The other day, I read this little gem from the ever-brilliant Paul Campos, and even through the fog of ooky spring snot-fest, a little ray of sunshine landed on my brain.
One of the things that turns my stomach most about mainstream Western media is the way it shamelessly uses fear to manipulate people, again and again, with regard to just about every aspect of life. It's there in advertising using fear of social rejection or inadequacy or loneliness or whatever to sell useless shit and take people's money, and newsmedia on both local and national platforms using fear of mercury in CFLs (or drugs in tap water or LSD-laced stickers being handed out on the playground) to drum up good ratings, and our disgusting government using xenophobia and fear of the Other to invade other countries and kill people of all nationalities the world over.
Fear is a useful thing, an instinct that has evolved over millennia to protect us from danger. Recently, I faced off in my shower against a spider. Now, intellectually, I know that a spider with a two inch diameter does not pose a life-threatening risk to me. I know that, even though I am naked in a shower, this tiny creature is unlikely to really hurt me, even if it did, for some unknown reason, try to attack me instead of running away. I know that it is really a long shot that it's got the ability to do more than maybe give me a slightly scratchy bite. But tell that to my limbic system, which is convinced it is filled with deadly venom and bent on injecting it into me through every single pore. What sucked is that, instead of letting the little guy be on his merry way, in peaceful non-bug-killing coexistence, my body auto-reacted and splashed him with water until he crumbled into a ball of legs....because I knee-jerk reacted purely out of fear-based instinct.
Not what I would choose consciously to do, and yet what I did anyway. Shows the power of reacting out of fear, doesn't it?
And this is the same powerful instinct that our fucking shameless leader taps into everytime he makes veiled references to mushroom clouds over Middle America. He juxtaposes "nuc-u-ler" weapons and picket fences because that imagery incites the same kind of violent reaction I had to a spider in the shower - the kind of thing that seems perfectly natural when my heart is pumping 75,000 beats a second....but seems kinda silly once the rest of my brain comes back on line. In the grand scheme of things, the loss of a spider - while regrettable - is a much less horriffic knee-jerk reaction than a worldwide corporate-sponsored killing spree. I keep wondering when our collective consciousness will come back on line and stop letting the collective hindbrain run the show.
Over the course of my life, I have had more than enough experience with real, live, actual fear to want to take on imaginary fear just for shits and giggles. (Plus, seeing "Jaws" at age eight left me with a paralyzing fear of sharks that, to this day, wreaks havoc on my love of swimming.) I learned very young that real fear (as opposed to the manufactured kind) is a warning to be heeded - a precursor to pain or suffering of some sort. Sometimes, the pain or suffering can be endured...but recognizing fear and using it as a tool to possibly avoid the pain or suffering...yeah, that's kind of the point, isn't it? Fear is logical - it's an advanced, instinctual application of cause and effect - and it has a long memory.
I have learned how to deal with fear, how to take necessary action even when afraid....because I don't think there's a better choice. The times fear has paralyzed me, I've always regretted what happened - whether it was taking abuse instead of fighting back, staying in a crap job because I feared change, not sharing my feelings for fear of rejection, or even just staying in bed until my bladder was ready to burst because I was scared of the dark. Those kinds of experiences have taught me that not only is fear a useful motivator, but being afraid doesn't remotely prohibit taking action. In fact, taking action is often exactly the thing needed to change circumstances and relieve fears altogether.
All that said, though, I don't actually like being afraid. If I have to deal with it, sure, but I don't seek it out, and I sure as hell don't appreciate anybody trying to make me afraid. It has taken me a lifetime to learn how to put fear in its proper perspective (and by no means do I have it totally down) - i.e., something to take account of but not let rule my actions - and for someone to try to induce fear to manipulate me? To give me a false choice so I'll knee-jerk buy a load of horseshit, and give over whatever some jackass was pitching me? That pisses me off like nobody's business.
So, I say bring it on, world. Let the marketers try to tell me no one will ever love me until I buy their shit; I call bullshit, and I pick and choose what I spend my money and time on, how I represent myself to the rest of the world, and what I want to support with my energy. Let the fear-mongering governments try to tell me that militant Islamic fundamentalists are coming to blow me up in my sleep; I call bullshit, and I put my time and money and energy into creating more peace and understanding out in the world and righting some of the wrongs that sort of fear-mongering fosters. (Also, I pretty much disregard any claims made by fundamentalists of any stripe....the world is too complex for anybody to be so totally Right.) Let the media sell fear after fear after fear, trying to make me dependent on their noise machines for the latest danger to get my knickers in a twist over; I call bullshit, and I refuse to stop living joyously and boldly and openly because I might get sick or taken advantage of or maybe someday die - that will probably all happen anyway, whether or not I'm afraid of it. I choose not to fear it.
I have two completely irrational, full-body fears that I wrestle with regularly: enclosed spaces and sharks. Any other fear is a red herring, and I refuse to let red herrings run my life and make my choices.
Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.