Fear is an Easy Sell

When I’m not writing, I’m a teacher. You can probably guess what I’m certified in – my specialty – without too much trouble. It doesn’t start with M and doesn’t require a Periodic Table if that helps at all – although I am getting better and better with my Stoichiometry (just ask my students).

I’ve noticed a shift over the last several years, and it is something I am concerned about and that is fear.

You see, I have a daughter who turns three in January and she’s starting to give orders. Not real orders of course, but the ‘this goes here, that is mommy’s, put it down daddy’ kind of orders. The ‘I’m trying to make sense of this world that has more to it than gravity and light’ kind of orders.

This means that, soon, she’ll start asking questions. Both my wife and I have discussed this turn and we’re not sure what to respond as she kicks into trying to understand and comprehend that bigger world. Whose perspective will be better for her.

The reality that I see is a wonderful and amazing place to explore. People are, in general, good folks with interesting stories who merely want an ear to listen or tongue to speak – an opportunity to share. There are fascinating stories out there with most people and, if you listen to them, chances are you can find someone or something to relate to with them.

The world is a similar place. There are wonderful places to explore – mountains to climb, trees to crawl through, parks to visit, etc. It’s an adventure that, if you take the time to examine, will give you something to relate to and remember.

Forest Blog

But…that’s not the attitude that most people have. I remember growing up that most of the attitude wasn’t quite as bright and springy as mine, but there was something still there: hope.

Now, though, I see something different: fear.

Fear has replaced that in many of the students that I interact with. I do have the over-the-top macho kids in my room, but when they get confronted, that attitude dissolves. There’s no guidance. Similarly, when I work with some of my co-workers and talk with some of my friends, fear has become a unifying factor. Rather it’s a worry for the future of the country, a job, or what’s going to happen tomorrow, it’s become an overlying part of things.

Yoda Fear

Even the TV shows have it more now. We call the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles more ‘mature’ and ‘deep’ than their 1980’s counterparts – and that’s true. But at one point our entertainment was meant to entertain the kids and not us.

Don’t take this the wrong way – I love shows like TMNT and Avatar: The Last Airbender. My daughter loves My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Daniel Tiger (and Daniel Tiger is NOT in one of those ‘more mature’ categories in the slightest. It does have a sense of hope and excitement). But at one point the excitement came from wondering how Mikey was going to take down the Shredder this week and not if he was going to.

Our heroes are easily defeated. That only used to happen in the two-part episodes.

The same holds true of entertainment for adults. I’m really enjoying Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Once Upon a Time, and Agents of Shield (my TV shows are a bit limited – I have Netflix and not cable is my excuse).

There isn’t anyone to save us anymore and, while some of the shows do examine a person pulling themselves out of defeat and saving themselves, more often we are faced with a failure that we have to deal with.

And maybe that’s true. There is a lot of truth to the fact that, often, we are going to have to deal with meeting in the middle or the short end of the stick. That is life.

I don’t really have a problem with that. I wish there was more hope and adventure to my entertainment than there is – and I might be missing something (feel free to share). But it doesn’t usually feel particularly hopeful when I am watching.

Except maybe NCIS – because at some point, they have to deal with Gibbs and Gibbs doesn’t mess around.

Gibbs

But now, we’re not even getting the stick. We’re learning to be afraid to even reach for it.

It’s fear we’re being sold.

And it is an easy sell.

Look at Game of Thrones. Nothing against Martin – he’s clearly a writer with talent. I personally don’t particularly like Game of Thrones, but it’s popular and well written. But it boils with two things – sex and fear.

It’s an easy sell.

Even worse is the sudden advertisement of giving in to fear. Back during the first trilogy, I don’t know that there was anyone who was excited to be a member of the Sith (and yes, this is a specific cultural example. Sue me). The villains of the movie and the universe as far as Star Wars is concerned. Now, it pops up everywhere.

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Ignoring the Sith vs Jedi argument (that’s for another day as well), now matter how you look at it, they are the created antagonists of the films. We get strong implications (and sometimes visuals) of them casually murdering people. These are not people that would normally be a group that folks would want to join.

But they have embraced their fear and gained power for it. We’re embracing our fears, but it’s leaving us weaker – at least thus far.

I wonder if that isn’t because fear is so primal to our beings. It’s hard to establish a hopeful attitude – it takes convincing someone that there can be something better over the hilltop or beyond the horizon even though all of their current experience says otherwise.  You have to life yourself up to have hope, to examine the best that could be coming and work for it. It takes a tremendous amount of work.

 

Say what you like about Donald Trump, but he is definitely a Presidential hopeful. He’s putting in that effort and he’s trying to find ways to get to that ‘better’ that he sees. So is Bernie Sanders. And that’s all the politics I will mention for this post because I’m not going to get into the conflict of hope that comes from perspective. I’m sure it is one of the causes, but that’s a post in and of itself. Fear has that as well, but to a lesser extent.

Fear doesn’t. Fear says ‘that’s bigger, be scared’, ‘that’s faster, be scared’, ‘that’s different, be scared.’ It’s unifying and, relatively, universal.  And universal means easier to sell, easier to control. Some of those pundits that claim our new culture of fear is part of a government/corporate/etc conspiracy to control us and I can’t help but wonder in the back of my mind if there isn’t some truth to that claim. Fear does make for easy control and focus – hope, joy, and other ‘working’ emotions are not easy to create and hold in place.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day. I will leave you with this one:

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