings show that how we choose to deal with our fear, critically depends on our cultural worldview" - Bobby Azarian (2020) 

"We have an existential threat on our hands, our Left-Right divide, I believe, is by far the most important divide we face....This is the urugent need of the next 50 years." - Jonathan Haidt (2016) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-_Az5nZBBM]

Dr. Bobby Azarian, cognitive neuroscientist, has put together an excellent basic video on the social and cognitive science research that can help explain why "fear" is at core the factor of political, religious and other forms of polarization in social systems. He has worked with the Terror Management Theory (of Ernest Becker, et al.), whereby in this video he takes us through a rapid teaching of major issues and findings. He offers, interestingly, a "cosmic perspective" as basis for a worldview that will be an anti-dote to the polarizing and violent course that American society and a lot of the world is heading down--including the direction toward fascism and authoritarianism, etc. I highly recommend Azarian's (fast-lane hyper) teaching video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvMkz1wy6_U

[Note: as much as Terror Management Theory and neurobiology of fear, and cognitive sciences offer an important direction of knowledge to combat the effects of fear as an emotion/feeling (i.e., a response to threat), I have always questioned how these disciplines and fields of study have not really added much at all to reconceptualizing fear (or 'fear'), fearuality, fear management/education, fearism, etc.). I think there needs to be a lot more dialogue between these knowledge domains and with Fear Management Theory as I promote, then more potent combinations will inevitably lead to a better "fear education" for the 21st century. ]

ADDITIONAL READING:

Azarian apparently has been researching a good deal on "fear" in political orientation, along with many others, it is a vast field of research which I support in general. I found this following article a good one to challenge stereotypes (I offer an excerpt only with link to the full article):

Wrong: Conservatism Isn’t About Fear

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  heartland-american  •  2 years ago  •  194 comments
No, Liberals, You’re Wrong: Conservatism Isn’t About Fear
 

Liberals don’t get conservatives. New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt, formerly a liberal himself, showed how much more liberals misunderstand conservatives than vice versa. And when they get conservatives wrong, often it’s by saying we’re “afraid.” Irrationally afraid, even; in fact, we’re “driven by fear.” They’re wrong: conservatism isn’t about fear. But they keep repeating it anyway.

Take the Psychology Today article, “Fear and Anxiety Drive Conservatives’ Political Attitudes.” (I just love it when they portray us in such a healthy light, don’t you?)

Biased Interpretations (Part 1)

The author, Bobby Azarian, tells us conservatives have a problem. People on the right “fear new experiences,” says. Based on what evidence, you ask? It’s the stuff college students keep in their dorm rooms. Researchers at Berkeley found that liberal students have more travel-related items, while conservatives have more planning- and cleaning-related items.

“This tells us that liberals more often seek adventure and novel experiences,” says Azarian. “Conservatives, on the other hand, seem to prefer a more ordered, disciplined lifestyle.” Okay, I get that there’s a difference there. I’ve got several questions, though. (First rule of reading science journalism: Ask lots of questions.)

First, why weren’t fear or anxiety even mentioned in the original research report? (They’re brought up briefly in the literature review section, but not where the current research was discussed.)

Second, what about the thousands upon thousands of conservative Christians who take mission trips to less-developed, often deadly parts of the world every year? How is Azarian going to explain this “fear” to them?

How on earth do planning, orderliness and discipline equate to fear?

And third, based strictly on Azarian’s article alone, how on earth do planning, orderliness and discipline equate to fear?

Conservatives’ dorm rooms only reflect fear if fear is what you’re looking for.....He tells us that MRIs show that the amygdala, a fear-related brain region, is larger on average in conservatives than in liberals. “It is possible,” says Azarian, “that an oversized amygdala could create a heightened sensitivity that may cause one to habitually overreact to anything that appears to be a potential threat, whether it actually is one or not.”

