But Fear Itself

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

We live in a time of fear and anger, whipped into frenzies of racism, disillusionment and plain ill-informed views. It is now easier to be angry and ignorant than it is to remain calm – informed but indignant. Newspapers and politicians alike play the blame game, and it’s seeping into our society with dangerous consequences. All too often we look for the simple solution, the black and white, right and wrong perspective, and all too often they fall short. We no longer live in a simple world, but a world whose very conditions are guaranteed by a complex web of socioeconomic factors which boggle even the most adept mind. And yet, we persevere. We continue to search for the simple answers, the ones which do not lead to radical change or challenge the ideas that we have known as ‘fact’ for so long, even though they have ceased to benefit the common good.

The bipartisan press is slowly losing its grip upon the world of journalism and news; no longer can a paper have one uniform political ideology, but is made up of journalists from all creeds, all classes, who possess every possible viewpoint imaginable. The press is becoming ever more diverse.

And yet, it isn’t. Huge conglomerates such as News Corp dictate the news in countries across the globe – the UK, Australia, the United States. These companies’ owners, such as Rupert Murdoch, wield such a degree of power that prime ministers and presidents are left in desperation for their endorsement.  The papers should reflect the beliefs of the people, not dictate to the people the beliefs they should adopt. These corporate oligarchs hold such diverse holdings in banking downtowndesign, fossil fuels and countless other morally ambiguous industries that they seek to shield them from disrepute and questioning, and so when the questioning must begin, we’re distracted by illusory issues.

Noam Chomsky writes, “the smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

This is our society today. All you need to affirm this statement is keep track of headlines and stories in newspapers – broadsheet and tabloid alike – and track the frequency of statements about immigrants, about the European Union, and about benefit scroungers and cheats. Or read left-leaning papers or blogs, and you’ll see a myriad of outcries against bankers, banks, the establishment and health privatisation. All of these issues are inherently important; all, to some degree, need to be discussed, but the open ideological battle of the 70s has slowly shifted into something far more dangerous. Our pursuit of moral absolutes has led to, on the left and right, the absolute branding of demographics – all immigrants are benefit-scrounging no gooders, all bankers are greedy and self-protecting asshats. These are not truthful stereotypes, nor should we continue to promote such stereotypes. We can also see this in television, especially on the popular politics show, Question Time – immigration, banking and the zeitgeist topic of the week have become so frequent that a show that should be about politics and discussion has descended into nothing more than a shouting match.

Politicians today promote this “Politics of Fear”. UKIP is a party of fear, for those too scared to imagine a better future and instead wish to hark back to a ‘better’ past. Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all choose to adopt UKIP’s narrative, giving it unfounded legitimacy while shooting themselves in both feet, and walking a tightrope of voters’ approval. Labour seek the easy target of big business while Conservatives continue a vendetta against immigrants and the working poor, only increased by the pressure they’re feeling from UKIP. We (the public) and they (the politicians) prefer this system.

This simple class allegiance to parties made life simple,  and it’s crumbling all around us. With the Greens on the left, UKIP on the right and the Lib Dems sat in a corner crying somewhere, there are more and more legitimate alternative parties that can cater to voters’ needs. Parties such as the Greens, and public figures such as Russell Brand (ish), are encouraging positive political thought and cooperation between people with differing beliefs and this benefits us all. In this past week we’ve seen David Cameron, our prime minister, and George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, accuse the BBC of hyperbole for interpreting figures in a manner that is unkind to them. Their accusations of dishonesty and untruths stink of hypocrisy; it is completely legal for an MP to lie in the Houses of Parliament when discussing a bill. Elections live and die due to the hypothetical dangers one party could pose in power. This system, of choosing our leaders down to fear, not hope, looks set for the foreseeable future.

We must strive to remove ourselves from this politics of fear and self. No longer can we view the world as a simple black and white place, full of heroes and villains. People are people – nothing more, nothing less, and very few people are ever truly evil. We’re all pretty fallible, but we must view the world as a world we can improve. One where we will challenge ourselves with the difficult questions, and where we will not shirk from the difficult answers we’re given.

Words by Harry

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