Thought Archive

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fear and Loathing

American newspaper notices in glee:
Riva Kastoryano, an expert on immigration at Sciences Po in Paris, argues that the root of greater apprehension among mainstream Europeans is a fear of the spread of Islam. "Much of the old xenophobia about foreigners in Europe has been recast today as a perception of 'Islamophobia,' " she says.
Slowly, as trust erodes and suspicions mount, attitudes will harden. With yet another bombing (and sadly, there will be more, even if 5 or 10 years down the road) more draconian laws will be passed, limiting freedoms of ethnic and religious minority, not only limiting but halting immigration from specific groups of people. As for people already in Europe -because of practical impossiblity to segregate by religious affiliation - the attitudes will affect the ethnic harmony currently existng in the West. Citizens will accept this limitation on freedoms without a second thought - for they believe, rightly, that protection against perceived attack justifies limitation of certain freedoms.

I have always believed that liberal attitudes are a luxury to be disposed of in real or perceived times of hardship they are as unnatural as feeling of satisfied stomach during a gunfight. I do not wish that repression shall rule over Europe - on the contrary I love freedoms it enjoys - but I note that it is impossible for society not to change as a whole into something humanity is more accustomed to - authoritarism. One can not institute repression against a particular group and hope not to be affected by it. We disentegrate through fear - an ultimate executioner.

The culture of fear rules in the Western media on the subject of Islamic Terrorism, which, although a threat that can not destroy anything beyond few buildings -a destructive and mindless force - reigns supreme in Western mind. I have noticed this based on the overblown reaction on recent Azeri incidents : when I arrived in Baku yesterday there was no agitation, no heightened security or even a worry that thing like this may have happened. And I suspect this is true for many other events in places so that overall the picture is being created of despair, misery and failings around the Globe. I somehow suspect that even in troubled country of Pakistan people live their lives without a worry or second thought, and yet people who are infinitely safer and are protected by hundred a barrier, inexplicably feel unsafe and unsecure in their own homes and under attack. Some people loose sleep at night, others avoid their darker skinned neighbours with the same action they avoid feisty gangs of teenagers - by crossing to the other side of the street. They look at every dark face with suspicion, every beard with fear, every hijab with apprehension. And I would do the same.... Or would I?

9 comments:

Riri said...

This is so true! I felt exactly the same on so many occasions. When I used to live in the UK and go back home to Algeria during university holidays I used to be so scared the terrorists will hijack the plane or something (back in the 90's when Algeria was drawning in Terror). But as soon as I got home, and noticed that people were carrying on with their lives as if nothing is happening, I soon blended in and forgot to feel scared.

I remember realising that fear is something that is very Western. And I don't only mean that their media channels go on about Terror and the threat of Islam 24/7 (thus putting people in a constant mindset of fear and anxiety). After all other countries also have access to such info through the internet for example. I think it is to do with the fact that Westerners have grown so accustomed to their excess freedom and comfort, materialistic pleasures and self-sufficiency that even the remote thought of having them threatened puts them in a state of extreme anxiety and fear. Even if they realise at some level that the threat is probably imaginary. Socially, the West is very weak, even though it enjoy freedoms the rest of us can only dream of (or die for). These freedoms make it more vulnerable to fear than other cultures who simply do not have the luxury of such freedoms (and thus fears of loosing them).

Strange world...

Hazar Nesimi said...

For some inexplicable reason every puny incident(okay potential terrorists got nailed like they deserve, bunch of Saudi-brainwashed morons) gets out of proportion. And then obsess over and over and over until the last screw is in listeners brain. Tomorrow (God Forbid) i may get blown up eventually - by terrorists, or in the car crash. What can I personally do about it? Nothing... so why so much anxiety? I dont think West is very weak socially or morally (at least yet) but it is the media and culture of fear makes them think this way - so it may become a self fullfilling prophecy. And when the time is nigh they will exchange their freedoms for protection and - voilas, this will be the end of their liberal society. It may happen with anyone who lives in fear.

Riri said...

