culture of fear (37)

‘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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So there are many issues I am critical of when any Authority assigns itself to "protect" the people (often, meaning, protect the State power/authority/order): it is political as well as a psychological situation re: our health as citizens. Long ago researchers have shown that "shock doctrine" policies and "crisis" politics is a big power/business construction that is manipulative of people, mainly by using their fear and inserting (more or less) forms of authoritarian propaganda to add to the hypnosis of the moment when people are scared/terrified etc. There is basically a danger of transgressing (excessively) human rights in these situations of declared "emergency state" or "pandemic" etc. See one author who has snooped this out already around the coronavirus... https://nationalpost.com/opinion/marni-soupcoff-outbreaks-are-not-an-excuse-to-trample-on-our-rights.

As critical citizens, we have to be questioning of all Authority, no matter in what situation. One doesn't have to be a conspiracy theorist but one has to be vigilant to oppression that is subtle and systemic--and has been historically used against people's freedoms. For more background on mis-uses of "emergency time" constructions by Authorities and repercussions, see the great book by critical pedagogy Henry A. Giroux (2003). "The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear" (NY: Palgrave/Macmillan). 

 

 

 

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The above chart is particularly of interest to transhumanists who belive in change dynamics and evolution endlessly moving on into dimensions that 'stretch' (include but transcend) the very nature of humans, human nature, and humanity itself and what we call "life" (and Life) itself. Often mathematical paradigms, computational paradigms and good ol' creative extremism is brought into this mixture of futuristic and hybridizational thinking-- that is "transhumanism"-- as both vision, ideas, perhaps even ideologies. But those controversies I'll leave for others to discuss. I just read parts of an edited book by Lee, N. (2019). The Transhumanism Handbook. Springer. [charts from p. 760 by Selariu]

Very serious writers, thinkers, innovators and some 'mutants' in the current normal pool of psycho-cultural-sociological happenings. I looked up "fear" and was curious what positive transformational people were thinking in this book. I find it interesting. I would have liked to see a lot more on "fear" as a topic but I found this diagram of particular usefulness to my work and I think anyone ought to pay attention to this in the domain of Fear Studies, fearism, fearology etc. In particular look at the major factors on the left-side charts of what most limits the macroevolution of systems in an Intelligent (Information-driven) universe-- and, yes, I agree with this side for sure-- all of the aspects there are crucial and "culture of fear" (i.e., a human, humanity defined by pain/fear/reactions and neuro-sociological pressures to conform to that base structural brain-system of "survival" above all else)-- are top of the list. I am not at all surprised this is being critiqued, as well it should, by some transhumanists. Yeah!!!! 

Indeed, my whole domain of work is about re-imagining and transcending the 'Fear' Project... now, that's a long story and theory and ends with a promotion of a (perhaps mutational) idea of a new Fearlessness Psychology just read to be born in this living world here on Earth-- and the sooner the better! 

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US President Hopeful Tells It Like It Is

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Climate crisis as part of an amoral economic system is part of Marianne Williamson's presidential campaign to tell the American people the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The question is, will the people be able to handle the truth? Fear can play it's own game of denial and forget, suppression and repression, and unfortunately I predict more and more people will carry on as 'business as usual.' Meanwhile, things will only get worse--and, deep below the surface of suppression and repression--eventually, more and more people will be overcome by the unconscious and collective fear/terror that's inevitable. Williamson teaches Love over Fear, Love as the solution to Fear-- and, so, you'd think perhaps a lot more people would 'rise up' and join her Revolution to transform America and the future. She will not be able to do it alone. 

See my series of two videos on Williamson ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHDlATRUYLM

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This book published by Bloomsbury Continuum (2018), is by Dr. Frank Furedi, emeritus professor of sociology in the UK. He is one of the leading thinkers and writers on the "culture of fear" phenomenon and I highly recommend this book (and his many others). It raises very important questions as to what kind of society we want to live in and how we can change the direction we are currently proceeding. Here's a small excerpt from the first few pages of the book: 

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I first contacted Frank Furedi by correspondence in 1997 after his first book on this topic and he was gracious to send me some scanned pages of the book so I could study it and it had a strong influence on how I think about fear overall. He's recently taken up my offer to dialogue with him on fear later this year for a possible article we'll co-write for the International Journal of Fear Studies (Issue 3, in early 2020). 

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I'd like you to meet Debbie L. Kasman, an integral educator in Canada, someone I have just done a long dialogue with on fear in education. She is also taking on the writing of a book (with me) on my work making it more accessible to the populus, to school teachers, parents, etc. Check out the dialogue FearTalk 6

This is 6th in the series FearTalks originated by fearologist Dr. R. M. Fisher. He invites Kasman to discuss fear and education, especially in the light of recent terrorism, mass murders and schooling communities reacting to it, including now the marketing of bullet-proof kid's backpacks. They discuss how fear is the opportunity (door) to fearlessness on the way to Love. A good video for school superintendents, policy makers, teachers, principals, parents etc. We talk about philosopher-theorist Ken Wilber in this video and the AQAL and Integral perspective, so for more on this see my video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPl3-... Debbie's Bio & Website (for more info.): http://debbielkasman.com/ Debbie L. Kasman, a Canadian educator interested in transformative, holistic and integral education, is the author of: “LOTUS OF THE HEART: RESHAPING THE HUMAN AND COLLECTIVE SOUL”--a former principal, acting interim superintendent, and student achievement officer at the Ministry of Education in Ontario with a career spanning over 28 years in Ontario. Debbie recently trained with Ken Wilber – a scholar of the Integral stage of human development. Wilber also taught and influenced Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Bill Clinton, and John Mackey. Debbie has lots to say about the need to transform education. She also writes about female leadership, equity and spirituality. The New-York Times Bestselling author, Daniel H. Pink, placed Debbie’s blog on his Reader Recommended List in December 2016. Four Arrows (aka Dr. Don T. Jacobs), Indigenous educator, is also referred to in this talk: See Fisher's book "Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows: The true story of an Indigenous-based Social Transformer" (Peter Lang, 2018).

See FearTalk 7 as well...

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ALSO, as an aside and complementary article on culture of fear and the role it plays in Education (especially, regarding higher education and the loss of intellectual inquiry) see Frank Furedi's article "he Campus Culture of Fear" --here's an excerpt from the article on the Internet: 

A climate of fear is inhospitable to the cultivation of academic relationships and the pursuit of intellectual inquiry. Take the growing stigma attached to the term “controversial speaker.” Once, controversy was seen as essential to the workings of an academic community; nowadays, many university administrators fear controversy to the point that they have designed policies to marginalize or ban provocative speakers altogether, as the title of a Xavier University publication—Controversial Speakers and Events: Strategies for Risk Management—demonstrates.

Arguably, the most regrettable feature of the campus culture of fear is the toll that it takes on human relations. People censor themselves vigilantly. Like other academics, I have been warned that it’s unsafe to shut my office door when I talk to a student. And as relations between academics and students become less spontaneous and more formal, the ancient role of mentor or interlocutor gives way to that of service provider or bureaucrat. The psychic distancing of members of the academic community from one another is the unacceptable price we pay for our obsession with campus “safety.”

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"I'm very grim, and down and out," says Emeritus professor Cornel West in a recent interview. He was responding to Anderson Cooper's (CNN host) about the current Trump rally in the US and people chanting to "send her home" referring to a Congress Woman (of color). Indeed, West has long been a Left intellectual and anti-racist advocate and scholar and he is no doubt reflecting a mood many are feeling in the USA and a lot of the world that has strong racist-right-wing elements rising to power these days. 

