"Everyone knows" that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "There's nothing to fear but fear itself." Lesser known by many is when FDR said that. It was in response to the bank failures in the early 1930s. Even lesser known is that he said it, but that it was written by his speechwriter, Napoleon Hill.
Some will recognize Napoleon Hill as the author of the well known self-help/prosperity book, Think and Grow Rich. Napoleon Hill was the protege of Andrew Carnegie, who commissioned him to write a multi-volume set of books about the law of success. Perhaps commissioned is the wrong word choice. Carnegie didn't pay him and expected Hill to earn his own way over the 20 year project. What he did, was provide him with introductions to the most successful people of the day. It's fascinating reading, that is, if you are interested in successful people, in a historical, early 20th century perspective.
That is just a little background to this article. Why I decided to write this article, was because a lot is being said about "the only thing to fear is fear itself." It's a catchy slogan, but not well understood by the people who repeat it the most. Fear IS harmful, because the more afraid we are of something, we are more likely to bring our greatest fears to fruition in our circumstances. Again, this is something that most people seem to have at least some understanding. Anyone who knows the story of Job will remember Job saying after he had been through so many horrible things: "That which I had most greatly feared has come upon me." A lesson often missed in the story of Job is that God wasn't sending these terrible things to Job to test his faith. God was allowing those things to happen. The lesson for Job, and for us, is to have faith in the best possible outcome, and to learn that focusing on the feared thing will bring it about in our reality.
There are more lessons in both the Old and New Testaments that build upon this concept, but I'm no Bible scholar. So why are fearful people something to be feared?
Right now, we have a whole lot of people in this country who are afraid of something that might happen. Even worse is that they are fearing something - the unknown - they feel they have little or no control over. If you are not sure what there is to be afraid of, you'll look around to see if there is someone you can blame for this. No need to fret, it's human nature. (For people who are spiritual, you might recognize the difference between human nature and "God nature.") The problem with this on a political basis is that the fearful people will take action on a fear-based plane, and the fear escalates into anger. Sane people will recognize that good decisions are never made in fear or anger, but when people are caught up in the whirlwind of these emotions, it's like they can't control themselves. They get taken advantage of by people who are more in control of their emotions and their actions, and those people are likely not going to be acting in the fearful person's best interests.
I forget which self help author said, "If you don't have a plan for your life, you can be sure that someone else does."
So for liberals, progressives or even libertarians who are perplexed about what motivates these people to be so angry, so stubborn, so "against everything," I hope this has been something of an explanation. My own perception right now is that people are afraid that something is going to be taken from them, whether it is their jobs, their homes, their investments and there are many people, groups and entities that they see as the threat to their security. Fear + perceived threat = constant conflict that never seems to have a resolution. Not to mention the anxiety level is kept on red alert. Among all the obvious bad effects of that, it is taxing on the nervous system and often affects physical health. We're just not cut out to have constant stress on us.
Although Orwell was thought to be delusional when he wrote 1984, the only thing he got wrong was the timeline. We might not be herded into movie theatres to watch the never-ending war with "the enemy," but we participate in it every time we watch the cable news networks and engage in ongoing battles with otherwise thoughtful reasonable people on the internet.
It is probably too much to ask to persuade those who are afraid to suddenly be rational and cast away their fears. Unlike Job, we don't have God standing by and talking directly to us as Job did, when he had to learn these painful lessons for himself.
The fearful people do not even realize the harm they inflict on even their closest friends and family, when they project their fears outward. The thing we can do, indeed probably the ONLY thing we can do, is not let the fearful people drag us down.
(c) 2010 Maria Keller
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