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On Fear

created 2005-05-24 09:51:15

(Up to: Hacking Reality Society And Control )

Initial page for notes, will re-factor later; certain parts of this will fall under "Personal Fear" and some (non-exclusively) will fall under "Fear as a Power Structure". Yet more will come under the "Societal Fear" section.

This page was originally conceived following a panel discussion on fear. The three speakers - Gavin Hewitt (foreign correspondent of the BBC), Joanna Bourke (historian and author) and China Mieville (horror author) - each touched on slightly different apects of fear, from (respectively) confronting it, to controlling it/using it to control, to creating it and selling it.

Random points (either made by the panel, or noted by me) to be expounded later....

As a tool of control, I find it ironic that (I think) from the point of view of the "controller", keeping the "controlled" afraid is for the controlled's benefit. Make them scared to stop them damaging themselves. Thus, to believe in the individual, do i have to sacrifice peace, as a vice versa?

Secondly, believing in the fear they propagate gives the controller a sense of purpose, like looking after a child. Is this a second sustaining factor?

Good quote (from China, IIRC): "Fear is the flipside of Wonder". I like this, but at the same time you can be both afraid and in wonder of something at the same time. But these are 2 different things, like different axes. It's also plausible that the more you find wonder in something, and are intrigued by it, the less you are afraid of it. I think of this as shifting weight from one leg to the other. Similarly, fear often has a strong correlation with disgust apparently, which I suspect is linked in, as is personal, reflective security - being at ease with yourself means you're more tolerant of things others find disgusting?

Joanna Bourke: The 18th Century saw a shift from the "magic" of religion to the "concrete" knowledge of empirical science, and as such one almost expects that we would be much less afraid. However, the opposite is true, and instead of fearing Gods, we simply fear science instead. I think this plays out on 2 fronts though - 1, knowledge that is socially esoteric, i.e. that scientists know but no-one else does, and 2, knowledge that exists (currently) beyond the domain of knowledge - i.e. the "unknown". However, the common fear is of type number 1, filtered down through the media.

China: He can't get scared when reading a book if he doesn't feel that the author wasn't scared by what they wrote - that they don't believe in their own creation. Does this apply to the fear handed down to us from media/politicians equally?

A public afraid is a public "united" against something. This gives the individuals a sense of reward. Could this be another "artificialty inflated" facet, i.e. uprising for uprising's sake? Seeing the rational things in a situation then wouldn't be enough - understanding social fear and individual reward is also needed.

Gavin Hewitt: Even An Army Is Human - many report of the deaths in war, but no-one tells you about the thousands of soldiers who have to undergo counselling, possibly for the rest of their life, after simply being in the stress of war.

Joanna Bourke: In the Blitz, the number of people in mental institutions reduced dramatically, apparently. She claims this was because people "knew what they had to do", and had that same sense of purpose.

Is there some correlation between horror writing and political public spin? (Not sure what that means... I just noted it down ;)

Good point from Gavin, on the amount of fear/anxiety in society today: "We are sold the idea that we can have a perfect life, and our fear these days, in direct proportion to our lure to it, is that we will be denied this." (somewhat paraphrased)

Different types of fear: There is a state of fear in which people do something about it - unite and act. Then there is a state of anxiety, in which your instinct is to run and hide, isolated. Fear is a Bad Word. On further reflection, I think this can be the difference between "real", or "external" fear, and "imagined" or "internal" fear - the things we create in our mind have no limits. The things we actually have to face are, in comparison, never as bad.

Gavin Hewitt: No-one really knows how they would react in a crisis, or a moment of intense fear/panic.
Joanna Bourke highlights "social fear", i.e. inspired by the activity of others in a nearby area (e.g. routs, stampedes, etc). Would we react differently in a fire if we were by ourselves than if we with a bunch of others? What if they were all friends? Does being with strangers not help?

Resistance to fear = Training muscles?

(See also: We The Sheeple Language To Control Fears The Innocent Have Nothing To Fear )

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