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frank furedi (4)

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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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In 2007, the well-known sociologist of fear (in the UK), Frank Furedi, published a catchy article in both the prestigious American Journal of Sociology 32, and on his own blog site "Spiked" online. The title: "The Only Thing We Have to Fear is the 'Culture of Fear' Itself" (which is obviously his play on U.S. Pres.  F.D. Roosevelt's quip from 1933). I have followed Furedi's work on fear since the late 1990s. This article in 2007 (10 years ago) still speaks well to the phenomena that is going on today around the world, but especially in the UK and USA (even Canada): here it is: Furedi pdf  

As far as I can see over the years, and from my correspondence with Furedi, he has utilized much of my research on fear to expand his own work but never once has he cited my work. I have virtually always cited his work since the late 1990s. Anyways, despite that unfortunate turn, I agree with lots of his notions on fear and disagree with lots too. He's a sociologist and not transdisciplinary enough for my liking when it comes to the complex Fear Problem.

That said, I really like what he says in this 2007 article: "Fear is often examined in relation to specific issues; it is rarely considered [in academia and social sciences especially] as a sociological problem in its own right"--leading, he continues, "to a stituation where people are talking about fear (and risk, etc.) and doing so via "under-theoritisation of fear." Right on! 

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If you haven't seen it already, I recommend watching the 70 min. interview of Dr. Noam Chomsky, Emeritus Professor at MIT, author of over 100 books, and critic--go to Democracy Now, Apr. 4, 2017. I have been following Chomsky's work for decades, off and on. He has written often about the "culture of fear" in various countries and the problems with it in terms of undermining civil societies.

In this latest interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, Amy introduces a question from the viewers as she introduces it as a question about "Trump exploiting fear" and Chomsky answers (a repetitive analysis I have heard him say this several times over the past decade about America):

"[T]his is a very frightened country. For years, this has been probably the most frightened country in the world. It's also the safest country in the world. It's very easy to terrify people [here]."

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Let me say a few brief comments about this statement/observation. To say the least, I agree with Chomsky on the Fear Problem in the USA, and not that I agree America is the most "frightened country" but it is at least right up there in the top of them in the world, especially countries that are under dictatorships, I'd say they are more frightened. But one can't measure this so easily and no data is presented by Chomsky, only some 88 yrs of observations of being an American, and that counts! He's an astute and brilliant social critic of our times. His voice ought to be taken seriously. Yet, so disappointing amongst all his fans and they must be millions around the world, I do not hear any concentrated effort or advocacy of how to handle the Fear Problem, not even from Chomsky himself in terms of fear management/education strategies. That's what tends to gut his emphasis on America as "the most frightened country in the world." You can say this, and it may be plausible, as I say, I agree more or less, yet what is there to do about it directly. I mean to go to the source. Chomsky's general solution is just to have a more rational and civil democracy that works well, and the fear ought to decline. That's pretty much the operating assumption. It's no doubt partially true. However, my 28 years researching the Fear Problem (and "culture of fear" specifically) tells me that this will not be a solution, and it also will not happen without some major intervention (e.g., 'fear' vaccine) to turn America around in another direction away from this chronic frightened state--kind of like a general anxiety disorder on the scale of a whole country. That is pretty much Chomsky's diagnosis. I don't disagree basically and other critics of the "culture of fear" phenomenon has said as much for decades, e.g., the sociologist Barry Glassner amongst the more popular authors.