Why doesn't Cornel West, this great liberation (populist, intellectual) leader of our times talk about "fearlessness"? [1]

Of course, relevant to the Fearlessness Movement, I ask myself if Cornel West is a proponent of "fearlessness" in his philosophy, his Christianity, his radical left Black activism? And, upon my preliminary searching I found, just like in his recent talk with Cooper, he barely mentions fear itself and when he does he usually is talking about angst and nihilism (as loss of hope and growth of meaninglessness) as a collective dis-ease in American society. Fear as a term is never usually mentioned more than 5 times in any of West's many books, and best sellers. I wonder why? And, in his recent talk with Cooper he will admit he is "down and out" in psychic temperament in relation to the rise of White Supremacism ideology in his country (again). He's old and tired, but he's not without a bit of spirit to fight. So, next after his grim response he says to Cooper and the audience that (paraphrasing) 'we must in this time especially have moral fortitude and courage' and that's what he and all the down-trodden people have always had when they are oppressed and the fight will continue until they find their victory and justice, no matter what happens in the meantime. 

"Moral courage" is the fav phrase in West's discourses, which has a long tradition (e.g., black liberation theology) in the justice movements of history. I see this as a particular fear management system (FMS-5 with some FMS-6)--and, it is basically modernist. It is about the individual (and society) under oppression fighting back and not letting fear of oppressors, nor internalized fear destroy you and your integrity and your will to keep fighting back, even if the odds are tremendously against you gaining much in the bigger political world. "Hope" is also his fav concept to accompany "moral courage." This is the basis of ethical philosophy behind West's popularity and stardom. He attracts great followings of people from the Left especially, and I'm noticing a lot of young men are really admiring West's character and intellectual prowess--and, see him as a hero in the nightmares of the times of post-truth bullshit that is invading most all of America day to day. The young men are scared as I see it, and rightfully so, and they are looking for leaders who speak to them and impress them as having the 'best' analysis. And, true, West is "brilliant" and "warm" and "sharp" at the mouth. He's very hip too! 

But my critique is that "moral courage" is not sufficient to deal with Fear's Empire, the 'Fear' Matrix of which America and the rest of the world is being swallowed up and coded into moment by moment. Moral courage, hope, and love, as the prophetic voice has always offered since ancient times, right up to the present modernist values and virtues of a Christian like West, are helpful, but not enough; from a fearlessness meta-psychological perspective, that is [2]. Listen to West (from his best selling book Race Matters (1993/2017):

"Being a hope is being in motion, on the move with body on the line, mind set on freedom, soul full of courage, and heart shot through with love. Being hope is foraging moral and spiritual fortitude.... being willing to live and die for the empowerment of the wretched [oppressed] of the earth." (p. xxiv) [3].

For three decades, I have advocated and argued, that if one trully penetrates into the nature and role of fear, across the spheres of Natural, Cultural and Spiritual realities, from a critical holistic-integral perspective--then, fearlessness will be understood like never before too. This new understanding of fear and fearlessness repositions many things from a moral and ethical and philosophical perspective--and, one major outcome is that when operating from Fearlessness there is no need to constantly boost "hope" and "love" and "empowerment" as does the modernist approach to activism and liberation. I am not dissing these modernist and even premodernist traditions of liberation, I am merely claiming they are largely out-dated and need a serious upgrade. And, that critique, no matter how much I publish and speak about it is still largely ignored by West, and so many of his contemporaries. 

As much as I so respect Cornel West as a leader today, it is disturbing he has not picked up on the great liberation traditions (at a minimum) and thus talked a lot more about fear and fearlessness. As I said, less than 5 pages in any of his books is on "fear" and when he talks about it usually it is rather thin and about "fears" --not seeing that the entire study of fearism-t (at the base of all oppression - ism diseases) requires so much more than moral courage, hope and love. It requires an incredibly systematic study of fear itself (and 'fear', as I argue)--it requires Fearlessness which is a meta-psychology (and philosophy) and methodological re-orientation that directs our gaze and analysis to something much deeper at-cause of our worst human behaviors, individually and collectively. Fear is not a factor, as West makes it out to and as that modernist discourse does as well. Talk about a "culture of fear," a "fear lens" a 'Fear' Matrix, etc., and then we'll realize we are up against an enormous power and complex of external and internal structures in everyday life that keep us "afraid" and, to then, even at times encourage us to thus be "courageous"--but, the latter encouragement actually supports us being more afraid so that we'll develop more courage--it's an ironical productive cycle of 'Fear' as oppression itself. That's not the kind of critical self-reflection you will find amongst the Left (or West) of their very notion of "moral courage" (and hope and love) and how they too are tainted already from the start when one lives in Fear's Empire. Everything is tainted with fear ('fear')--and that's what makes an oppressive society work so well (said, in sarcasm). So, no, I am not big advocate for "courage" alone as a fear management system (discourse) that will get us very far with liberation on the scale and with the depth I am talking and theorizing about. 

Unfortunately, I have learned that people don't want to do the work of discovering Fearlessness in this meta-context I propose and teach about. I am no celebrity, like a West, and likely never will be, but I will live and die attempting to show people we can do better than "moral courage" discourses and actions--even if, I admit, those may be better than nothing--but I will argue, they are going to be 'too little too late' unfortunately. That's a larger conversation, I'm always glad to engage with you all. 

Notes:

1. I have tried email contacting him and sharing with him my work but to no avail, he typically doesn't respond or engage the work. Only once did I find in several of his books one reference where he used "fearlessness" (per se), and that was in his talking about his appreciation of the "New Black Panther Party.... they have a certain fearlessness like Malcom [X]" (West & Buschendorf, 2014, n.p.). But West doesn't define the term. See West, C., & Buschendorf, C. (2014). Black prophetic fire. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. See also my criticism of American pragmatist philosophy (Fisher, 2015) in general and its domination of American ideas, culture and society, of which I find Cornel West is susceptible to in his discourse (and ideology): Fisher, R. M. (2015). What is the West’s problem with fearlessness? Technical Paper No. 53. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.

2. I am currently writing a new book "A Fearlessness Meta-psychology" for the 21st century. See also my Fisher, R. M. (2019). Fearlessness psychology: An introduction. Technical Paper No. 79. Calgary, AB: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute.  

3. West, C. (2017). Race matters, 25th anniversary. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 

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HOW AFRAID SHOULD WE BE?[1]: Case of Climate Change Today               - rmf May 18/2019

 The fear of eco-turbulence is the greatest one.

This eco-fear must be made positive fear to prevent the possible disaster.                                                                                                                                                            - Bhawani Shankar Adhikari[2]

             Preamble

 I too, like Adhikari and other fearists (of recent expressions), am seeing something powerful amidst the current zeitgeist on the planet in general, of something which could be called “eco-fear.” This is the fear related to eco-issues (i.e., environmental and global issues of great ecological consequence to quality of life (and Life itself) in the early part of the 21st century).

I have written about this topic off and on, not the least of which was my series of technical papers on what Simon Estok calls “ecophobia” and its importance in literary criticism and beyond.[3] Many issues are thus being raised about the relationship between eco and fear that require more analysis and perhaps ‘better’ guidance than so far offered by anyone thinking about this. I’ll attempt to move forward this discussion and offer some direct guidance as consulting to eco-fear—and, I think I can do that best through a case study, albeit, it is more imagined for me personally at the moment than real. That is, climate change education (CCE) of which some in the literature refer to it as merely “climate education” but it is assumed they are speaking about “change” and big changes in climate—that is, global warming and the human-causation of that phenomena and the issues around how humans can mitigate the impacts of global warming crises upon us now and that are to become increasingly severe by most scientific predictions in the next decade or less—to the point, where mass extinctions of species and perhaps, more or less, our own species is immanent as is the product of great risk of toxification that will destroy life-sustainability on planet Earth.