 [excerpt only]

 Read the entire rebuttal to Azarian et al.,:  https://stream.org/no-liberals-youre-wrong-conservatism-isnt-about-fear/

[Note: my own take as a fearologist is that it will generally be a fallacy of fear-mongering if either side of the political spectrum is caught in a 'game' of 'you have more fear; no, you have more fear' --etc. I have labled this the Fear Wars, long ago. This is where fearology can contribute a whole new perspective on that 'game' (dead-end) and truly lift the dialogue to include the typical fear(s) talk which is valid but take it to a new level where polarization can be dissolved in more potent ways, theoretically... that's a much longer conversation but involves my own (amongst others) work on a fearlessness psychology]

 

 

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Because I am a professional educator per se, it has always struck me how far behind the field of Education (and schooling) is, just about everywhere in the world, when it comes to advancing the notion of "fear management" and, what I prefer to call "fear management/education" (or simply, "fear education"). I'll be writing more about this in the near future blogs here, but just wanted to share this book resource Fear and Schools that looks interesting from the book description: 

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Call for Papers and Creative Submissions for International Journal of Fear Studies (2021 Spring Issue) -- ABSTRACT submission deadline: July 15, 2020

Theme: Navigating Ecofear through Diverse Cultures

 

“Is there one central fear like the trunk of a tree, though it has many branches, and if you could understand that single root of fear you have understood the whole network of fear? How do you approach this, from the periphery or from the centre? If the mind can understand the root of fear then the branches, the various aspects of fear have no meaning, they wither away. So what is the root of fear? Can you look at your fear? Please look at it now, invite it.     - J. Krishnamurti

Concept Note

Ecofear is a culture-specific trope. There could be various reasons for ecofear like climate change and the resultant floods, devastating cyclones, extensive wildfires and even a viral pandemic. The spectrum of fear may vary according to the agencies, context of interactions, and the various reasons for the fear, depending on the cultures in discussion. This issue of IJFR will focus on various kinds of ecofears experienced by humans and other animals in different cultural contexts apart from the various explorations of the consequences and manifestations of ecofear. The fears that connect/disconnect humans from nature have various dimensions that can be studied through a multi-, inter-, and/or transdisciplinary approach―sociological, cultural, economic, political, philosophical, theological, artistic and of course, psychological. These fear-dimensions that are understood through diverse disciplines explore diverse methodologies to arrive at realistic conclusions. For instance, the film Crawl (2019), set in Florida, a hurricane-prone state, contextualizes a world where natural disasters are an accepted reality but the antagonist(s) (alligators) engage in a “war” with humans―an explicit human-animal conflict that is primarily caused by fear (of various kinds) and also invokes fear in the audience. Augustina Baztericca’s novel, Tender is the Flesh: If Everyone Was Eating Human Meat, Would You?, which many readers assert as the most horrifying novel that is set in a world where cannibalism is normalized after a global epidemic which wipes out the animal population. The film and the book, both can be read as a result of human anxiety about a world that they are actively destroying. Fear is at the centre of both the works.

Notable fear-concepts, like ecophobia, theorised by Simon C. Estok, and/or the concept of fearism proposed by R. Michel Fischer, and/or Desh Subba provide a befitting framework to analyse such literary and cultural texts. An author who wishes to contribute to this issue of IJFR may consider employing any of the aforementioned theoretical frameworks or others’ for their critical analyses.

 

About the Volume

The guest editors of the Winter 2021 issue of the IJFR invite critiques of such depictions―instances of fear, ecophobia, awe, respect, obedience, or even love (not necessarily referring to biophilia) in the context of human-made calamities; fictional accounts of fear or ecophobia in the context of natural calamities; or even critiquing fear-methodologies in various disciplines. We also invite original documented and creative works such as poems, short films, music, short stories, short reports, experiential stories and so on. Authors attempting to write critical essays may analyse any text (literary, social, cinematic and so on) from a fear perspective. Critical essays may be written in about 5000 words and the written creative works may be from 2000-5000 words.

Please send your essay/creative work/proposal of your work to <raysonalex@goa.bits-pilani.ac.in> marking a copy to <sachindevps@gmail.com> according to the time-schedule. For the sake of congruity, we will be following the MLA style format for critical works. We expect the word limit for essays to be between 4000 and 5000 and no restrictions, whatsoever, on creative works.

