Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Power of Fear

"Olive Branches"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

In his op-ed column in this morning’s New York Times, Paul Krugman made the astute observation that the main purpose of the recent terrorist shootings in Paris was to inspire a world-wide fear and global panic especially among Western nations. When people are afraid, they not only lead a miserable life but they do crazy things that can be used to one’s advantage – fear can be a powerful tool that can be used over an enemy.

The author, Paul Coelho once wisely observed:

If you want to control someone, all you need to do is make them feel afraid.

This morning’s news article suggested that the fear inspired by terrorists in Paris has already exerted great power over the entire world and in many cases the terrorists got just exactly the results they desired. In countries like the United States we have seen all sorts of “knee-jerk” reactions to the recent Paris terrorist event.  

Many U.S governors are now refusing to admit any Syrian refugees into their states regardless of the fact those refugees have themselves been victimized by terrorist groups.  Other American politicians and presidential-contenders have ludicrously suggested that “Muslims” should be barred from entry into the U.S. and only “Christians” should gain admittance. Still others have suggested that we close mosques in this country and that we should send forces of American  “ground troops” into Islamic nations. 

The goal of most of the radicalized “Islamic terrorist” groups like ISIS is to draw a hard line between the Muslim world and the Western world. They want Muslims to feel oppressed by Western people and their ultimate goal is to provoke an apocalyptic global holy war. The recent knee-jerk “fear” reactions to the Paris attacks have done just exactly what the terrorist groups are hoping to accomplish.  

The philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once said:

Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely
or to think sanely when under the influence of a great fear.

The recent responses to the growing phenomenon of global terror are proving the wisdom of this observation.

I have been reflecting on a phrase that keeps “coming up” throughout the many different Biblical stories of the Hebrew and the Christian scriptures:

Do not be afraid!

Whenever the Hebrew people are lost or in exile their prophets keep assuring them: Do not be afraid! When Mary recoils in fear when an angel announces that she will be the mother of Jesus, she is told, Do not be afraid! And some of the very last words that Jesus speaks to his disciples as he sends them out to continue his mission on earth are:  Do not be afraid!

No one is every told not to be frightened, rather they are told Do not be afraid!

We live in a scary world and of course we will be frightened by the sight of bombs exploding and innocent people slaughtered, but if we allow ourselves to be controlled by fear, we not only make bad decisions but we lose our sense of the joy of being alive.

Nelson Mandela once said:

May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.

What a perfect sentiment for the people of the world in a time of terror.