Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fear Factor Ramblings

So, it was brought up recently, how fear of homeless people is one of the great obstacles homeless people face in overcoming homelessness.

And that is very much true.

But is the fear we have of homeless people warranted? And really, is the level of fear we experience in contemporary life warranted?

Sure a certain amount of fear is necessary. It keeps us from doing certain potentially harmful things to ourselves. Fear usually prevents us from jumping off of high cliffs, or from setting ourselves on fire, or from standing in front of someone with a loaded pistol, etc.

That fear is all pretty much rational and obviously natural. We don't need another person to tell us to fear these things. We can figure these things out for ourselves.

But in this day and age, we fear so many other things - things that are not so tangible. Why is that?

Well, I've got a good idea.

Fear is a great motivator. It can move people to do all sorts of things, even to kill. We are currently at war with the most intangible thing, "terrorism." Terrorism is not a flesh and blood thing, it's an idea. And you just can't kill an idea with bullets and bombs - yet that is what we are attempting in Iraq and Afghanistan - and that is exactly why there will never be an end to it. Every time our soldiers kill another insurgent, he misses the target. And a lessening of aggression is not victory, nor a sign that victory is at hand. It only means that these wars will now run a slower pace, perhaps to move to another location at the enemy's discretion.

People in positions of power can only maintain their power so long as they motivate people to follow them and their causes. And since fear is the greatest of motivators, we have a culture of leadership in this country that proscribes to the use of fear to get their way.

In our churches with the biggest congregations, fear is a major, if not overriding, topic. Although they give lip service to the loving grace of God, Leaders in these churches use the fear of damnation as the means to gain converts. And on occasion these church leaders will capitalize on people's fear of poverty, convincing the people in the congregation to hand over their last dollar, as if God was running some kind of spiritual lottery.

And the media will use fear to get people glued to the tv or news outlet, whether on the internet or other media form. In the methods they use to report the news, lead people to believe that crime is right around the corner and at any minute will make them the next victim. And producers of items like rifles and pistols and bullets, and pepper spray and home alarm systems, will do the same. Although the chances of a person being the victim of a home invasion is very small, and that the overwhelming majority of people will never experience such a crime in their lifetime, if you talk to people about it, you will hear them express great fear of it. Just talk to a gun nut - over and over again, they will express the fear that someone is just about to break into their home and "get" them. Of course there is much profit to be had, raising, and then exploiting, the fear of being a victim. And that is why gun manufacturers spend so much money fighting for gun ownership in politics. It's all about the profit. And if it means that people live in excessive fear, then so be it.

So, you take all these fear mongers messages in total and you find that we have created a culture of fear - of excessive fear - causing us to live at a level of fear that is unnatural and unrealistic, and not commensurate with reality.

And so we sequester ourselves to our small little houses in our suburbs, rarely ever venturing out - not even knowing our neighbors very well. It's amazing to me how many people I've talked to who will never come to downtown Nashville, believing it a cesspool of crime and degradation. Of course nothing could be further from the truth - but that is what they've been lead to believe.

Of course who lives downtown, but homeless people.