 

About the Journal

International Journal of Fear Studies is an open-access peer-reviewed online journal. IJFS was founded in 2018 by R. Michael Fisher, Ph.D. (Sen. Editor). Its purpose is to promote the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study of fear. It is the first journal of its kind with a focus on the nature and role of fear and on innovations in methodologies, pedagogies and research inquiries that expand the fear imaginary beyond what is commonly assumed as how best to know and manage fear.

The Journal accepts submissions that are theoretical or practical on fear that deserves international recognition. The primary criteria is that works have an interdisciplinary and/or transdisciplinary approach, while at the same time are progressive and open-minded works that instigate insight, healing, liberation, creative thinking, critique, and synthesis. IJFS focuses consistently on fear as a subject matter and is issued biannually.

All authors retain their own copyright of their works published in IJFS. The journal will consider re-published submissions as long as copyright approval has been made.

 

Guest Editors: Rayson K. Alex and Sachindev P.S.

Rayson K. Alex is currently Assistant Professor at BITS-Pilani, K. K. Birla Goa Campus. He is one of the editors of Essays in Ecocriticism (2007), Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations (2014), Ecodocumentaries: Critical Essays (2016) and Ecocultural Ethics: Critical Essays (2017). He has directed/co-directed ethnographic video documentaries and is the Founder and co-Director of tiNai Ecofilm Festival.

 

Sachindev P. S. is at the Department of Film Studies and Visual Culture, English and Foreign Languages University. He is one of the editors of Culture and Media: Ecocritical Explorations (2014). Formerly an advertising creative, he has shot and directed documentaries, one of them screened at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival (IDSFFK 2014).

 

 

 

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Fear and a General Social Theory[1] 

-R. Michael Fisher [notes: June 16/20]

                    Introductory Issues of the Social & World

Recently, it occurred to me that no one will really ‘get’ my work adequately until they ‘get’ that my work is foundationally a social theory of fear (management/education). I am deeply a social thinker/theorist and philosopher and educator, who has, unfortunately, not helped the waves of mis-understandings of my work for 31 years because I have not systematically written out my general social theory as context for my work. I am beginning to take on this daunting project. This essay consists of beginning shreds of what is on my mind and is by no means a ‘finished’ work. It is noticeably somewhat nostalgic, at least for me, in that to recover the ‘social’ in my work, and in my life, I have had to return to the past of my first systematic studies of knowledge and disciplines when I was 20 years old to my 30s. If these references seem ‘old’ or ‘out of date’ to readers, I won’t apologize for how important and relevant they are in ‘messages’ for today—but, certainly, this general social theory I am attempting needs up-dating with newer thinkers for sure—yet, all in time. I want to keep things relatively simple to start with. I appreciate your patience with my somewhat nostalgic turn.  

As part of Social Sciences, social theory seems essential to my fearanalysis project [2] on the Fear Problem. It is an approach to all phenomenon (e.g., especially fear and its management/education) primarily through the lens of the social sphere of reality. Social theory today, in the Anthropocene era, also has to be part of Biological and especially Environmental Sciences, because global cascading crises are putting the survival and quality of life on this planet at-high-risk, moving existence regularly into emergencies. COVID-19 is the latest episode showing how vulnerable Homo sapiens is.  

The basic purpose overall of these Sciences seen through my own value-based lens, is that of “making man [sic] more aware of the consequences of his actions.”[3] Awareness has to do with learning, and that is why my profession is Education. I turn now to explicate my evolved, yet still evolving, social theory as a synthesis of many others’ critical thinking and research. It is not too embarrassing to say my social theory is quite unique in the history of thought.

