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On the Politics of Fear

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

To learn more about Nick, find him on Facebook.

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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.

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About Nick Baez

Nick Baez, M.S. is a native of New York, New York (Lower East Side) and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. Throughout his academic and professional career, he has been a scholar in the fields of psychotherapy, anger and aggression research, trauma, youth leadership initiatives, and teaching. Committed to sound research and program development, Nick has been instrumental in tailoring programs to fit the needs of various communities, and subsequently evaluating those programs to ensure that they meet goals and standards. Most recently, Nick was the Mental Health therapist at Centennial High School in Fort Collins, CO. He has been a psychotherapist for 7 years, and specializes in adolescent populations. He has worked extensively with the National Hispanic Institute for 15 years, serving initially as a junior volunteer and currently as a senior staff member and senior alumnus. Through his work with the National Hispanic Institute, Nick has worked closely with thousands of high school students in helping develop initiatives to prepare them for leadership in the 21st century. Nick has conducted peer-reviewed research on risky behavior, anger, anger expression, and aggression, and has been previously recognized for his work by the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. Nick has also done research on psychological trauma and its effects on cognition and interpersonal relationships. He has been invited on numerous occasions to give special lectures on trauma, co-dependency, ethnic identity, and social conflict.

A cum laude graduate of the College of Natural Sciences at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO, Nick holds a degree in Psychology. He additionally holds a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Colorado State University, and is currently a doctoral candidate there.

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.

Comments

  1. Brilliant!-Cesar Vargas

  2. Beyond brilliant. I am guessing if I had to form my own political party, my first choice would be to have Baez-Vargas on my ticket. Nick, your ability to not only write amazingly but expose the truth is to be commended. Proud to call you a colleague and friend.

  3. Nick Baez says:

    Humbled and moved by all the kind words. Thank you all so much. I’m glad you enjoyed.

  4. Fear is one of the oldest political tactics used because it works time after time. It’s how Bush was re-elected.

    I don’t see it ever going away.
    What we need to do is educate people on how to identify when they are being manipulated. I don’t understand why people don’t protest immediately whenever cuts are made to education. Without education people are easier to manipulate. They will be less apt to question if they can’t understand the underlying issues.

    I agree, we need to think creatively to attack these issues from another angle.

  5. Nick Baez says:

    BellaVida: absolutely… fear is used time and again as a means to galvanize folks against their best interests. The anti-intellectual sentiment that comes from many is a prime example… it’s almost as if being intelligent somehow prevents you from being a “real American.” Thank you for reading!

  6. “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” You take educated writing genius to a new level friend. Brilliant piece! A paradox clusterf**k!

  7. Nick Baez says:

    Lol! Arlene, thank you so much. That really means a lot to me. I’m glad you enjoyed. :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] 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 o … Read More […]

  2. […] past few years. As history has shown on multiple occasions, during times of economic hardship, the narrative of fear takes firm hold amongst citizens, and “easy scapegoats” are identified in an effort to explain […]

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