I will not here, go into an analysis of the toxification problem, that is global warming as part of the CCE curriculum per se—if anything, I will focus on the issue of “fear toxification” as one particular angle in the discussion, whereby over the last several years I have made the direct analogy between CO2 rising levels of threat to Fear rising levels of threat[4]—both, with their interdependent relationship and mutual causality (arguably). I’ll not pursue this relationship in this paper further than this mention. There are other concerns I am focusing on here and they can simply be wrapped-up in and around the question I ask myself in this context of toxification, How afraid should we be?—while, I realize that is not the only or even the ‘best’ question—it is one I think is rich with heuristic value to pursue.

My First Thoughts and Question(s)

If I (or any fearist) puts themselves into the situation of answering this question, several things arrive to be clarified, if not answered with a powerfully thought through rationale and direction:

(a). in concrete, if I am teaching and/or advising the teaching of say “climate education” today (as it is sometimes called” and, I am also answering to the critique “Climate Education is Screwed Up” as a recent video announces [5] – I am also having to answer philosophically and pedagogically how afraid should the students of such a climate education (CE) be at the first, in the middle and at the end of the class or course, or lecture? How does “fear” (i.e., fearfullness) enter into CE and specifically my way of ‘best’ teaching CE and/or advising others to teach CE?

(b) what theoretical and philosophical grounds (e.g., philosophy of fearism, and/or a General Fear Theory) can I draw upon to help analyze this questioning and calling as a fearist—and, how might I compare that guidance I seek be compared to some other guidance from other theoretical and philosophical grounds?—and, thus in that comparative analysis how I could make my ‘best’ recommendations to others in CE and/or follow the findings to my own curriculum and pedagogical design in the classroom?

(c) if I was to analyze the already prevailing general critique (since the mid-1990s) that is substantive amongst diverse critics of a growing “culture of fear” phenomena –a critique that at times takes the provocative label by some writers as “Are We Scaring Ourselves to Death?” [6]—there seems to be an important point of analysis required (fearanalysis) as to “why” and “how” this latter phenomenon is functioning already and this was showing itself (as a symptom) in a historical time when “climate” and the crisis around “global warming” were there but only minor in the zeitgeist of planetary consciousness—at least, it was much less than it is today and in the last decade of the 21st century’s unfolding... then, to analyze this I have to bring forward problematic issues that are in that particular historical discourse, and then bring them into light of my own search in (a.) above and ultimately to answering (b.) above.

No one has pursued, to my knowledge, this kind of in depth research project that (a.), (b.) and (c). involve—and, the time has come for this work to be done, and the sooner the better. It will take a dedicated number of individuals and a team (perhaps) to do a good job of this and prepare the material for publication. I’m inviting interested researchers and thinkers to consider my proposition. I myself have already begun this venture, however, I am only in the very early stages of organizing and designing how to proceed. It would also be great to acquire “gifting” and “funding” supports for such an initiative.

 ****

NOTES

[1] See my recent 2019 teaching video : “The Great Collapse: How Afraid Should We Be?”

[2] Excerpt from April 25, 2019 FM blog (which Desh Subba and other fearists endorsed enthusiastically).

[3] See Fisher (2018) tech papers No. 66-70.

[4] For e.g., CO2 FEAR chart Posted by R.Michael Fisher on September 11, 2015.

[5].  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXuzdoKs9pI

[6] For e.g., Cohl, H. A. (1997). Are we scaring ourselves to death: How pessimism, paranoia, and a misguided  media are leading us toward disaster. NY: St. Martin's Griffin. 

 

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How Will Love Do It?

Just finished my Part 2 Video doing a fearanalysis of Marianne Williamson's campaign so far: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHDlATRUYLM

The Marianne Williamson campaign-- questions are being asked as in this Forbes magazine article on MW... [see also my blog a few posts ago on this ning]

Warrell, a fan of MW, asked (as many will) in this article ending: 

"Will love win out over fear in a political system that seems to so richly reward those who are most masterful in manipulating fear in their favor?  Time will tell."  

https://www.forbes.com/sites/margiewarrell/2019/01/29/marianne-williamson-can-love-transcend-fear/#6cc095f4141b

 

ALSO, my daughter (Vanessa) interviewed in a podcast Marianne in 2012, well worth listening to: http://www.poetic-justice.ca/for-the-love-of-social-change--interview-with-marianne-williamson --at one point Marianne says, "forces of fear are intensifying; forces of love are intensifying" -- sounds a lot how I think too but my philosophical and theoretical frame looks at this as forces of fear/fearlessness are intensifying... 

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The Permaculture Movement is a fast growing alternative to the way we modern humans have been living. Rather than drawing from profit-centered and self-ishness principles, this new form of environmental-human design draws from Nature and Indigenous ways that have long-survived and thrived because they are "connected" to the way life on earth works. 

I've been interested for some time about how environmental and ecological principles, and now the permaculture principles of sustainability can be applied to human sociality and human health and sanity. I am curious to begin developing connections with what I have taught for decades as a Healing Culture (based on fearlessness) vs. a Coping Culture (based on fear). At this time, the people using the permaculture ideas have not tended to fully understand the coping and healing distinction in regard to very basic social practices (like Liberation Peer Counseling). 

So, I encourage others to look at permaculture principles and teachings and see how this movement is dealing with fear and fearlessness and hurting and healing notions. 

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For my latest FearTalk2 video with Luke Barnesmoore, an up and coming young philosopher (doctoral candidate) from the Geography department of The University of British Columbia: 

Description of what is on this video: 

This is a lively (sometimes heavy) discussion between two perceptive philosophical thinkers as comfortable with vulnerable intimacy and abstract ideas as they are savvy with the aesthetics of oppression (via fear of the Eternal) and the many neurotic loops of fear-based escape routes from the Real. With a deep concern for finding the best ways to build a healthy and sane society, their Integrating of East-West, Indigenous and ecological knowledges brings forward a synthesis of ideas to be reckoned with. Dr. Fisher, founder of The Fearology Institute and Luke Barnesmoore a doctoral student in the Geography department at The University of British Columbia (https://ubc.academia.edu/Barnesmoore) caress the contours of fear and fearlessness and the importance of admitting how much fear exists in most all places humans dwell in contemporary urban societies. if we are to avoid the worst catastrophe's of crises we face on the planet in the very near future, Fisher and Barnesmoore are sure that fear is going to be a major player in the outcomes. Note: Dr. Fisher's reference to his work with the A-D-Ness model ("test") re: an aesthetics of fear -- go to https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED... Also a discussion of A-D/ness can be found in Fisher's video "Do's and Don'ts of Fearology" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcNte... A fitting poem that Barnesmoore wishes to share relevant to this discussion: "Each and All" …All are needed by each one; Nothing is fair or good alone. I thought the sparrow’s note from heaven, Singing at dawn on the alder bough; I brought him home, in his nest, at even; He sings the song, but it cheers not now, For I did not bring home the river and sky;— He sang to my ear,—they sang to my eye. The delicate shells lay on the shore; The bubbles of the latest wave Fresh pearls to their enamel gave, And the bellowing of the savage sea Greeted their safe escape to me. I wiped away the weeds and foam, I fetched my sea-born treasures home; But the poor, unsightly, noisome things Had left their beauty on the shore With the sun, and the sand, and the wild uproar… Then I said, “I covet truth; Beauty is unripe childhood’s cheat; I leave it behind with the games of my youth:”— As I spoke, beneath my feet The ground-pine curled its pretty wreath, Running over the club-moss burrs; I inhaled the violet’s breath; Around me stood the oaks and firs; Pine-cones and acorns lay on the ground; Over me soared the eternal sky, Full of light and of deity; Again I saw, again I heard, The rolling river, the morning bird;— Beauty through my senses stole; I yielded myself to the perfect whole.” (Emerson 1914, pp. 7-8)[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson 1914, The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson Vol. V Poems, London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd.