                   Theorizing: Natural Sciences Are Social

 It is essential for humans as a whole, and for me to remember that the aim of the knowledge quest (i.e., learning and education) is to,

 ....establish the process of human development as the goal of the process of social evolution, both the process and the goal being understood to be open to further transformation as we advance in the practice and understanding of them.[4]

 And furthermore, there is a search still going on across large domains of societies functions, and within the inner searching and reflecting that humans do at times, to find a better “image” of our selves—of our nature, of our potential—and to do so, as crucial so that we don’t become crushed by harsh realities of the everyday human condition (i.e., of a good deal of suffering). Markley & Harman (1982) spoke to this in a way that made sense for me in my youthful scholarship days, and still resonates today:

 It seems evident that the characteristics we postulated for an adequate image [of the human] cannot be fulfilled unless such a new type of policy paradigm comes into existence—a paradigm that provides a far closer reconciliation of C. P. Snow’s ‘two cultures’ (the sciences and the humanities) than has heretofore seemed feasible [in modern times]. Central in this pursuit would be the reconciliation of the objective inquiry methods found suitable for learning to manipulate the external/physical environment and the inquiry methods which are emerging to similarly explore the subjective/internal/psychical environment of our living. Likely such an umbrella paradigm will not be possible without the emergence of other, somewhat more specialized but nevertheless holistic [-integral], paradigms to support it.[5]

 In Markley & Harman’s profound search for a “moral science,” “moral economics” and politics for a sustainable, healthy and sane future, they know that a “moral paradigm” lies below them all, which is something I have always been interested in but I am not a “moralist” or “virtues” prophet/teacher or thinker. That’s a topic that arrives much later in this essay and social theory. Suffice it to say at this point, my approach to ethics and morals and the ‘good’ and ‘true’ and ‘beautiful’ will be strongly tainted in this work with the social as environment—and, it is this environmental emphasis that is most conducive to pulling out and foreword why I think the social is so critical to any good fear studies (and fear management/education) today and in the future. To note, the marriage of objective and subjective that Markley & Harman recommend, not totally radical, is very important to my own holistic-integral approach to knowledge and living, of which Wilber (1995) has added another vector of polarities to build a more adequate and complete (and moral) epistemological quadrant analysis. He adds: individual and communal sphere. When I speak of the “social” so forthright and as forming everything in human affairs, I am not excluding the other quadrant inputs into the social sphere of reality but including them, even if they are lesser focused on.  

I more or less ‘hated’ public school. I was born and raised poor working class. The whole system seemed rigged, even though I am a white guy (Canadian), to benefit those who already were privileged by class. The more would get the more and doing well in education was seemingly their way of greasing their wheels of progress (success).  Post-secondary schooling nor societal success meant anything important to me until my 19th year of life (after graduation from high school in a technical curriculum stream for the ‘dummies’). One course in grades 10-12 really was a place for me to shine—Biology. I was a budding naturalist (thanks to my dad, my uncle, my older brother). Learning science was hard but I did it and learned things I cared about—that is, how Life works. By my 19th year I was dedicated to pursue secondary education and make a career in science (e.g., forestry or something). The rest is history. As I went through careers and more and more degrees, “Science” grew in scope and dimensions in ways I could have never predicted back in my late teens or early 20s. Today, I reluctantly, would call myself a “scientist” but at-heart I really am. I am a little more comfortable being called a “philosopher” at-heart, an “artist”—and yet, my graduate Ph.D. training ended with a doctorate in Education.

                  Fear is Social

A most basic premise of my life’s work is that fear is social, or more accurately, that the nature and role of fear for humans cannot be understood without a social perspective. At some level, thus, my hypothesis is that: social fear is the best descriptor for all fears and fear itself. Contentious perhaps. I’ll return to that topic later. Now, I wish to claim that science is always social—and, the corollary, all science is social science. Let me explain.

                  Scientists are Social

It is no surprise that from anthropology to ecology and evolutionary studies, many scientists have concluded that “Homo sapiens” is a social species. It sounds simple to conclude. It seems true. What it exactly means and the implications are much more profound, as I have found to be the case over the decades. I think most people don’t really think about this.

Despite the history of Science being diverse, with all its twists and turns and shifts in its role and the ways scientists themselves saw their efforts to build scientific knowledge, it is likely true that at the end of the 19th century most scientists were relatively “unconcerned as to where they ought to be going. They saw no point in formulating social goals for their professional work, because they regarded science as an end rather than a means.” And many then, as still now, do not want their scientific work determined by social (e.g., economic and political) agendas of interest groups or the public at-large, according to Dubos (1970, p. 229). More characteristically, the scientists overall have not seen their own profession as a social enterprise itself—that is, shaped overly by influences from the social sphere including by non-scientists.

