I finally received a first published hard copy of my new co-authored book Philosophy of Fearism: A First East-West Dialogue (of which I have written previously on this FMning). I glanced it over and opened the book randomly at a few places and started reading. It's a little shocking to read one's own published work sometimes: "Who wrote that?" The overall impression is positive and that's a good sign. I happened to think (with all modesty and objectivity as I can muster) that there is no book more important on the topic fear and its management on the planet right now (that I know of). This short blog will say a few words (and quote from the new book) about why I think this is true. Btw, I thank my co-author Desh Subba (a Nepalese philosopher, novelist, poet) for his dedication to developing a philosophy of fearism and his openness to include me in that conceptualization and project. I see myself dedicating the rest of my working years (maybe 15 left until I'm 80) on this new philosophy.
So the pages I happen to open to at random come from Chapt. 4 (pp. 98-100) which is unique in the book because Desh encouraged me to re-vise but basically republish a 2014 essay I wrote on a "Theory of Fearism" (Technical Paper No. 51) (note: theory of fearism as distinct from, but related to, a philosophy of fearism). I begin with a Foreword to Technical Paper No. 51:
p. 98: "In Chapter 3 of this co-authored book there is a controversial message: "There is something wrong in the field of fear management" [a phrase I penned in my first major scholarly book The World's Fearlessness Teachings in 2010, p. xxvii]. I go on to talk about why we need various theories of fearism (mine, which I call fearism-t) in order to have a healthy philosophy of fearism, and from that a healthy set of practices of fear management (and fear education). Yes, I could just have easily written: "There is something wrong in the field of fear education" (i.e., fear education used in a positive way, analogous to sex education). So, how controversial is this claim? What do I back it up with?
Let me first say, the phrase "something wrong" is hyperbole in a sense to attract attention on a problem in the field of fear management. In retrospect, I am not sure this is a good way to get attention, because the very discourse of labeling something "wrong" is highly problematic in terms of its long history (especially in the West) of being a way to put something, some group, some policy, some person (and their behavior or values) down. It is a criticism. And it carries a lot of fear-based baggage (garbage, toxicity) that tends to easily slide from saying "something is wrong" to "someone is wrong" and I would not want to perpetuate such a notion. I think it is too partial of a claim and it tries to paint the entire reality of something or someone as "wrong" in an absolute sense. And, it immediately raises the question of who (and from what perspective) can anyone judge that anyone is wrong--same applies to something. The use of the label "wrong" (often with emotional discharge behind it) is clearly an attack to putting something down and "diss it", more or less. I won't go on and on with this but to say the use of the term (hyperbole or not) is a dangerous one of bringing more injury into human society--and that means concomitantly bringing more fear with it. Arguably, it is "fear talk" to blame, shame and make someone or something "bad" (the opposite of good, and it may even mean making it "evil").
So, I used the phrase as hyperbole, and I could have (more sensitively) said: There is something wrong in the field of fear management, even though there is a good deal of something right in the field of fear management. Then, that would be both more fair, and less re-stimulating of our hurts and fear itself. Especially, in that I am not intending to attack anything or anyone per se who practices fear management as a professional, theorist, etc. Nor, would I want anyone who teaches and designs fear management curricula to feel I am attacking them and their work and their motivation. Criticism alone is usually not very useful and does more harm than good. Critique however, in contrast to criticism, is when you point out the negative and positive at the same time, in proportion to a healthy engagement with someone, rather than trying to put them down. I intended to offer a critique in my new book re: the state of the field of fear management (or, equally of fear education). I think if anyone reads my books they will find I can get passionate and critical and even slip into criticism but that if they read on it is more critique I offer overall. But I'll leave others to assess my work overall, as I am too close to it to tell.