 

Also check out my 2nd part on FearTalk 3 video with Luke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI3Gjn10t38

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Well, after a lot of years of making documentaries, in the 'wild' style of art, activism, and education... Micheal Moore has just had his newest film released last night (mostly on the Trump election and following disasters to democracy in the USA) and on "fear" (and "terror") of all kinds of fascist waves going on all over the world.. I look forward to seeing his latest film, and it is not because I love everthing Moore does and how he represents people and problems--the big and "wicked problems" that we have to face as humanity... but I like to see how he uses his art, smarts, and technologies to "create curriculum" for the 21st century.

I followed his work closely in the post-Columbine highschool mass shooting and how he approached the American "Gun Problem" (aka "Fear Problem") in his movie that won an Academy Award, Bowling for Columbine" (2002). 

I won't say much more at this point until I see the film, and listen to interviews of Moore... with the question in the back of my mind: "Is Moore a good artist, activist, educator?" and so far, I think he is a better artist-activist than he is an educator, and particularly I am referring to how he handles "fear" as a major topic... which runs all through all his best documentary works... in Bowling for Columbine he really was making a film about the growing "culture of fear" ... and its consequences...which, arguably, I would speculate have been brewing for a good 30 years in particular, and the symptoms are arising (e.g., gun violence) etc... and if you watch his 2002 award winning film, it is the "best" dealing with fear as a topic... and of course terror is not far away... in Fahrenheit 11/9 we'll no doubt once again see him dealing with "fear of Trump" and everything Trump represents ... watch carefully how he "teaches" us about what is going on and how best to understand fear/terror and how best to manage it... transform it... if he even gets to anything so complex... my critique of all his works (as he is a typical activist) is his stereotypes and polarizations (simplifications)--to create his stories. 

RECENT VIDEO RESPONSE of mine to Moore's interview on "Democracy Now" tv program (with Amy Goodman): 

https://youtu.be/ga5BZfV5UnA

 Most recent video (2nd one) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJLdM85Rwts&t=4s

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For a book video trailer (click here)

To purchase the book online: Fear, Law and Criminology

We are (as co-authors), excited to see that our new book is available (by Xlibris publishing, Australia). This is the first book in a series of books that are going to be published over several years, as each one takes on a topic or critical issue in the world and applies the philosophy of fearism (a la Subba) to it. The original dialogues behind the making of this new book are all posted here on the FM ning and have been slightly modified in this new book, along with a lot of new material as well. We thought we'd include here the summary text from the back cover of the book and our brief bios: 

Fear, Law and Criminology -With the growing awareness of many critics of "risk society," the "culture of fear" and the dangerous rising levels of unhealthy fear around individual, group, and public insecurities, three keen observers of the human condition have joined experiences, theories, and ideas to create a fresh vision for how best to look at the Fear Problem and how Law and Criminology may benefit from a new lens or perspective.

The authors, with their backgrounds in the study of the philosophy of fearism (a la Subba), bring a new lens to Law and Criminology, to social policies, politics, and policing and how best to improve enforcement of safety, security, and moral order. The fearist perspective of a philosophy of fearism creates an exciting, challenging, and sometimes radical position, whereby the authors argue that fear itself requires a concerted focus for analysis and solutions--that is, if Law and Criminology are to fully meet the highest standards of serving justice for all in a globalizing complicated world. 

Going beyond the simple fear of crime or fear of policing issues commonly dealt with in discourses about law, the philosophy of fearism offers other concepts with a rich vocabulary introduced in this book, one of which is the introduction of a new subdiscipline called fearcriminalysis. Readers will find, in addition to the main text as collective writing of the three coauthors, several fresh dialogues of the three authors in conversation, which bring their individual personalities, philosophies, and approaches into a weaving of differenes and similarities. Overall, they each agree that fear has been underestimated and often misinterpreted in Law and Criminology, and this has resulted, at times, in exacerbating insecurity, crime, and injustice in the world. 

 

R. Michael Fisher, Ph.D., Adjunct Faculty, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, AB, is a Canadian philosopher, educator and fearologist, having studied fear from a transdisciplinary perspective for three decades. He is founder of The Fearology Institute, a professional training program, and author of hundreds of articles and several books, including The World's Fearlessness Teachings.

Desh Subba, livess in Hong Kong. He is a Nepali philosopher, poet, writer and founder of the philosophy of fearism and Fearism Study Center in Nepal. Author of several books and articles, his pivotal award-winning textbook is Philosophy of Fearism. 

B. Maria Kumar, living in India, is a long-term career police officer, recently retired as Director General of Police in Bhopal. He has published many books, such as Policing By Common Sense, and To Be or Not to Be Happy.

 

 

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Book Cover- [photo of Four Arrows by Beatrice Jacobs]

I  would like to share with you my new book soon to come out in July, 2018 (New York: Peter Lang). For an advanced look at the book's content see a short book video trailer and the FE brochure 2018.pdf (4 pp) I created here. Four Arrows (aka Dr. Don Trent Jacobs) is an FM ning member. Feel free to pass on these promotional materials to your networks and those you feel would be interested. Thanks.

I'll be writing more about this book on the FMning in future blogs. I'll leave you with one excerpted quote by Four Arrows (interviewed by me) from the book: 

"In my mind, this mass hypnosis syndrome, I now call Trance-based Learning (TBL) gone awry, is the only explanation that makes sense of how modern educated societies, especially, have rationalized their technologies of domination, their polluting of their own nest, and their addictions to ways of life that paradoxically destroy Life. My own vision of rehabilitation from this destructive path is that Fear and courage concepts are essential to understand as they drive learning and development in a 'good way' or 'bad way'....I offer an intentional transformation learning theory and critical praxis as an initiative to build a society and world that is able to resist and reconstruct current hegemonic fear-conditioning--the latter, which has unfortunately become 'normal' socialization--a 'culture of fear.'" (p. 2)

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Time Magazine Cover Image (revised by RMF)... Apr. 2, 2018

There's a churning of emotionalism and activism in America this year, especially this spring. I have posted a few blogs about youth (mostly in highschools) across America but also around the world, protesting "gun violence" in their schools and communities. They have picked various slogans and hashtags, but the one I think is most telling and interesting is "Fear has no place..." (and the usual term finishing that phrase, but not only one, is) "in our schools." Does this means American youth are protesting in record numbers publicly to say, "We want no fear in our schools? our societies?" --and, why are they not saying they want a "Fearless Society"? 

I have just completed a new Tech Paper 76.pdf "Fear has no place..."..": Youth movement for fearlessness in need of critique" which I would love if folks read and gave me feedback. In particular, I'd love this paper get out to youth who are in this movement and may we find ways to dialogue. 