It is hard for the vast majority of scientists (maybe less so today) to believe that what they do intellectually may be socially-determined—in whole or in part. Kuhn’s (1970) classical analysis of the paradigm shifts of the scientific enterprise validates just how social science communities are. Scientists likely find that thought of socially-determined, socially-responsible or “mission-oriented”[6] science rather loathsome, and beneath their self-integrity. They are very proud of their elite scientific training. I remember, the same feeling when I was fully in science education processes and working as a scientist of sorts. To get a masters or doctoral degree in some science adds to their privilege and sense of self-esteem. They see they are in a scientific establishment and career in order to best perform good (or even ‘pure’) science. No one should be telling them or even much influencing them who isn’t a scientist.[7] The very reason of bringing this issue of Science to the foreground to begin my general social theory explication tells you something about how important I think Science is today; And especially, it tells you that I agree with Dubos (50 years ago) that the best way to talk about the current (at least Western) society is under the umbrella term “scientific civilization.”[8]

                  Civilization Types: Evolving Fear(s)

As civilizations, many humans have thus evolved from tribal, to agricultural, to industrial—all because of an advance in Science (and technologies). Since late-modernity, that’s been recognized as a mixed blessing for those of us in the latter forms of civilization. Myself included, we have begun to realize the paradox of progress via Science that is now creating some of the worst nightmares of which are capable of extinguishing all civilization (e.g., nuclear weapons, anthropogenic accelerated global warming, clear-cutting forests, mining, etc.). It is arguable, that there have been new fears created and overcome at each level of civilization type listed above. However, it is also arguable, the current chronic level of fear(s) in the highly scientific civilization type is accumulative (post-traumatic) and worse than other civilizations. If so, it is another hypothesis of my social theory that with increasing progress, comings increasing social fear (of the most destructive kinds). But let’s return to my thinking on Science before focusing on other aspects of my social theory (of fear).

                  Need for a Social Theory of Science

It has been a great gain to knowledge generally to develop the history of science and open-up the world of Science to historians and the public. It may well be, as Dubos suggested, that it is more important for citizens in a true democracy to be critical in their literacy of how Science functions than needing to know all the facts of science and its applications.[9] It is great to have a grasp of both, but at least it is important to learn about science as a social activity that ought to serve social purposes, as well as intellectual purposes. For example, to learn about science is to learn as a layperson that “scientific knowledge is never absolute or final, yet it remains valid when considered in the social and intellectual framework within which it was developed.”[10] Another example, “scientists hardly ever disagree on the validity of the facts themselves, but only [mostly] on the interpretation and use of the these facts.”[11]

The argument I am making, as did Dubos 50 years ago, is that all science operates with shifting “fashions”[12]—that is, it is socially contextualized ‘not an island to itself’ and visa versa “all social decisions now have scientific determinants,”[13] whether we recognize them or not. Snow’s (1959) lecture on The Two Cultures—of facts (science) vs. values (social morals and/or religion)—raised critical questions of the long modern separation of these realms; and, suggested how they ought not be fully disengaged from each other. Integral philosopher, Ken Wilber, notes that Snow called both facts and values inherently “cultures” and thus serve as social phenomena. He argued knowledge is best for cultures/societies when they are not totally battling, competing, and thus end up dissociated and divorced; but rather, today we have to work to repair their ancient marriage[14] so that a higher holistic-integration of knowledge can once again yield wisdom and guidance for the modern, late-modern and post-modern times. There’s a need for a new thinking today—and, more so than ever it will have to be around the notion of fear. I am calling my version of this, as core to my methodological concerns, integral social thinking.

               Methodology of Integral Social Thinking (IST)

As I attempt to introduce this emergent sense that my social theory itself has to be based on integral social thinking—troubling questions of knowing arise. Philosophers call this ontological and epistemological issues. I’ll start with the “integral” part of thinking—which, comes from a long venerable tradition of integral philosophies and theories in history,[15] of which, for example, Wilber (1995) is one of the most prescient of these thinkers, and has influenced my ways of thinking since the early 1980s.

