Fear is the mind-killer.
― Frank Herbert
If one wants to understand fear and how it can destroy competence and achievement take a look at (American) football. How many times have you seen a team undone during the two minute drill? A team who has been dominating the other team defensively suddenly becomes porous when it switches to the prevent defense, it is a strategy born out of fear. They stop doing what works, but is risking and takes a safety first approach. It happens over and over providing the Madden quip that the only thing the prevent defense prevents is victory. It is a perfect metaphor for how fear plays out in society.
Fear is a rather enormous player in societal decision-making. In playing an over sized role fear provides a massive drain on everything we do ultimately costing us more than we can possibly estimate. Fear produces actions that work steadfastly to undermine every single productive bit of work we might do. Fear drives decisions that cause everything we do to be more expensive. Fear costs us time. Fear destroys trust. Fear undermines openness. Fear enslaves us to a pessimistic life always looking for disaster. In the end fear will keep us from succeeding at making the world better. Fear is making the world worse.
Over 80 years ago we had a leader, FDR, who chastened us against fear saying, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Today we have leaders who embrace fear as a prime motivator in almost every single public policy decision. We have the cynical use of fear to gain power used across the globe. Fear is also a really powerful way to free money from governments too. Terrorism is both a powerful political tool for both those committing the terrorist acts, and the military-police-industrial complexes to retain their control over society. We see the rise of vast police states across the Western world fueled by irrational fears of terrorism.
If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.
― Paulo Coelho
Fear also keeps people from taking risks. Many people decide not to travel because of fears associated with terrorism, among other things. Fear plays a more subtle role in work. If failure becomes unacceptable, fear will keep people from taking on difficult work, and focus on easier, low-risk work. This ultimately undermines our ability to achieve great things. If one does not focus on attempting to achieve great things, the great things simply will not happen. We are all poorer for it. Fear is ultimately the victory of small-minded limited thinking over hope and abundance of a better future. Instead of attacking the future with gusto and optimism, fear pushes us to contact to the past and turn our backs on progress.
One of the huge downsides to fear-based decision-making is shutting down communication. Good communication is based on trust. Fear is the absence of trust. People are afraid of ideas, and afraid to share their ideas or information with others. As Google amply demonstrates, knowledge is power. Fear keeps people form sharing information and leader to an overall diminishment in power. Information if held closely will produce control, but control of a smaller pie. Free information makes the pie bigger, creates abundance, but people are afraid of this. For example a lot of information is viewed as dangerous and held closely leading to things like classification. This is necessary, but also prone to horrible abuse.
Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.
― John Steinbeck
A big part of the abuse is retention of power, and used to enhance the power of those holding the power. The issue with this information control is how it inhibits people from working on things that have the greatest value, or simply working allowing people to work on things that others already know don’t work. It keeps people from building productively on the knowledge that others possess. In this and a myriad of other ways the control and failure to share information leads to a diminished future devoid of the potential freedom offers.
He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.
There are very few truly unique, new ideas. Instead new things and new ideas arise from combining old ideas in new ways or for new purposes. With more ideas on the table and available, the possibilities and discoveries are great and more varied. The entirety of human experience and technology is based on the sharing of information, the combination of old existing ideas over and over. Just as the printing press created the sharing of knowledge and an explosion of creativity, the Internet is doing the same thing today. It can be a force for good and freedom. It can also be a force of evil and chaos as we have seen unfolding in the events of the World. Our job should be make sure that we actively work to make sure information can be harnessed as an agent for good. Fear when added to mix becomes a direct and powerful force for pushing us toward evil and chaos.
Another aspect of modern life and the availability of information is the ever-present worry of scandal and the implications of being part of it. Spurring this fear-based environment is the use of scandal as a political tool and the chaos scandal produces. There are fears of audits and unwanted attention driving decision-making and pushing all sorts of costs. All of this is driven by a general lack of trust across society and the rise of fear as a motivating factor. Instead of being focused on progress and achievement, we see fear of loss and terror at the prospect of scandal forming the basis of decisions. This is captured in the oft-heard comment, “I don’t want to see this featured on the front page of the New York Times.” To avoid this possibility we incur massive costs and horrible performance penalties. The bottom line is that fear is inhibiting our ability to create a better, richer and more abundant future.
Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.
― Sigmund Freud
Fear is used because fear works. Fear has become a powerful tool that political forces use to push their agenda, or attack their enemies. The most evident fear-based vehicle is terrorism, which our governments make much more powerful through channeling the fear to support the creation of large pervasive police-surveillance state. Instead of defeating terror, the state amplifies the impact of terror, terrorizes the populace, and becomes the source of terror itself. The greatest weapon against terror is to not be terrorized. Courage and bravery in the face of terror is the cure. Our reaction to terrorism gives it all of its power. By our fearful reaction we insure that more terror will bred out of our fearful reaction to it. This principle is broadly applicable. Our reactions to fear empower the fears and allow them to shape our lives. To overcome fear, we must cease to be afraid. We must be led to not fall prey to fear. Instead we are led to be afraid, and amplify our fears as a means of subservience.
Without leadership rejecting fear too many people simply give into it. Today leaders do not reject fear; they embrace it; they use it for their purposes, and amplify their power. It is easy to do because fear engages people’s animal core and it is prone to cynical manipulation. This fear paralyzes us and makes us weak. Fear is expensive, and slow. Fear is starving the efforts society could be making to make a better future. Progress and the hope of a better future rests squarely on our courage and bravery in the face of fear and the rejection of it as the organizing principle for our civilization.
Our enemy is not terror, it is losing our soul while fighting terror.
— Jeff Lawson
And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.
― Paulo Coelho