Culture of fear

Fri Oct 10, 2003

I was channel surfing the other morning during breakfast when I came across an episode of Oprah. She was talking about women in their late thirties and forties who were shocked to find out they couldn’t have children anymore. These women focused on their career, got rich and got married and bought six bedroom houses intending to fill them with kids only to find out their biological clocks had timed out and they were infertile. A tragedy attested to by images of sobbing women proclaiming they had missed out on ‘one of life’s miracles’. I was swept up by the whole thing, and was sparking conversations that day with “Hey, did you know a woman’s fertility starts declining at age 27? Did you know 90% of a woman’s finite egg supply are gone by the time you reach 40?”

Nobody was really concerned of course, and looking at the bigger picture I now realize that Oprah was inventing a tragedy (and she does it so well). Where’s the tragedy in these healthy and wealthy, yet rather ignorant, women who failed to educate themselves about their own bodies and thought just because Gina Davis and Madonna are having kids in their forties that they could too? Where’s the tragedy in that with millions of orphans in the world, and millions more with really bad or abusive parents?

Underlying Oprah’s tragic tale is the base emotion that makes these topics seem so compelling: fear. Fear of growing old. Fear of never having children. The same ego-driven fear that seems to permeate much of American society, driving them to segregate themselves, arm themselves and take care of only themselves on the domestic front and to make the insidious kind of pre-emptive strikes and paradoxical ‘peace-keeping’ attacks on other nations we all know about on the international front. I also recently watched the excellent Bowling for Columbine. If you’ve seen it then you know where I’m coming from on the whole culture of fear thing.

It seems erroneous to write off the majority of Americans as ignorant, gun-toting rednecks who care little for international politics and social altruism because they have been driven to madness and rampant consumerism by a blinding fear. A fear carefully nurtured and manipulated through the media and through government propaganda designed to incapacitate it’s population and prevent them from questioning their leadership. A democratic government who never wants the other 50% to vote. A government whose single purpose is to maintain the power imbalance propagated since America’s founding on the backs of slaves. A power imbalance which yokes the world’s poorest countries and extracts their labour and natural resources in a desperate attempt to sustain what is undeniably the most exorbitant and wasteful lifestyle in the world. Yes, this kind of talk this seems to reek of conspiracy theory undertones and the kind of unbridled criticism America is tired of. Sure, it’s not just the States, but they are so easy to pick on. I wish there was some dialogue out there that moved beyond the critique to provide some avenues of real beneficial change for the Western nations of this world. I don’t know what I’m trying to say really. The issue of power imbalances and global disparities has been troubling me for a long time. Especially the fundamental change that has to occur in the mindset of the average citizen of the so-called developed world before they (we) will relinquish our ill-gained power over those we willingly and unwillingly subjugate. I guess I’m intrigued by the idea of addressing somehow this ‘culture of fear’ which seems to enslave and blind so many, and hinder them from being true to their true human nature. A human nature which I believe is fundamentally good, and altruistic and loving. There. I ended on a good note. No-one can accuse me of being a pessimist. Good night.

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