Friday, August 13, 2010

Fear Factory

Fear is a great motivator. It will take the timid, the weak, the ignorant, and the faithless, and whip them into a frenzied mob, easily led by the mountebank willing to stoke them with the fire of inflamed rhetoric and subtle prevarication. It easier to point to the ills of the world and claim they emanate from a source other than the individual, to a person, or group, or government that is callous or unresponsive or traitorous. It is far easier to spread lies and deceit, than to sow seeds of compassion and compromise.

We live in a time where, given the situation in the world, the turmoil we see, and the information so readily available, that the fear mongers and hate baiters can take their messages of discontent and fury to a wider audience, an audience soaked and steeped in the ichor of marketing, which tells them what they should have, what they must do, and how they must not think about things, but "take our word for it." Generation after generation, as education continues to fail to teach the basic skills needed for critical reason and common sense, when parents have children merely because they are told "that's what society/god wants," and we are told we are not good Americans unless we mortgage ourselves to afford bigger houses, cars, and televisions, the idea that the words uttered by anyone should bear closer scrutiny is as foreign a concept as the idea of the tall sailing ship or the horse and buggy.

So, the fear merchants peddle their talking points in the common market, a new and insidious form of Town Crier, who, rather than seeking to inform, is trying to inflame. The crowds gather around their glowing boxes, bombarded by light that does not illuminate, does not educate, but does prevaricate. Facts, even where they are evident, are glossed over as inconvenient, or flawed, or "propaganda." Those who seek to warn the town of the approach of the wolves are merely "trying to scare us." There are no wolves we are told; only sheep with different haircuts. How can they harm us?

The wolves are not the sheep -- we, the Americans, are. Meekly, we accept, without reservations, the fiery oration of others as gospel, checking our curiosity at the door, placing our common sense in abeyance, chalking up any lingering doubts to random thought. We do not question, do not confront, do not interrogate those who seek to tell us how we should act and what we should do and what we should think. We accept that, somehow, their judgment is greater than ours, even though there is nothing upon which to base such a thought. We would be led, en masse, to the slaughter, none the wiser.

If we do nothing else, we must awaken, must set forth with hungry eyes and hungrier minds, to test the words of these purveyors of "truth." Truth in and of itself, is an ephemeral concept, subject to interpretation, but facts are in evidence, capable of rational analysis, and subject to scrutiny. We must ask ourselves the tough questions. Does the thing harm me? Are we as beset as they would make us out to be? Have we lost anything tangible in the way of rights? Where did they come by their information? How credible is it? Have they lied to us before?

Until we decide to loose the chains that fetter us to the unreal world of fear, hate, and ignorance, and soar up to the heights of human intellect, to think for ourselves, and challenge those who simply believe we have no choice but to believe them, we will be forced to muddle around in the dark, forever the sheep to be shorn by those who would buy the wool and burn it, rather than clothe all humanity in it. We can no longer afford to be complacent -- the future of us all depends on it.

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