Yet, there is a further problem not so overtly dealt with as an epistemological problem in integral thinking and style, which I must mention. In the study of fear itself (meaning, the human-fear-self-social relationship dynamic) there is a problem of attempting to know something (perhaps, a prior conceptions that are faded or invisible) that is escaping its very knowability. You open a black sealed box to study something locked away inside for generations, but in assuming the light you shine on it will reveal its essence, you more or less destroy the operation and object/subject you are analyzing because it is not the proper ‘method’ to disclose the essence of that which lives in a ‘black box.’

Using this ‘black box’ as metaphor or analogy, this is what I learned in my youth when I (and others) first encountered the nascent field of “ecology.”[16] I cannot help but be an ecological thinker, but that gets massively more complex than approaching an ecological problem of studying Nature when one brings the light of investigation to Culture—in this case, my pursuit of a social theory and a fear theory simultaneously—things get very tricky, to say the least. I’ve hinted at this problem (part of the larger Fear Problem) in my earliest works in the late 1980’s into the early 1990s and why I demarcated my subject of study of fear as ‘fear’ with (‘) marks[17] to signify something I really didn’t know even what it was I was studying or what methods would be best for doing so). The progressive futurists Markley & Harman (1982) touched somewhat on the enigmatic attitude and sensibility in which a researcher has to imbue when after a topic, with humility, with the arational and rational modes, as they articulated one way to capture the same troubling question I am now explicating:

How does one study a priori conceptions which, by definition, are fundamental to and lie beyond the [standard] rules of inquiry of any particular discipline [of knowledge, and knowing, and understanding]? (p. xxi)

I chose to assume “fear” (and ‘fear’) as already embedded in a black box of a prior phenomenon/conceptions and no one discipline or even a couple disciplines could unravel the hidden subtle nature of fear (‘fear’). To be playful, I enlisted a neologism of “fearology” to act as a transdisciplinary approach to the topic. However, there was more I had to deal with in Markley & Harman (1982) and what they called “bricolage thinking” – and my attempt to:

....discern fundamental and usually unrecognized influences on our societal problems, on our social policies, and on our hopes [aspirations] for the future....our aim is to break out of set patterns of thinking (and hence recognize useful new ways of thinking and imaging” (p. xxi)

More specifically, my nascent methodological rationale was built upon both a defence against, and an offense for, a better knowledge about fear (‘fear’) that was already socially embedded in culture—which I soon would discover other scholars talking about how near everything today is embedded in a “culture of fear” (which by 2000, I talked about as a ‘Fear’ Matrix and/or a decade before that, I talked about a largely invisible ubiquitous form of oppression called “fearism”). I felt intuitively, and theorized from my reading, research and phenomenological experiences, that fear was already ‘hooked’ into living inside a black box that for many good reasons could not be opened or if it was it might yield more than the investigator could handle anyways (e.g., you may note the analogy here with the myths of Pandora’s Box, Icarus, Prometheus from ancient Greek as ‘warnings’ to human hubris—likewise, in psychoanalytical theory and practice there is the cautionary of any inquiry into the unconscious).

The invocation from the start of my study of fear to be in search of “fearlessness” was not by chance, albeit, I knew little of what complexity and black box I would bump into as well on this latter subject. In a nutshell, I assumed (sometimes concluded) that the deep territory of fear was an a prior social taboo (and ‘fear’ was even more elusive, denied, repressed and dangerous territory). All fear is a priori social—social fear (i.e., we humans are sociophobic,[18] in other words, and I do not just mean this term like contemporary clinical psychiatrists would use it—as “fear of the social”—although, in part that is applicable too). Thus, I had stumbled in my early years in and around this troubling situation of the social sphere and how much or how little to let it into my investigations of fear. It seems that transdisciplinary study pushes one into creative synthesis of methodologies and multiple ways of knowing, and asks us to be not overly disciplined in trying too hard to control your subject and tools of inquiry....

[to be continued....]

References

Dubos, R. (1970). Reason awake: Science for man. Columbia University Press.