Yes but why are they so terrified? I really wonder...Compared with other countries who are living through hell literally, the West just seems unproportionately scared. Or is it only a trick? Maybe only they realise what is really at stake (having had it)...but very few seem to care that it would be more worthwhile to overcome fear and absolutely cling on to their freedoms, you cannot have both excessive security and excessive freedom.

NoolaBeulah said...

I agree that the fear is excessive, and that the biggest danger lies in our over-reactions. The threat is real, but limited, and though it will go on for quite some time yet, in physical terms it is unlikely to be more than an inconvenience (and one probably vastly inferior to that caused by the global warming hysteria).

There are more dangerous possibilities, but I would like to turn to the subject of our "excessive freedom and comfort". How do you arrive at "excessive" as a characterisation? Are you talking about political freedoms, or other types? Historically, yes, they are a luxury, but they are one that any people who could have them, would have them. As with the comforts. Or do you think not?

One part of the fear is the irrationality of the threat. Bombers are one thing; they've always been around. Suicide bombers are altogether another.
A political mentality based on compromise and the rational pursuit of self-interest has great difficulty in dealing with those whose approach is the denial of both. But is this weakness? I'm not sure. It's just that I struggle to imagine a system that could take account of the suicide bomber, and certainly I wouldn't want any part of it.

Riri said...

I meant excessive in the hysterical sense. The west seems to overamplify everything, it's as if mass hysteria is a very desirable result somehow. You mentioned global warming, that's another good example of what I would call excessive reaction. Even if the threat is major, so what. A rock could hit the Earth tomorrow and that would be that, end of hysteria. I sometimes find our fear of death pathetic. When it is that excessive (hysterical) it's even more so, because how hysterical you are will certainly not prevent it from striking. And it is quite a random process. Life must go on. I think it might be hysteria over life which leads people to hysterically apprehend death. We will never have enough of life, but we must die and that's that. People and animals die all over the planet and some go extinct. What is the big deal eh? Why is it so much more frightning to feel the possibility of the same happening to us anytime? Are we somehow more significant? I think not.

Riri said...

I should also add that the view that "as long as death does not strike here then everything will be alright" is deluded. If it is somehow OK for a suicide bomber to strike thousands of miles away, then it would perfectly be possible for them to strike anywhere. Suicide bombing is not a pathological disease however, it is a psychological reaction to hysterical desperation, absolute hopelessness and resentful attention seeking. Random gun shootings are another manifestation of the same psyghological disorder. The actual pathological disease is Human Injustice & Cruelty.

Hazar Nesimi said...

Hysterical sense is because the value of life in the west is much higher than anyehere else in the world - even in relatively affluent China (my friend who leaves Shanghai tells me "horror" stories about attitute to life there)or Japan, or careless Russia, where people frown on seatbelt wearers and drink to death. So in a way, trying to fight fear of death that religion instilled in people, the modern society somehow arrived to an extreme fear of death. The life is valued as a thing in itself and valued so highly that anything remotely threatening it is treated with horror. It is much more poignant to realize that there is nothing awaiting us on the other side and that disease and death are to be fought and postponed as much as possible. Modern (or shall I say some) people are hysterical about every single thing - global warming, MMR vaccine, superbugs, pedofiles. SO much paranoia, if you read Daily Mail...

riri said...

I don't think valued is the proper word. If it was really so, wars would not be started so easily. People just care about themselves, especially when they are living in luxuary. The trouble is you cannot apply double standards, either life for all or death for all. You will always get desperate people who want everyone else including themselves to die because they project their problems or the cause of their problems on others who are better off. My point is, even total seclusion or a switch to a surveillance state will not help matters much, it will make things worse on the one side as democracy will be demeaned and on the other side, desperate people who in their heads think you are the cause of their troubles will keep strapping themselves to bombs and trying to blow the whole planet up.

NoolaBeulah said...

Hazar is right about the way concern for each individual life is transformed into paranoia. It almost becomes an assumption that all that the world can offer us is actually owed to us, or rather to me. Which means that it should be guaranteed. And which is the organisation we then look to so that our life and lifestyle be guaranteed? The government.

This is weakening because it is a surrender of self-reliance (what capitalism was built on) and it is a refusal to acknowledge risk and chance.

I think your last sentence is bang on, Riri.