Also see Photo I recently posted of the images, t-shirts, mugs and commercialization that has already quickly adjoined itself to the youth protest movement. I very much wanted to see this movement as a Fearlessness Movement (see my blog post "March Without Fear"https://fearlessnessmovement.ning.com/blog/youth-s-march-for-our-lives-is-a-march-for-without-fear

I really wonder where the "Fear has no place..." slogandia started? Maybe some of the readers here know. All I know is that, as a fearologist, this is the last thing to be voting for or marching up and down the streets for. Notice, I am not talking about the "gun problem" these young people are also addressing, but interestingly enough it has spread from there, the more concrete part of their activism, to an issue of "fear" (again, see the Internet and all the articles and images that have grown up around this notion of "Fear has no place in our schools" for example. 

As a fearologist, and as one who articulates and follows the philosophy of fearism, and philosophy of fearlessness, everything tells me that the narrow and shallow notion of "Fear has no place" is quite the wrong direction to go if we really want to be liberating youth, school cultures, and society as a whole. It's too bad that phrase is a 'viral' catch phrase but perhaps with time and more deep thinking, and informing of the movement by fearologists, a more congruent message can be applied. The basic starting point is not to try to get rid of fear. That is casting it out like a mis-placed thing. Fear is us, as the saying goes. I cannot help but think youth in America have been disillusioned and or so brain-washed in some ways (not all), that they are taking on the politically and ideologically fraught with problems view of the "conservatives" in American culture and politics--that is, with their Zero Tolerance policies and practices. The very discourse (unfortunately) of the rebelling youth today in America is sounding an awful lot like a discourse that is from the elders they have been oppressed by for so long--that is, a Zero Tolerance policy of excluding "fear" from schools and well, where does that exclusion stop. It is ironic that this youth generation protesting is also the most articulate and delightful in supporting inclusion (diversity-- equals difference and the Other). But when it comes to "fear" they are saying it has no place in American schools, communities, and societies. This is a contradiction and a basically 'wrong-headed' strategy and rhetoric. 

Again, this short blog is not my full argumentation re: the problem this declaration has brought forward. As a hint, I will say a much wiser declaration or wisdom comes from the elder African-American Black novelist Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature--where, she wrote about in her novel Sula on the very importance of Black People (generally, meaning the oppressed) to rather "make a place for fear" where it can be seen, worked with, and "controlled" (re: the character Shadrack in that novel)--and managed because it is known and studied and lived with in relationship because it is real. The African-American experience and guidance here is well worth looking at in terms of its contradictory message relative to the youth message today in America (and not only youth) of "Fear has no place...". Equally, in future writing on this, I'll examine Four Arrows' Indigenous-based theory of Fear [1] and why the native people and their worldview also are wise enough to know that the last thing we ought to be promoting anywhere are places where "fear" is not welcomed! It is rather astounding, on one level, that all the "fear-positive" literature and teachings since the 1990s in N.A. has had little to no uptake so it seems, at least, at this time for this youth movement [2].

I'll leave it here, with the dialectical thought that if one creates "no place for fear" likewise that is going to create "no place for fearlessness" --and, thus I see a lot of emotionalism and bravado in the new activism of youth today in America rather than true fearlessness. But that's not a put down or dismissing of the good spirit that is driving behind their efforts [3]--their peace, anti-gun, anti-violence anti-fear efforts... I applaud their heartfulness to find truth and justice, and yet, I am seeing how woundedness and trauma doesn't always analyze deeply enough the discourse of the oppressors--of the 'Fear' Matrix (culture of fear) that beseiges us all today--including youth in school cultures. 

Notes: 

1. See for e.g., Four Arrows (aka Jacobs, D. T.) (2016). Point of departure: Returning to a more authentic worldview for education and survival.  Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. 

 2. By "fear-positive" I am referring to literature from many disciplines and professionals, who have asserted that we need to shift from seeing fear as only negative to also seeing fear as positive, a gift and so on. For e.g., one of the most effective teachers of this has been de Becker, G. (1997). The Gift of fear: Survival signals that protect us from violence. New York: Bantam. 

3. On the positive-side, I could argue a "spirit of fearlessness" is motivating their call, their 'truth-to-power' discourse. Another view is that from a nondual standpoint argument that could be made, as a colleague Luke Barnesmoore makes generically in an unpublished essay "Fear and Fearlessness" (in his larger collection of essays "Nomadic Exploration of Critical Pedagogy") that: "I seek to emulate the Divine out of loving respect, not fear (which is a product of the potential for the Divine's privation in manifestation and has no place, in and of itself, in the eternal" (p. 7). Barnesmoore's argument is one from an absolutistic philosophy (spirituality) or what he calls the "Natural Worldview" of the "Nothing-Infinite Eternal and its emanations Force, Form and Consciousness" whose attributes inlcude Love, Truth, Reality, Beauty, Goodness, Unity, etc." Thus, arguably, one could take such a metaphysical principle and say that there may be wise truth practical and value in the rhetoric of "Fear has no place..." that the youth in America are manifesting in their own way, consciously or not. See Barnesmoore, L. (2018). Fear and fearlessness. Unpublished paper. A self-identified San Franciscan (California), Luke is currently a doctoral student in the Geography department, Co-Founder/Director of the UBC Urban Studies Lab, at The University of British Columbia, Canada.

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I have recently come across the research in art education and learning and teaching art, by Dr. Stephanie Baer, Assistant Professor of Art Education, Miami University, OH. In an article she published in Education and Culture 28(1) (2012): 42-61,  Dr. Baer studied the habitual fears that her beginning Arts in the Elementary Classroom course she taught had: (1) "I'm not very artsy" -the fear of doing a daily art sketch book, (2) "Others won't like what I have to say" - the fear of being judged, (3) "nervous about getting outside my comfort zone" - the fear of performance. Although this was a class of non-majors in art, they were afraid of art and their own creativity incapabilities and how they would look bad in front of their peers. Dr. Baer knew that they needed to talk about these greatest fears up front and work with them as part of the course material, and as the philosopher John Dewey would suggest in the early 20th century writings on art and experience and learning, that the students need to be aware of the impact of affect and emotions and utilize them as authentic experience in everything they are trying to accomplish and learn so that, with practice, support and teacher guidance, they could move with that energy converting it into "interest [motivational drive] rather than fear [alone]" (Baer, 2012, p. 51). [Note: Saunders & Jenkins, 2012 argued fear also has to be taken into account consciously in its impact on future envisioning; see below for Reference] 

Having taught this course eight times, Dr. Baer noticed these same basic fears year after year in her preservice teachers, and she was attempting to utilize fear in the course learning process. She wrote, "My responsibility as their instructor is to question mantras that reflect insecurity in process and make pedagogical use of their fears" (p. 42)--because otherwise, fears such as these blocked the students' imaginations, creativity and seeing the possibilities of art's power in expression and communication. Their own K-12 students would likely also face these blocks in schools they were going to teach in, so it was better to address these fears now and understand them before teaching children. Dr. Baer also wrote of her own fears encountering this unfamiliar and difficult experience with these teachers and risking to find ways to deal with it all in the course itself. What I like in particular is her energetic vision, mostly as I read her dissertation (Baer, 2012), upon which the above article was written, as it is entitled: "RE-ENVISIONING FEAR...". I like her question: "In what ways can fear be interpreted to included a greater understanding of fear's roles and capacities..." (p. 16). Now, she has my attention, because that question is the basis of all my research for nearly three decades. I begin that question, unlike Baer, with assuming "fear" has not been well interpreted or defined period, and that's where we should start our inquiry to "re-envisioning fear" (what I call 'fear'). And, to do so, I assume fearlessness has to be interpreted dialectically right there, right along with fear ('fear') to get the best holistic-integral analysis and interventions. 

