June 24, 2007

Fear is the Mindkiller

The Bene Gesserit Littainy against Fear.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Digby once more lays out the psychology driving the neocons.

The conservatives generally, evidently including members of the top military brass, seem to be driven by a primitive fear not of attack or physical violence, but of humiliation. This is what makes them tick and it's the essence of what's gone wrong since 9/11.

And as she says, we desperately need some saner heads running our country and our war policies.

Studies conducted after 9/11 show that when fear drives decision-making, people make very bad decisions.

Why does it matter that Americans became more conservative in the face of the 9/11 crisis? One reason it matters is because when people are frightened, they are less rational in the decisions they make and this can lead to decisions that are decidedly worse than if they approach the decision rationally.

If we are so suggestible that thoughts of death make us uncomfortable defaming the American flag and cause us to sit farther away from foreigners, is there any way we can overcome our easily manipulated fears and become the informed and rational thinkers democracy demands?

To test this, Solomon and his colleagues prompted two groups to think about death and then give opinions about a pro-American author and an anti-American one. As expected, the group that thought about death was more pro-American than the other. But the second time, one group was asked to make gut-level decisions about the two authors, while the other group was asked to consider carefully and be as rational as possible. The results were astonishing. In the rational group, the effects of mortality salience were entirely eliminated. Asking people to be rational was enough to neutralize the effects of reminders of death. Preliminary research shows that reminding people that as human beings, the things we have in common eclipse our differences—what psychologists call a "common humanity prime"—has the same effect.

"People have two modes of thought," concludes Solomon. "There's the intuitive gut-level mode, which is what most of us are in most of the time. And then there's a rational analytic mode, which takes effort and attention."

The solution, then, is remarkably simple. The effects of psychological terror on political decision making can be eliminated just by asking people to think rationally. Simply reminding us to use our heads, it turns out, can be enough to make us do it.

One major difference between a demagogue and a leader is how they address the fears of their followers.

Indeed, we don't have to give in to our fears when making decisions. As I wrote long ago, to understand why fear is so bad and how it directly connects to corruption, one can find the words of Aun Sang Suu Kyi as she spoke to her countrymen about learning to live through the fear:

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption. Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption. Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched.

...Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and to uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society. Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.

The neocons traffic in fear and the corruption it leads to so their solutions are violent and brutal. We can decide to not give them the power nor let them hold sway over our decisions and our solutions.

Posted by Mary at June 24, 2007 11:29 AM | Philosophy | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

Fear certainly is a mind killer and a weapon the neocons and yes, theocrats have used to kill the minds of the American people.

I first read Frank Herberts Dune when I was in college 41 years ago and I probably was supposed to be reading something else. I became a Dune cultist and read everything until Frank's untimely death 20 years ago. The final book, Chapter House Dune left things up in the air. I was happy when Brian herbert found his father's notes and wrote the two prequel trilogies and and now the concluding books. I like this quote from one of the prequels and have used it often:
Unfortunately, some wars are won by the side that is the most fanatical in the religious sense. The victorious leaders harness the holy energy of collective insanity.

[From the Machine Crusade by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson]

Posted by: Ron Beasley at June 24, 2007 10:13 PM