by Nick Baez
“Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are left unoccupied by the verities of knowledge.” – Horace Mann
When Rosie G. wrote her article last week, she posed the question, “How do we come to fear so much?” While I will not bore you with a detailed explanation of the underlying physiology of fear, I wish to instead note that fear is often used as a means for organizing citizens under a common goal.
Quite often, this takes the form of a quest to identify a “smoking gun” cause for economic and social upheaval. Moreover, what is typically identified by policy-makers as a root cause for such upheaval reflects a marked disconnect from reality. Whether we are told to be fearful of “welfare queens,” immigrants, or “entitlement programs,” a thorough examination of the data consistently shows that the narrative of fear is not grounded in fact.
Fear is, perhaps, the world’s most dangerous motivating factor. It has the ability to simultaneously galvanize large segments of people, but also lead many to think and behave irrationally and support measures that go against their collective interests. This is particularly salient in the political arena, where anti-Latino, anti-LGBT, and anti-intellectual narratives have made their way into mainstream legislation.
Fear can also lead people to react to bold ideas with vitriol and spite, eventually erupting into irrational hypercriticism that has not been examined for meaning and justification. When dogmatic ideologies and hypercriticism are inserted into the social and political arena in particular, all that results is an obstructionist agenda that is counterproductive to progress (as was the case with the near government shutdown over funding). This resultant obstructionist mindset leads to decisions that are not made in the interest of society, but are instead meant to appease one’s dogmatic following.
True political leadership, however, does not arise out of an ability to utilize fear as a means to gain support for one’s agenda. Rather, true leadership is a state of mind in which being progressively bold and innovative for the greater good of society outweighs the desire to appeal strictly to the lowest common intellectual denominator. If we, as a society, are to live up to our collective potential, we must abandon ideologies based on fear, and instead seek to identify ways in which we can boldly and creatively utilize our collective talents to add wealth and equity to the world.
“Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix Reason firmly in Her seat, and call on Her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; for if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.” – Thomas Jefferson
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.