In the modern world there is much to be fearful of, changing technologies, the job market, war, politics and crime. Our bodies are programmed to respond to fear with ‘fight or flight’ mode, typically life endangering, perhaps an encounter with a saber-toothed tiger. But in the world we now live in we are constantly being bombarded with what Brian Massumi describes as ‘low-grade fears’(3). Is it possible that the accumulation and bombardment of ‘low-grade-fears’ has led to what has been dubbed ‘age of anxiety’.
Fear is all around us and is a concept that dictates many of or beliefs and ideologies. Fear mongering is one of the most powerful methods of control that exists. Fascism explicitly adopts the idea of ‘them and us’ using the concept of the other to install fear into mass population in order to offer a solution to empower the political party. This can be seen in cases such like Hitler’s Nazi party and mass genocide upon the Jews, the homosexual and people with disabilities. What’s quite shocking is the fact that we now live in the 21st century, surely by now we should have learnt from our previous mistakes and understand that the condemnation of an entire race or community is completely damaging, horrific and inhumane. In Europe and the West the political sphere is changing and far right political parties are still adopting this fear ideology. Hubbard in an article, ‘Fear and loathing at the multiplex: everyday anxiety in the post-industrial city’ summarises Sibley’s (1995) notes:
‘Powerful social groups seek to purify ‘their’ streets, making distinctions between Self and Other in the process. Indeed, this ‘exclusionary urge’ has been vividly demonstrated in the way that public urban spaces, often regarded as democratic and open, have become increasingly regulated so that groups and individuals whose lifestyles or appearance is viewed as potentially threatening have had their access to the city severely curtailed. As such, ‘Other’ populations (including the homeless, rowdy teenagers, asylum seekers, beggars, street prostitutes, the mentally ill and so on)’ (2003:61)
Today political party leaders such as Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and even Nigel Farrage play on the fear of others to advance themselves in the political sphere. Donald Trump has been successful in his endeavour to ‘Make America great again’, using this rhetoric to imply that he has all the answers to take back the control of the country and concur terrorist organisations and put the people of his country as the main concern. There is one significant problem with this rhetoric, Trump claims to bring back economic growth to America by reintroducing more industrial jobs, this is so problematic due to the changing technologies of the world, physical industrial jobs just don’t exist in such huge quantities anymore due to the worldwide introduction of machines. The problem we have here is that, some far right thinkers are programmed to believe that immigrants or ‘the other’ are here to ‘steal’ jobs from nationals, thus striking more fear into the mass population. In reality people who come to western countries in search of a better life are more likely to take on jobs that are considered dissatisfactory to the majority of the population, for low wages and long hours. Political leaders like Trump place too much blame on the other when the issues are much more economic and in a globalized world this is sincerely problematic. This is particularly damaging to the identities of those that are being cast as the Other, in this case it would be important to talk about Muslims. With the fall of Catholicism, Islam is slowly becoming one of the biggest religion based communities in the world. Trump’s persistent demonization of Muslims because of small terrorist groups like ISIS and with executive actions like the Muslim travel ban is really problematic due to the mass media attention he receives. To quote Baumann, living in an age of uncertainty, ‘whatever happens in one place has a bearing on how people in all other places live, hope or expect to live.’ (2007:6).
One would hope that in more economically developed countries we would use this to help people in need, but with the Syrian refugee crisis it’s shocking and gut wrenching to know that services and privileges we have aren’t being shared out to people who need it most due to fear. In such a time of uncertainty we can only hope for progressive politics and acceptance which will overcome the fear of the unknown.
Bauman, Z. (2007) Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty Cambridge: Polity Press
Hubbard, P. (2003) ‘Fear and loathing at the multiplex: everyday anxiety in the post-industrial city’. Capital & Class 27 (2)
Massumi, B. (ed.) (1993) The Politics of Everyday Fear, (University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis).
May, R. (1950) The Meaning of Anxiety, (The Ronald Press Company: New York).