Returning to the point of this blog, I am taken with my clarity in the new book (scanning pp. 98-100), of how simple (and controversial) the message is that I have argued. It is worth repeating again but maybe I'll do it in a more readable way here in this blog. Things need to be said many times, and in many ways, in order to communicate. Sometimes a reader will hear it anew, from a different time and place and with some different language. As an educator myself, I am dedicated to not giving up on anyone, even when they tell me "I read your book and I don't really understand it." Okay, to the basic simple message in these couple pages, which really well represents my overall project--it all boils down to something like this:
1. there is something wrong in the field of fear management; and that is skewing how we understand best how to know fear and thus, manage it well
2. that something wrong (or missing) is ....... a "harmful violent ideology" (p. 98) that over-shadows the entire study of fear
3. a theory and philosophy of fearism (e.g., Fisher and Subba) can address this ideology and ensure a 'correction' to what is missing (wrong) in fear management
4. no one else has pointed out the above problems (gaps, errors, "something wrong" or missing), until now, in this new book .... etc.
Okay, there's the basics of the my work I am so passionate about. Would this excite anyone else, to the point where they would dedicate some time, or a lot of time to helping clarify the problem in the field of fear management (and, in every day life as we manage fear, more or less consciously)? With this new clarification, we could then develop interventions more healthy re: fear, and its study and management. We could create a re-evaluation of everything we think we know about fear, and run it all through a new deconstruction and reconstruction--that is, through a new theory and philosophy of fearism.
On p. 99, I have a sub-title: Fearism-t and Epistemic Violence: Reconstructing Fear Management. That speaks to a greater articulation of all of the above. And, about now, one gets the creeping feeling that this all is about to impact the way one perceives, thinks, and acts in regard to fear. That's pretty major in implication to our everyday life. That involves being a lot more consciousness and self-reflective (and critical) about everything to do with fear--and, especially what others tell you about fear (e.g., authors, teachers, parents, ministers, psychology clinicians, policemen, lawyers, government leaders, business corporate heads, and so on).
The simple notion is there. But will we talk about this further, or merely read about it? Will we talk about "a 'harmful violent ideology' surrounding the study of fear--and, in particular, the construction and dissemination of the knowledge about fear and its management and education" (p. 98)? Another way to put the problem is something like this:
A lot of authors/experts on the topic of fear management (and researchers) often say: It is not fear that is the problem, it is how we manage it that matters most. Such a claim has become ever-popular in layman and professional circles today. It is partially (in my view) good wisdom but to a point. I (and Subba) tend to stretch this quite a lot more to a critical perspective on that claim itself (which, btw, those who utter the above predominant wisdom of the day, never reflect on themselves and offer readers some opening (cautionary) of critical inquiry into the claim and its potential limitations, if not distortions--they seem to not be aware of a perspective beyond their own favorite one--which gets repeated by others who think like they do). So, on p. 98-100 in the new book, I offer another entirely different angle (and I think a much better one): The problem with fear and how we manage it is that we lack a critical awareness and vocabulary (i.e., guiding methodology) that operates outside of the fear-based structure of the field of fear management. And thus, we return to the 4 points I listed re: the basic problem--which, you can see is articulated much differently than the popular wisdom problem articulation above. Introducing a notion of a harmful violent ideology surrounding the study of fear--becomes a very simple but also complex intervention I throw into the soup pot. The main ingredient missing in the popular wisdom is a notion of fearlessness (but that's a much longer story, of which I write about in my other WFT book).
From this point forward, my work (and Subba's) is essentially different from anything else out there. It is also in that sense, critical of anything else out there. Now, in the long-run, time and experience will prove if it is better, as we both think it is. And, any such "proving" will only occur when others (beyond Subba and I) take serious interest with the necessary support of resources to help test the theory and philosophy of fearism. There's no doubt in our minds, that many theories and variations of philosophies are required to cover the huge territory of fear (and/or 'fear')--or what I like to simply call The Fear Problem today. So, I am not looking for only "followers" (yes, they are helpful for the cause), I am looking for allies who think critically (and have healthy doubt) about everything--including everything I just wrote in this blog!
Give me a call or email [618-529-1166 firstname.lastname@example.org] if you want to talk seriously (or even playfully)... and co-create with me and this work.