Most of us can recognize these fears in likely any new learning situation, more or less. Importantly, from a philosophy of fearism perspective, the teachers above are recognizing that fear has to be part of the everyday discourse of learning, regardless of the subject content. Education as a whole has not always given enough attention to the role of fear in learning, and with the current climate of fear in schools and culture of fear in general, especially in North America, this ignore-ance is no longer tenable. Curriculum and pedagogy and fear are a must as far as I am concerned. But that's only scratching the surface of the issue, and Dr. Baer's research study and experience also is only scratching the surface. John Dewey's progressive educational writings likewise. Yet, I found in a rare quote from John Dewey that he also was in favor of fearlessness. I found my FM blog over 2.5 years ago on Dewey's "rant" as I called it, and how he is an important advocate for both what today Subba calls a philosophy of fearism but also what I would call a philosophy of fearlessness. So, in that regard, I will republish that blog below, as it is so important and worth reconnecting with for any of us who are educators especially. I also want to note that I have written an extensive critique of two educational philosophers who are Deweyians and who did a major study on fear and learning (of which Baer, 2012, relied heavily upon in her interpretations), mainly because of the emphasis on "fears" and loss of meta-context of fear itself (e.g., culture of fear) and neglect of trance-based learning (e.g., Four Arrows' CAT-Fear dynamic), for e.g., see Technical Paper No. 37.

References: Baer, S. (2012). Re-envisioning fear: The role of conversation in an arts classroom for prospective teachers. Unpubl. Diss. University of Nebraska; Baer, S. (2012). The fear of art and the art of fear. Education and Culture, 28(1), 42-61.

[Insert: Saunders & Jenkins (2012) wrote, "This paper explores the significance fear plays, or does not play, in the practice of envisioning. Envisioning is seen as a powerful tool in the delivery of education for sustainable development, for it seeks to engage people in imagining and creating a better future. However, drawing on work undertaken with undergraduate students at the University of Glamorgan, South Wales, we argue that envisioning relies upon ‘absent fear’: it works to suppress, or make absent, fear as a valid response to present and future development. The presence of ‘absent fear’, we suggest, poses a barrier to fully engaging with the challenges and opportunities of a sustainable future, for it is difficult to conceive of a positive vision without first acknowledging and confronting our fears. It is in articulating fear, we observe, that people are more able to respond to the challenges of the future in hopeful and creative ways. Utilising work undertaken with our students this paper revisits envisioning and suggests the need to understand envisioning as a broader process of reflection and action."] Saunders, A., and Jenkins, S. (2012). 'Absent fear': Re-envisioning a future geograpy. Futures, 44(5):, 494-503.

 

Holy Rant: John's Dewey's Fearlessness Project

Remember the folk wisdom: Never judge a book by its cover. There's a metaphor there as well as a concrete and literal truth. And, of late with my discovery (below) one could add to this folk wisdom, and Never judge a philosopher by their books-- that is, unless you've really looked into them all in fine-detail. 

In the past couple days, due to meeting some interesting people and a project they have cooking in Murphysboro, IL (1), I've been researching in an area I have not looked at as intensely in the past as I ought to have. And, a good couple lessons it taught me: one of them being, that just when I thought I spent decades getting to know the literature in the field of Education, and thought I knew most of what educators (from scholars to practitioners) had and/or were saying seriously about fear and fearlessness (that's my speciality)... ahhhhh... 

I have to say I am a bit "shocked" that I have finally found a Western philosopher-educator, thought by many to be The Greatest Philosopher in America in the 19th-20th Century era--none other than John Dewey (1859-1952), writing a "holy rant" (prophetic) piece on fear and fearlessness.

My second lesson in finding this prophetic gem (quoted below), is that I have bolstered my respect for Dewey's life and work by a whole lot of positive notches. Fact is, I never liked Dewey (meaning his writing)--nor, did I like the male philosophers at UBC (my alma mater) who were so off-putting because they were Dewey experts and I hadn't read much Dewey. I tried getting into his work a few times in my undergrad and graduate years and later but... it bored me.

I should have read Dewey, after all I was in Education becoming a teacher and later a curriculum and pedagogy scholar and so you have to read John Dewey (it's part of the educational culture and W. canon)--but I preferred reading a lot of others and mostly I enjoyed reading the educational philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti (2) and others (primarily, Eastern type philosophers or my fav was E-W integral philosophers like Ken Wilber). I was not (still am not) a big fan of the philosophy of pragmatism he advanced in America during his life, with great success I might add--he had enormous impact in this country at many levels and I felt it the moment I moved here.

The Center for Dewey Studies was just one block away from where Barbara and I moved in to rent a house. And, part of the "awakening" in myself and others here is that SIU just bull-dozed that Center to the ground yesterday and relocated (3), with several disturbed people (myself included) taking pictures of the devastation. One by-stander told me "it is so violent" how the university administrators have only an interest in profit and have disrespect for history, and tradition (i.e., John Dewey). What they mean is there is an increasing disrespect for the Arts & Humanities in the current university system all across this country and many other W. countries. Yes, right here in Carbondale is one of the best collections of Dewey's work in the world. It attracts an ongoing stream of international scholars, and apparently Dewey has never been so popular in other countries around the world, while his reputation in America has fallen considerably since his death (albeit, with small revivals now and then). And guess what? I never ever went in that Center since I lived here, now 7 yrs. I rode by it on my bike many times, and looked in the windows, but could never get myself to go in, even though I thought of doing so. I should have but I had no calling strong enough. There were too many brewing arguments in my scholarly head, filled with complaints of why I didn't like Dewey's work (i.e., it didn't fit my way of thinking) (4). I suppose I was also ticked that Dewey got so much attention here and it felt like there was no philosophical room for my own views. All of that was part of my alienating feelings as a Canadian coming to live in the USA for the first time. A lot of mixed feelings there, as I have been an out and out critic of much of America's philosophy and politics (mainstream that is, Americanism as ideology, etc.). I didn't think Dewey's work was critical or radical enough. But now I realize that was a short-sighted judgment (5). Oooops!

Okay, my great excitement was to discover a passage published in 1922, from an interview with Dewey by Charles W. Wood, and I just thought of a great piece of art to accompany Dewey's Holy Rant on the role of fear and fearlessness in American education (then and now, as his rant so applies to everything today, 93 years later). 

Art work by Art Young (entitled: "This World of Creepers", c. 1907 [15 yrs. before Dewey's published Holy Rant on fear and fearlessness], published in a political magazine I found in the library stacks at UBC in my graduate years (unfortunately I didn't write down the exact reference info. and haven't been able to find it again). Oh, this image is slightly 'touched up' by yours truly as I added the 'ISM' part in the original version. I love that the artist (Young) was tapping into the climate of increasing fear and its consequences in the world (America) at the time of post-WWI, and it is rather earth-shaking, spine-shaking, to me the prophecy in Art Young's piece and John Dewey's piece (below). These are both markers of the history of fear and fearlessness that has been left out of the history books, I'm sorry to say, it is sad. I really need to write my own version of the history of these fascinating and important ideas/realities-- fear and fearlessness, and their dynamic relationship. Mostly, what is missing is the history of fearlessness! (I have found at least five good scholarly works on the history of fear). So, why the absence of a history of fearlessness (especially, in the West)? See my recent technical paper "What is the West's Problem with Fearlessness?" (scroll down the web page link to find a pdf). 

