Governed by the politics of fear

By Pat Watson Wednesday June 19 2013 in Opinion
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As a species, we humans are elevated above the rest by our sentience and extraordinary reasoning ability yet, ironically, the problem with the world today is the problem with human nature. We battle with our various dichotomies. We are greedy and generous, compassionate and apathetic, selfish and selfless.


When those aspects of our nature become organized into a system of functioning for great masses of peoples then we have those overpowering operating systems we call governments; what some might term a necessary evil.


It is also in the nature of humans to look for leaders because left to our own individual devices we become lost and find ourselves wandering in an existential desert. In the rest of the animal kingdom, many species function the same way. Look to the skies at great flocks of birds flying in awesome unison as they follow the flight path of one or a few lead birds. Maybe those lead birds are the ones best equipped to detect optimal airflow and thus take advantage of it.


Governments are strongly influenced by the political beliefs of whoever comes out on top in competitions for rulership. Those individuals who become political leaders and the heads of government, as in the case of how the election system is set up here in Canada, are like those lead birds given the responsibility of deciding the best direction for the nation of Canada. They are tasked with deciding how to create the best flow for the survival and wellbeing of the entire flock.


But there is government and then there is politics. Politics, it has been said, is the art of the possible. In my opinion, the art of the possible really lies in science and technology and is rooted in imagination and observation. But I digress.


Politics really is the art of creating a system of rules based on one key instinct in human nature – fear. The type of political ideology a person or a political grouping adheres to will be determined by the degree – greater or lesser – to which fear regulates their motives and their responses to all the various manifestations in life.


So why fear? Fear at its best is a guardian that ensures survival. Survival is the supreme instinct.


Let’s call the instinct of fear in good measure caution, and let’s call fear out of control paranoia. Caution prevents us from walking willy-nilly into fast moving traffic. Paranoia will require medication, psychotherapy and sometimes hospitalization.


Some would suggest that the opposite of fear is courage, but consider that the opposite of fear is really love. And if we consider that the opposite of fear is love, then we can ask ourselves in this context whether the way we are being led as a nation is a greater manifestation of fear or of love.


Where along the spectrum that runs from fear at one end to love at the other does our education system sit, for example? Our healthcare system? Our criminal justice system? Our provision of affordable housing? Our relationship with Aboriginal peoples? Our regard for the natural environment? Our consideration of people who don’t look like us? Our regard for people who do look like us?


The name attached to fear-led political ideology is conservatism; the name for political ideology with a little less fear is liberalism. There is as yet no name for political ideology led purely by love.


Probably, we would have to edge into considerations of religion, but that is arguable since too many theocracies have given way to rule by violence, another expression of fear. This is despite every religious philosophy advancing some variation of the Golden Rule that we all regard one another with mutual love and respect.


If the Golden Rule were really the way a government functioned, we could then place fear into its proper perspective, using it effectively to avoid poisonous plants and stepping willy-nilly into fast moving traffic.


A note on a teenage boy’s legacy…


The trial now commencing of George Zimmerman, 29, who admitted shooting and killing unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February last year while claiming self-defence, is at the same time an examination of anti-Black racism in the United States – but the world will be watching.


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