Fisher, R. M. (1995a/12). An introduction to defining ‘fear’: A spectrum approach. Technical Paper No. 1. In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.

Fisher, R. M. (1995b/12). An  introduction to an epistemology of ‘fear’: A fearlessness paradigm. Technical Paper No. 2. In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.

Kuhn, T. (1962/96). The structure of scientific revolutions. [3rd. ed.] The University of Chicago Press.

Markley, O. W., & Harman, W. W. (1982). Changing images of man. Pergamon Press.

McIntosh, S. (2007). Integral consciousness and the future of evolution: How the integral worldview is transforming politics, culture and spirituality. Paragon House.

Odum, E. P. (1972). Fundamentals of ecology [3rd ed.]. W. B. Saunders.

Scruton, D. L. (Ed.) (1986). Sociophobics:  The anthropology of fear. Westview Press.

Wilber, K. (1998). The marriage of sense and soul: Integrating science and religion. Random House.

Wilber, K. (1995). Sex, ecology and spirituality: The spirit in evolution [Vol. 1]. Shambhala.

 

END NOTES

[1] Cf. to Skoll (2010) “Social theory of fear: Terror, torture, and death in a post-capitalist world.”

[2] Overtly, I co-founded the In Search of Fearlessness Project (1989-) for this work, more implicitly this is a fearanalysis I am doing on the entire phenomenon of humans and fear and life. I have several short publications on "fearanalysis" but the book on this is still to be finalized and published (with the first draft of "An Introduction to Fearanalysis" still sitting on my shelf from 2016). 

[3] Dubos (1970), p. 229.

[4] Quote from Dunn (1971), cited in Markley & Harman (1982), p. 156.

[5] Ibid., p. 157.

[6] Ibid., p. 219.

[7] “[M]any scientists are more interested in the advancement of [scientific] knowledge, than in its possession [by non-scientists]” (Dubos, 1970, p. 209).

[8] Ibid., Chapter 5.

[9] Ibid., p. 215.

[10] Ibid., pp. 217-18, 219.

[11] Ibid. p. 220.

[12] “Rapid and profound shifts of emphasis [on what and how things are studied scientifically] have repeatedly occurred in the scientific community, in part because fashions change in science even more than in other types of endeavors, also because social [and economic] concerns inevitably affect intellectual preoccupation” (Dubos, 1970, p. 217); see also Kuhn (1970).

[13] Ibid., p. 207.

[14] Wilber (1998).

[15] One could make a massive long list of ‘integral’ thinkers going back to ancient times; they are the ‘renaissance’ types that integrated vast domains of different spheres of knowledge, arts, sciences, religion etc. More recently, in philosophy, one can identify several thinkers and lines within philosophy itself that have the qualities of the holistic-integral thinker (and/or “integral consciousness” and/or “integral worldview,” according to McIntosh (2007) some recognizable leaders of this integral movement are Georg Hegel, Henri Bergson, James Mark Baldwin, Teilhard de Chardin, Alfred North Whitehead, Jean Gebser, Jürgen Habermas, Ken Wilber (pp. 151-54).

[16] Odum (1971) refers to this (after G. E. Hutchinson’s notion) ‘black box’ conception as hololgical (p. 22) and which refers to complex systems that one can only study by realizing the “internal workings...are but vaguely known” (and may not be known) (p. 105).

[17] Fisher (1995a, 1995b).

[18] It is not by chance the first major initiative (I know of) in academic work to bring “fear” study out from under the umbrella of the hegemonic dominating grips of the biomedical and psychological fields (i.e., Natural sphere), into the Cultural (social) sphere—via anthropology/sociology/social psychology was called sociophobics (Scruton, 1986). The Spiritual (religious, theological) sphere, including much of philosophy also had taken on “fear” study but that is beyond the scope of the discussion here.

