I must admit that I’m sick and tired of being made afraid. Throughout history, several lethal arrows have been drawn from the quiver of control and used quite effectively to paralyze hearts and minds. But none has been more lethal or used more often than the arrow of fear. In fact, it’s the one essential arrow in a politician’s quiver that virtually guarantees success. If a politician can get into the heads and hearts of his constituents and establish a spirit of fear, he can, at the same instant, establish a spirit of dependency. Abdication welcomes control . . . all in the name of protection and peace of mind.
Many times when I was traveling in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe would dispatch his military and police units in the middle of the night to race through the streets and strike fear into the hearts of his sleepy citizens. The frightened citizens would awaken to sirens blaring, lights flashing, and horns honking and think, Oh, it’s awful and scary and dangerous out there! I do hope that our president will take care of us.
Hitler’s confidant Hermann Göring claimed,
Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. . . . Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
I recall my very first awareness in the 1950s and 1960s of a leader using fear to control the masses. Newsreels showed President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt sounding the alarms in Cairo, rousing all the people out of their beds in the middle of the night and into the streets for defense drills, saying the British and French were coming to kill them because he had taken control of the Suez Canal. The next night he would order the people out of beds again and into their defensive positions because Prime Minister Qasim of Iraq or the troops from Saudi Arabia or North Yemen were on their way to kill them. Nasser kept the people of Egypt in a continual state of fear and confusion. Yet they loved and supported him because they believed that he was the only one who could protect and take care of them. Ironically, to quell any opposition and gain their confidence, he promised them universal health care, subsidized housing, construction of vocational schools, and minimum wages. Nasser came closer to unifying the Arab world than anyone in recent history, and fear was his sharpest arrow.
On any given day, media reports can swamp us with myriad fears, including
a loss of individual net worth through increased taxation
a loss of religious and civil liberties, including freedom to use the Internet
nuclear attacks from Iran or North Korea
the government’s inability to continue paying for Social Security, military pensions, or Medicare
death panels for those over seventy-five
epidemics, killer diseases, and natural or man-made disasters
a systemic failure of our banks and monetary system
a loss of our electrical and communication grids
foreign intrusion on US soil or radical domestic upheavals
And the list goes on.
Most fears are based on some percentage of truth, so at best we deal with half truths. The problem with our species is that we usually glom onto the wrong half. And once we begin to let fear terrify us, the quality of our personal lives diminishes. The ancient Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Where fear is, happiness is not.” If we allow our minds to become focused on fear—no matter who creates it—fear will choose our destiny, because fear is the enemy of logic and effectively robs the mind of all its powers of reason and action.
So what’s to be done? If you have a legitimate concern, and you can do something about it, then do it. If you need to vote, then vote. If you need to protest, then protest. But don’t let the fear possess you. Let go of the fear. You need not be made afraid anymore. Dale Carnegie used to say, “Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
From what I’ve observed, there seems to be a positive correlation between the amount of fear that possesses me and how unusually concerned I am about myself. I find that I am less apt to be made afraid if I can get my thoughts off myself and start concentrating on helping someone else become better off. That just may be one reason why our twenty thousand volunteers at Project C.U.R.E. are such a happy lot. They’ve discovered that as you focus your attention on helping other people become better off, even if they’re on the other side of the world, the superimposed fears that were once yours seem to lose their grip on you.
I don’t want to be made afraid anymore! Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed, and I no longer need to be a part of that picture!