I have written about Chomsky a year ago. Fisher, R. M. (2016). In defense of fearism: The case of Noam Chomsky. Technical Paper No. 58. Carbondale, IL: In                    Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. I argued he would in all likelihood support the philosophy of fearism (at least my own theory of fearism)--because toxic fearism is like terrorism but works in the more subtle infrastructures of societies to create this chronically frightened (anxious) state, where as Chomsky says, it becomes "very easy to terrify people." So true. I have lived in the USA for 9 years and I feel it and see it among Americans. Now, I have gone out to make myself present here (Carbondale, IL) and reached out to many activist groups, to clergy to political leaders to non-profit organizations, to school system leaders, etc. And they have little to no interest in the Fear Problem, even when they sort of agree with me it is a big problem in the USA. This I have found empirically disturbing to see how they will not, on the whole, or in small groups, focus on the root of all the rest of their problems that makes them so susceptible to being "very easy to terrify." It is like they are so terrified as the 'normal' condition they also are so arrogant that they are "fine" and that they already know how to solve their social problems, etc. They must be in a state of denial and psychic numbing, as far as I can tell. Even Chomsky, will say the core of the problem is fear but he offers no other analysis, or insufficient analysis as I point out in my Technical Paper No. 58. And, I have always said, to Americans I meet and who are so quick to reject or just ignore my efforts to help them, that sure maybe you don't want to be a "connoisseur of fear" (as Four Arrows and Sam Keen and myself suggest) but could you at least consult with people like me, a fearologist, so that you get that expertise to help? No, they do not. I can tell you in all these years, they do not ask for it. This is the real Fear Problem, is when you know you are operating out of so much fear (and thank you Chomsky for calling it out), and you don't do anything substantially different to change it.

All I can say, is that Americans didn't get here over night. It has been part of their European history coming to America, part of their slave trade to build this country--all points that Chomsky has pointed to historically, as have others. The American "culture of fear" or "politics of fear" (e.g., Corey Robin's analysis) has a long intricate history that must be understood and taught in our school systems, and generally it is not, and only as so partial and then with no follow up in terms of teaching fear management/education in the radical ways I have suggested for nearly 3 decades. So, Four Arrows has said it recently in our work together that the Indigenous Peoples of the world, practicing the 'old ways' have a worldview where they are taught not to fear fear itself. This has never really been part of the non-Indigenous or Dominant worldview on the planet.

I'll leave this commentary with the comment that Chomsky threw into his interview (and the quote above): "It's the safest country in the world." Too bad he didn't give statistics for this, and too bad Amy didn't ask him about this. Let me explain where it is coming from, as far as I can tell, because when you read the quote as a whole it is so paradoxical and ironic, that the most frightened country is the most safest in the world, according to Chomsky. Many of the culture of fear theorists, and critics have said the same things (Glassner, Frank Furedi, Gavin DeBecker, etc.). So what is going on here? The argument of these  critics is that America has created the "safest" society but yet it is the most "frightened"--and, there is a real 'disconnect.' One indicator these critics give is that the rates of crime have gone done for decades but on surveys the population as a whole keeps saying that they have a higher "fear of crime." All the critics pin this problem down on how media creates this fear by exaggeration and repetition on TV and other sources of mass media, and they do so to "win" viewers to their programs because nothing gets attention like fear--as they say. It is part of the "economy of attention" as some scholars have called it. It is part of the "culture of fear"--and then, when you get government leaders, activists, and corporations using this economy of attention--that is, economy of fear to manipulate people's opinions--then, fear keeps going up, no matter even if the society is relatively safe and secure.

I agree with most of this "culture of fear" and "politics of fear" analysis to explain the 'disconnect.' It is a very troubling psychic and social state going on, and I have witnessed it here in the last 9 years. But more disturbing to me, is how Americans are so arrogant, and ignore-ant, as a whole, to actually attend to this Fear Problem 'disconnect.' I also am a critic that you can't use simple statistics on "safe" and "secure" to measure a society that is living in a post-traumatic condition and culture of fear as ongoing chronic context. There is always, says, Brian Massumi the cultural critic, a "low-grade fear" that isn't even normal anxiety or fear--it is like another phenomena we haven't easily been able to "name" or study. I have called it toxic fearism.

It would be great if someday, Chomsky and others like him, and the culture of fear critics will take my work seriously and engage with me, instead of deny we need a much better fear management/education that is systematic in all curricula.

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