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The philosophy of fearism (a la Subba et al.) is a great foundation, and still needs a lot of work (thanks to all of you working on that). However, if the idea of having fear and its role recognized as central in mediating human affairs throughout history, then legitimized in actual contemporary research studies (e.g., in social sciences) and then into actual policy formation (e.g., politics, urban planning)--well, there are some great opportunities. Recently the two research articles below from the international scene of publishing indicate, for the first time in a big way, that I have seen, where "fearism" is used as a key "force" field actor-agent of analysis and interventions. I've selected excerpts from the two papers so you can get a sense of how "fearism" [1] is being used and why. It is exactly this direction that fearism studies and knowledge need to go to actualize into world affairs with some impact. I ask all of you to help spread this message and encourage research in these directions of applications. Very important. 

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End Note

1. You will notice that Desh Subba's notion of "fearism" per se is not being cited directly by these researchers but my own version that pre-dates Subba's meaning of fearism. In Fisher (2017), as you see the citation of my work in these two papers, does include a discussion briefly of Subbaian fearism as well. So far, the researchers in Global Migration Studies tend to (but not always) use my old definition from a paper I published in 2006 (although, my first naming and definition of fearism goes back to 1997). My definition of fearism originally focused on the cultural-ideological angle of fear-based "structures" (discourses) that control and manipulate societies. Fearism in that sense was the subtle underbelly of terrorism. Later in Fisher & Subba (2016) I came to distinguish my original version as fearism-t (toxic). Unfortunately, despite all the enthusiasm in the social sciences with my "fearism" concept and that is great, unfortunately, I have also seen it not used very accurately, or is just oversimplified, of which my 2017 paper was intended to correct those errors but that's not yet happening even in these two new 2020 articles. See Fisher, R. M. (2017).'Fearism': A critical analysis of uses and discourses in Global Migration Studies. Technical Paper No. 64. Calgary, AB: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. See Fisher, R. M., & Subba, D. (2016). Philosophy of fearism: A first East-West dialogue. Xlibris. 

 

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Politics of Moving Beyond Fear

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Reviews

"Why do people vote against their best interests? Why do many working people vote for their class enemy, a con artist who is dedicated slavishly to wealth and private power and is shafting them at every turn? The question is carefully addressed in this powerful study which explores a central part of the answer: the "security story" mixed with "raw tribalism," an amalgam with ancient vintage, commonly implemented in ways that gravely undermine security. Not for the first time in history—and as Mark Twain reminded us, while history doesn’t repeat, it rhymes. Sometimes ominously, sometimes with hope."

Noam Chomsky, author of Internationalism or Extinction

I have not seen this book, it just came out. As a fearologist, I see these kinds of titles of books and articles all the time, "conquering fear" or "going beyond fear" and so on, but I rarely find any good theorizing on the nature of fear, the problem of knowing fear itself (and 'fear' as a culturally modified fear) and thus, they usually are disappointing enterprises. But maybe someone will have a look at this book and report back to the FM ning on it. 

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Quantitative Data:

The basic summary of data of FM ning sign-ups (memberships) intrigues me, and shows, that after an initial 'burst' in 2015 when we started the FM ning and invited lots of people, then a drop, and finally a slow organic process of slight increase each year (with no membership drives being done) to a maximum (n =21) in 2018 for some reason? Then a slight decrease but holding to the levels of the initial year of opening the ning AND, most noticeable is that 2020 (especially in May, with effects of Covid-19 mounting, increasing fear in the world population collectively), indicating that the membership level (predictably) will reach well beyond 21 by the end of the year. Note: four new members signed-up in six days (May 16-22, 2020)--then two more signed-up by end of the month, this rate has never been even close to happening over the 5.5 yrs, except the week we started the FM ning... something is happening(?) that is unique... Now, I added another graph to show May sign-ups, and clearly, statistically, it is significant the correlation of "lockdown" (and pandemic) with the interest to sign-up to the FM ning. We ought not take this correlation lightly, and ask how we can work with this growing interest productively. 

Qualitative Data: 

I have not done any statistics on more subtle qualitative aspects of the growth and development of the FM ning. I would say that, I am very looking forward to a vast growth in the numbers and exchanges and actions taken by FM ning members in collaborations to improve the aims of which the FM ning was started in the beginning... please join in, and please invite others to join us too. May we learn great lessons from the Covid-19 global experience and advance fearlessness into the world like a 'fear' vaccine. 

 

 

 

 

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