John Dewey on Fear & Fearlessness

[This is not the complete interview, nor the complete text from the summary of the interview by Charles W. Wood in 1922, just after Dewey had returned from a long visit to China; this article was originally published as Wood, C. W. (1922). Professor John Dewey on the hysteria which holds teaching in check. New York World, 27, Aug.; the current excerpt [reprinted version] below is from Boydston, J. A. (Ed.) (2008). Report of Interview with Dewey (by Wood, C. W.), In John Dewey, the middle works, 1899-1924, Vol. 13, 1921-22 (pp. 425-32). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press]

[with bold added for emphasis] [Dewey:] "The greatest enemy to human progress is fear. People generally tell the truth unless they are afraid to--afraid of punishment, afraid of someone's opinion or afraid that some competitor will gain an advantage. A large percentage of human ills is due to greed, but back of greed lies the sense of insecurity and its accompanying fear. Fear is the soil in which wars are bred. Fear engenders hate. Individually and socially, wherever human life and human relations become inhuman, we are quite sure to discover that they have been poisoned by fear. Cowardice in public office, cowardice in business dealings, cowardice in international relations--we are all more or less familiar with the havoc wrought by these; but the most insidious poison I know of in modern society is cowardice on the part of those who are charged with the responsibility of teaching our youth" 


[that open's Wood's article, and Wood responds to it:] "Before I tell you who said it, I wish you all read that paragraph again. Find a flaw in it if you can."

[Dewey continues:] "And the boys and girls in our New York schools... are not getting half a chance. They are the victims of an inherent timidity, if not an active intimidation, within our school system. There can be no real education unless there is fearlessness, but New York teachers are not free to teach. The situation in this respect is worse, it seems to me, than it ever was before.... [re: his critique of "training" vs. true "education"] But the very basis of such training is fear of what they [the child] may do without it. When we are trying to draw out human intelligence , there must be no such fear.... the system is now additionally cursed by a set of silly laws conceived in fear and born in political hysteria [culture of fear] which seized this country during and immediately after the war.... The public now would like to return to sanity: But unless it provides some antidote for those poisonous [fear-based] laws, the minds of our children generally must suffer incalculably.... The school authorities, in the very nature of their organization, cannot be trusted with this task. They are, to say the least, timid. It is their nature [fear habit] to travel the beaten paths. They are afraid of innovations. They are necessarily afraid to run counter to the public wishes.... [and what we must do, he says] see to it that this haunting fear is eliminated from our school life [and society]."

******

If I am over-zealously reading Dewey, forgive me for my ignorance, and passion, it is just that it seems obvious this mild-mannered philosopher is going for the juglar vein, with no holds barred. That's prophetic pedagogy and philosophy of the kind very rare to see in the Western world, especially in the Education field. But it was the 1920s. I wonder if Dewey ever came back to these poignant points and arguments and fleshed them out? I am going to find out. I wonder if all the hundreds of scholars who have taken up to critique and follow Dewey's legacy, with multiple angles of interpretations, do they write about this interview on fear and fearlessness? Why have I never seen this referenced in my 26 yrs of researching on fear and fearlessness? I'm sort of thinking that perhaps no one has picked up on the holy rant of Dewey in 1922, which I am dubbing as John Dewey's Fearlessness Project. Again, I caution myself that perhaps I am overly reading into Dewey's grand philosophical and educational (and political) project... and, it then seems clear as a bell when I re-read and re-read his interview extracts here. Thank you Charles W. Wood (if you are still alive) for bringing this holy rant out of Dewey and publishing it. Thank you all the Dewey followers for reprinting it (note: in a book/journal issue published in Carbondale, IL by SIU Press in 2008). I haven't read it in the complete yet, and will do so soon. 

John Dewey's Fearlessness Project is not a label I use lightly, it is however one I am totally glad to apply and I am considering (after more research, perhaps) to end up including Dewey's movement in progressive education and philosophy in America (19th-20th century) as a contributing "Fearlessness Movement" initiative and add it to the Wikipedia on that topic. One outstanding question is can a pragmatist (6) like Dewey be prophetic (are they supposed to be, based on the definition of pragmatism and its history in American philosophy and as American philosophy)? I won't go on and on here with so many questions that arise, some very troubling as to the 'absence' of this holy rant in all my scouring the Educational field (albeit, I will say I have found other W. critical thinkers, and educators saying very similar things to Dewey in the above--but that's another article; I'm wondering if they had read Dewey's rant or it was picked up in them by osmosis--matrixial threads--unconscious collective archetypes?)--I trust some of you may like to comment on this. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Oh, one last (very interesting) thought, according to a Dewey scholar (Ryan, 1997, p. 80), it was Alice Chirman, Dewey's wife (1886 on) who gave Dewey three things he need, says Ryan, "The first was fearlessness about the ideas and opinions of the rest of the world" -- the other two things (note) follow from that gift... now there is a great feminist, womanist, feminine acknowledgement. See Ryan, A. (1997). John Dewey and the high tide of American liberalism. NY: W.W. Norton. 

 

End Notes

1. I am referring to a very interesting duo (and others), Prof. of Philosophy Randy Auxier, SIU and Prof. of Philosophy John Shook, University of Buffalo NY, who have decided to pool their huge libraries, each over 15,000 books, into a library and research center in Randy's home in Murphysboro, IL (a 5 min. drive W. of Carbondale, IL where I live). They are putting together a non-profit organization at the same time and already have other retiring philosophy professors donating their life-long book collections to their center. Auxier and Shook believe their project reflects, as a counter-response, to a growing disturbing trend of American higher education institutes in general, which have disregarded the best quality of philosophy from American scholars in history. They are more than a little perturbed at the "State" of funding losses in higher education from the public purse and the overly business attitude of administration in many universities today in N.A. I agree with their critique and I think it is fascinating they are taking their passions into their own hands and not depending on anyone else to secure the best of knowledge and wisdom. One could write an essay about this changing landscape of American higher education in the past few decades where institutions care more about "profit" than securing the wisdom of a culture, in particular through the academy. I think they are marking a trend of alternative learning centers. The place at Randy's will be available to the public not merely scholars. It will have a residential component for scholars as well. I am even putting together a proposal for such a year long residency (I'll talk about that later perhaps). 

2. My all time favorite education book has got to be Krishnamurti, J. (1953/81). Education and the significance of life. NY: Harper & Row.

3. The Dewey materials from the Center are now in the (cold and dark) basement level of Morris Library, SIU. Larry Hickman, Director of the Center for Dewey Studies has been demoted to a small cubicle in that basement and most of his budget for research assistants and graduate assistants sliced. This doesn't speak well of the attitudes of the upper administration in SIU. 

4. The almost repulsive quality I had built up inside myself for over 3 decades in the field of Education, can be summarized (albeit, a bit grossly) to what I read in his work as a functionalist perspective (even if he was somewhat a radical liberal reformer challenging the status quo) and not a conflict perspective (i.e., based in critical theory). This is a much longer argument of differentiation that I spent years in my graduate work sorting out and researching, to come to the conclusion I was a conflict theorist not a functionalist (pragmatist) theorist. It makes a big political difference. For those really keen to know more about this you can check out these terms online and a really good summary of the distinction is my daughter and her collaborator's chapter in a recent book I also have a chapter in, see Fisher, V., and Nicholson, S. E. (2014). Introduction: Developing a critical integral praxis for sex, gender, and sexuality. In S. E. Nicholson and V. Fisher (Eds.), Integral voices on sex, gender, and sexuality: Critical inquiries (pp. 1-12). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. 

5. I still am not convinced his work is strong enough to bring about the transformation that I think America needs to go through before it destroys itself and the rest of the world with it. Thus, I am still rightfully critical he was not "radical enough" (you could say)--that is, he never was a good conflict theorist. Now, even that, as I age, is becoming a little more tenuous of a divide in my mind (despite E.N. #4). But that's a longer story, and I'm interested to study Dewey to look at just what kind of conflict theorist he perhaps was and/or he was an integral theorist and I just missed it and frankly, I haven't read enough nearly to even assess this anymore. 

