Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The politics of fear

In poking around a few sites, I came across a comment made by Arianna Huffington last fall before the November election.  She said (paraphrasing here) that Americans were voting with their "lizard brains."
Apparently, she had said the same thing to explain the then-popular-enough George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election.

Huffington is referring to the section of our brains that harks back to our primordial past.  When survival is at stake, that part of the brain takes over.  It's fight or flight and we make our decisions in rather black or white terms.  "You're either with us or against us."
While I'm not about to call anybody who voted for Republican candidates in the past election a "lizard brain" (I would then have to lump myself into that group), I cannot say that Huffington is necessarily wrong.  How many political leaders have used fear to their advantage?  Not simply in terms of fear of the ruling, iron hand, but fear for what could happen if you don't follow their way?  If we don't pass the Patriot Act, there could be terrorists on your front lawn one day, sleeping with your sister.  If we don't invade Iraq and fight their weapons of mass destruction now with our army and our marines, we'll have to fight them later with our firemen and paramedics.  If you don't vote out the Obama administration, the nation will be taken over by godless socialists and you'll never hold a job again.  

Fear.  Sort of like what Shakespeare said about patriotism: it stirs the blood as it narrows the mind.  Many people are scared right now.  And with good reason.  Many are without work and have been for a long time.  People like me see the national debt spiraling out of control while China bolsters both its economy and its military.  This is all before factoring in global warming, terrorism, and out of control crime in our streets.  
Yes, people are scared.  Unfortunately, this creates fertile soil for the seeds of fear politics to be planted and exploited by less-than-admirable types.  After all, this is part of how Hitler got into power.  

Or maybe David Icke is right and there really are "lizard brains" in control...in more ways than one.

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1 comment:

  1. UPDATE:
    The gunman, it turns out, had been separated from his wife for a while and has had a criminal history.


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