In this election season, I, once again, am puzzled by the U.S. presidential candidates’ rhetoric. I was not able to understand them until I assumed a mindset of fear and scarcity. If I believed that the world is a fearful place and that there is not enough of anything for everyone, then the candidates’ words made sense. If you vote for me, I will help you with your fear and keep you safe. Whether what they promised is actually going to address my fear constructively is not even relevant here. The goal is to trigger our fears and then promise safety in exchange for our vote.
The anniversary of September 11 is here. I recalled how fear was such a dominant force in the subsequent decisions we made as a nation. In response, I wrote a book called, Finding Intimacy in World of Fear. I will offer my description from the book of the “fear-exploiters” for the citizens of the U.S. to reflect on as they move toward election day:
The fear-exploiters use the fear of rejection, isolation, chaos, psychological and physical harm and death to maintain control. In effect, the message is: If you don’t do what we want, you will be excluded, and harm will come to you. The fear-exploiters re-define the rules to give them advantages and to maintain their power. By defining the rules, the fear-exploiters define reality for others. They want this reality eventually to become accepted as daily rituals to be followed unquestioned.
The fear-exploiters propagate a spirituality of scarcity. They project a reality that says there are never enough of resources, power and love. Therefore, be competitive, take and keep, and be suspicious of those who have more. The fear-exploiters will cast this false reality in the name of whatever is the popular concept or language of the time. They will give the impression of peace without justice. They will sell the illusion of intimacy without love. They will promise security and safety while continuing to project fear. They will sell us symbolic substitutes that promise to make us safe while the goal is to keep us craving for more.
The fear-exploiters have an inherent fear of community, because if a community of respect and trust decided to come together and tell the truth of the people’s experiences, the fear-exploiter’s scheme will be exposed. Therefore, fear-exploiters want to divide communities by spreading misinformation about one group or another within that community. When the different factions in the community are not able to work together, the fear-exploiters stay in control. The fear-exploiters create distrust so that the people become suspicious of others. Where there is no trust, there is no truth-telling. When there is no truth-telling, there is no intimacy. When there is no intimacy, there is no community.
The fear-exploiters evoke fear to condition some in the community to be fear-conquerors. They become foot-soldiers in enforcing the rules and ritual. The fear-exploiters want to turn most people into fear-bearers, supporting the status quo without question. The fear-exploiters want to diminish our self-esteem and take away our dignity so that we do not trust our own ability to work through our fear. Punishment and conditional love are the weapons that fear-exploiters employ. Do what we want and you will be loved. Cross the line, and you will be punished.
The fear-exploiters use diversions to distract people from seeing and addressing the real issues. They do not want people to work together for real safety and security. The fear-exploiters pile fear upon fear in order to overwhelm people so that they will buy whatever substitutes that promise to alleviate their fear for the moment. They want to keep people in a constant state of fear. The fear-exploiters want people to be afraid of fear itself. The more the people avoid fear, the stronger the fear-exploiters will be in maintaining and increasing their control and power.
Reflection Questions for Proper 19 (Year C)
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Upcoming Opportunities to Study with The Sustainist and learn more about Holy Currencies and Gracious Leadership:
October 23-27, 2016
Eric H. F. Law
For competent leadership in a diverse changing world