The State Of Fear

Bruce Schneier points out this piece, which takes through the Machiavellian and Hobbesian constructs of fear, along with its manipulation, and these graphs struck me,

Fear is a primal human state. From childhood on, we fear the monsters of our imaginations, lurking in dark closets, under beds, in deserted alleyways, but we also now fear monsters in the deserts of Yemen and the mountains of Pakistan. But perhaps it is possible to pause and subdue our fears by carefully observing reality — just as we might advise for trying to calm and comfort a fear-stricken child. We might find that, in reality, the more immediate danger to our democratic society comes from those who lurk in the halls of power in Washington and other national capitols and manipulate our fears to their own ends.

What are these ends? They are typically the protection of moneyed interests. In 1990, the Secretary of State James Baker tried to make the case for the first Gulf War on economic grounds. “The economic lifeline of the industrial world,” he said, “runs from the gulf and we cannot permit a dictator such as this to sit astride that economic lifeline.”

This is pretty much what Sale was pointing out at Sic Semper Tyrannis,

This view prompted the former U.S. diplomat and thinker George Kennan to say, “It would be hard, of course, to deny the vulnerabilities of modern democracy generally to domination by party machines and personalities in whose political motivation for political involvement a devotion to public interest is diluted, to put it mildly by considerations of another and less admirable nature.” (sic)

That is a very disconcerting and cumbersome sentence, but it does the trick. Surely a society is in danger when the “great affairs of state” cannot be carried out without excessive dependence on the struggles of political factions whose focus is mainly on their own jobs and advancing their own petty interests rather than solving or improving the major problems of national interest. It is clear that when the common citizen votes, it should be voting as an individual, not simply as a tool of some political party.

Gates’ disgust for Congress is merited. The focus of Congress should be on the promotion of decency, detachment, promoting intelligent responses among the common man to responsible leadership. Topics such as economic growth, unemployment, public schools, churches, the commercial dominated mass media, and budgetary problems require a certain intellectual breadth and a genuine seriousness towards life and that seriousness should be governing the Congress. Unfortunately, that earnestness, that willingness to work, the drive to master and is nowhere to be seen, and it hard to foresee its arrival.

First we must define the problem, and have the courage to admit to our fears and confront them. We can rightly applaud Sargent Remsburg for his courage, but we should ask ourselves if we do not ask too much from these men, when we refuse to confront our own fears with our own courage.


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