[NetBehaviour] The politics of fear and its opposites

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 1 21:06:27 CEST 2020

Hi all,

As the election season ramps up here in the US and we see more and more intimations that the 20's may be a re-run of the 60's, I've been thinking about fear.

Fear, and its attendants division and frenzy, clearly seem to be the core strategy of the right nowadays.  This in itself is very frightening and therefore creates a kind of "strange loop," a disorienting blur of concepts and categories all in real time and physical space.

It made me wonder, what are the counterbalances to fear?  Fear is multifarious and includes one's own, that of one's close friends and family, one's neighbors and fellow citizens, other humans from all over the world.  Fear can be internal and felt personally, or a phenomenon we see in other people but are nonetheless affected by.  Fear is conceptual and physiological, concrete and virtual, and possibly the most ancient of all human instincts (along with hunger, its close cousin).  Many stimuli, internal and external, can affect fear either to exacerbate or ameliorate.  Fear can cause a multiplicity of behaviors, and is a powerful lever of control.

Politically speaking I'm of course reminded of FDR's "nothing to fear but fear itself" and the final lines of Lincoln's Cooper Union speech.

What are some ways to manage fear, reduce its power and effects, and are any of these accessible on political time-frames?  Sometimes it seems to me that fear is as deeply ingrained in our behavioral systems as anything, so I'm not sure if it really can ever be countered.  For myself, and perhaps deludedly, I feel that artistic expression, meditation, diet, sleep, exercise, human connections, and time with nature reduce it.  I'm less sure about what anyone can ever do to reduce anyone else's fear beyond their own, but I also don't feel certain that to do so is never possible.  It seems to be part of mammalian physiology to reassure.  Perhaps a form of agency that could help to alleviate the fear that affect others might be called Hippocratic, and be a fundamental part of the Anthropocene era?  The Hippocratic ethos took shape in classical Greece and bears relationships to the art and literature of that time (and by derivation somewhat perhaps to our own a la Cassie Thornton's Hologram project).

There is also the contrary argument that fear is necessary and right, a proper state of alarm in the face of danger.  If this is so, is there a balance or management of fear that is needed, a flexibility or multiplicity required to preserve best adaptation?

These questions are not rhetorical, as I truly do not know the answers.

All very best wishes and regards,


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