6. I had read a scholar recently writing on Dewey's work and suggesting Dewey preferred to be called some working with the philosophy of "experimentalism" and yet, many have dubbed him working with the philosophy of pragmatism (along with William James, Charles S. Peirce, etc.). Albeit, Dewey is uniquely a pragmatist with a strong social philosophy (activist) bent; and his background in Christianity (which he left the church eventually) and as a social reformer connected with religious life in America (i.e., New England)--all this leads to him being "prophetic" (and I mean that, because of his confrontation of our society with its culture of fear and the need for fearlessness). 

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Gun Problem: Fear Problem

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a psychiatrist and Director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society (Vanderbilt University, TN)

 https://www.vanderbilt.edu/mhs/faculty/jonathan-m-metzl/

I just watched an interview with Dr. Metzl on Democracy Now on the internet, and I know his expertise is very important to the debates, as we now witness the tragedy of another mass murder shooting in a Florida highschool, another one, one of 18 such incidents in the school year so far in the USA. 

Most important in the discussion on the program was the impact on society of such events, which Metzl raised as the "broader questions" beyond all the details and symptoms of these mass murders. I heartily agree, as he says, "In terms of what I think psychiatry and mental health can do.... the question that rarely gets asked at times like this is why do we need so many guns in the first place? What kind of society do we really live in and want to live in?....in the aftermath of this people start to mistrust each other, all of a sudden, we need more guns in schools, more armed guards, more metal detectors....this mistrust becomes so pervasive," he says.

And, yes, mistrust only can register and grow like a virus damaging the social fabric (i.e., sociality and social trust) if fear is rampant and spreading like a virus. The word fear was not actually mentioned on the entire story Democracy Now covered, or in Metzl's dialogue. I think this is where feariatry (as one of the branches of fearology and the three pillars, in Desh Subba and my books) comes in... we will not get to the roots of what Metzl is concerned about without a serious study of the Fear Problem, as more important than the Gun Problem, and that whole shift would really give us a chance to ask what kind of society we live in and want to live in. Since the mid-1990s these issues have been brought up with the documenting and naming of the "culture of fear" problem in America, but fast spreading around the world... and, actually, this label goes back to the early 1980s. So, clearly, there isn't much take-up of the problem, and much really serious public discourse on fear--and, certainly, in my 29 years studying this all the school systems are loath to get into discussing it. We so lack vision in W. society.

Anyways, there will always be more opportunities, and unfortunately, more deaths... more guns... more mistrust and more fear. Feariatry has to be brought up to help inform psychiatry (and mental health) at all levels. I have written on several of the mass murders about these things for years. So far, no one really is listening too intently and rather people follow the fear trail... and look who to blame ... a point Gavin de Becker made back in the late 1990s as he studied these issues as a security expert... yes, change is very slow. Though, one cannot predict the future totally by the past--thank goodness, otherwise, I'd be motivated to say, "we're fucked!" 

 

 

 

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Fearpoliticology And Democracy's Fragility

The recent dialogue (on the FMning) on initial ideas surrounding Fearcriminalysis brought forward thinking about the relationship of law and crime and safety and security enforcement, etc., with politics, and especially with thinking about democracy and the future, as things are getting tense around the world and liberal republics (and democracy) are showing signs of breakdown and being over-taken, more or less, by forces of fundamentalism of one kind or another, often with their own forms of terror(ism) and fear(ism)-t (i.e., toxic variety). 

Barbara sent me an interesting article recently in the N.Y. Times (01/2718) which I want to quote some excerpts for educational purposes here [1] on thinking about governance, politics, law and I think they very much run along parallel to concerns that ought to be taken up in a new subdomain I am labeling Fearpoliticology [2], with concurrent parallel themes in fearcriminalysis. This article is by two Harvard University professors of government. 

Levitsky & Ziblatt (2018) wrote, 

"The problems we face [in America] run deeper than Trump [and his particular autocratic leadership style].... We should not take democracy for granted. There is nothing intrinsic in American culture that immunizes us against its breakdown. Even our brilliantly designed Constitution cannot by itself, guarantee democracy's survival. If it could, then the Republic would not have collapsed into civil war 74 years after its birth. 

To function well, democratic constitutions must be reinforced by two basic norms, or unwritten rules. The first is mutual tolerance [i.e., basic social trust], according to which politicians accept their opponents as legitimate. When mutual tolerance exists, we recognize that our partisan rivals are loyal citizens who love our country just as we do. 

The second norm is forebearance, self-restraint in the exercise of power [and concomitantly, fear]. Forebearance is the act of not exercising a legal right [to win and dominate]. In politics, it means not deplying one's institutional perogatives to the hilt [maximum], even if it is legal to do so. [i.e., what has been called "constitutional hardball" by some legal scholars]

History suggests... that democratic norms are vulnerable to polaraization [via legalism in extremis--i.e., constitutional hardball]. Some polariation is healthy, even necessary, for democracy. But extreme polarization [i.e., enemy-making] can kill it. When societies divide into partisan camps with profound different worldviews, and when those differences are viewed as existential [if not religious] and irreconcilable, political rivalry can devolve into partisan hatred [i.e., extreme fear]. Parties come to view each other not as legitimate rivals but as dangerous enemies. Losing ceases to be an accepted part of the political process and instead becomes [seen as] catastrophe [if not as terrorism or anti-democracy and thus forebearance is abandonded].

If we believe our opponents are dangerous [e.g., fearsome], should we not use any means necessary to stop them? This is how democracy died in Chile [S. cone in 1970s-80s in Latin America] [where, social political life turned into a "death spiral" [3].... [today] our parties are more polarized than at any time during the last century. [according to a Pew Survey]49% of Republicans and 55% of Democrats 'say the other party makes them afraid!' 

This is not a traditional liberal-conservative divide [i.e., it is a Fear Wars, and a type of ideological cleansing campaign]. People don't fear and loathe one another over taxes or health care. As political scientists have shown, the roots of today's polaraization [and growing fear-based governance and rancid conflict, violence] are racial and cultural.

... the norms [informal sociality] that once protected our institutions are coming unmoored....Democracy remains at risk--president Trump or not president Trump." 

 ****

 I have long thought about this, and when Trump got elected, it was a clear sign to me of where a burgeoning (e.g., post-9/11) culture of fear will end up, if it keeps control and manipulates the fears of the people. There is an important role for fearpoliticology and fearcriminalysis in helping to better analyze this reality so more people are aware of the dynamics and how to contradict them, transform them to more creative and transformative growth. We have our work cut out for us. 

   

Notes: 

1. From Levitsky, S., and Ziblatt, D. (2018). How wobbly is our democracy. New York Times, 01/2718. 

2. Although, I have not fixed a definition or meaning on this term, it obviously has a lot to do with political life and governance overall, and it has to do with what many have called the "politics of affect" (and/or "politics of fear"), and it has a lot to do with fearmongering and enemy-making, and conflict and its managementin its many forms in political life. As I will shape a definition or meaning down the road, fearpoliticology is definitely going to involve my own DCFV theory (i.e., Domination-Conflict-Fear-Violence) which I unraveled and somewhat developed in grad school in the late 1990s.

3. It is not insignificant that the very first coining of the term "culture of fear" came from this time and from interdisciplinary researchers working in the aftermath of these horrors, as they came to configure a new understanding of the major role of fear in these political dynamics and dictatorships. 

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