In #26, May 21, 2009, I mentioned an adventure on which I was about to embark: hooking into something called a webinar on “The Fear Factor: A briefing on communication and messaging from U.S. in the World”. This session was taking place in some conference room in Washington D.C.
Apparently at roughly the same time, in the same city, President Obama was making a major speech on essentially the same topic relating to Guantanamo; and former Vice-President Cheney was trying to blunt the Presidents case in yet another speech at the American Enterprise Institute. It was an interesting day, yesterday.
I am of the doofus generation, at least in a technological sense: a Webinar was something novel and largely incomprehensible to me.
Nonetheless, I managed to follow the appropriate instructions, figured out how to put my cell phone on speaker mode, and got my computer linked so that I could watch the speakers power-point, including her occasional small errors in going to the wrong slide, or such.
(The power-point, with captions, can be accessed here http://www.connectusfund.org/resources/managing-fear-factor-briefing-us-world)
That the speaker and in-house audience was invisible to me and sounded somewhat tinny was a relatively small problem. I got the gist of it.
The time on the webinar was well spent, though there are only so many new ways to make a presentation about Fear.
Fear is obviously a saleable commodity, and a dominant emotion in homo sapiens (and other vertebrates) brains. It is survival mode, the bare basics on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The speaker described as the “stone age brain”, and it is tempting to ascribe to the others whose views I oppose the inferior intellectual status of Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
But I have seen plenty of fear-based behavior amongst the good (and intellectually superior, of course) people with whom I most often associate. And I’m in the same kettle as everyone else…. We’re all susceptible to Fear. We just fear different things in different ways.
So, the speaker talked about “fears world view”, a view in which the “stone age brain” assesses situations as it would if its owner was in a schoolyard tussle with a bully; in a rough and tumble “wild west” scenario; or as it sees or imagines things out there in the “urban jungle”. These are all examples of places “where the normal rules don’t apply” and where everyone has to watch out for him or her self.
In these kinds of situations, the sense of community is very restricted: trusting even the good next door neighbor might be a stretch. “Me against the world” might be a good phrase.
The message I picked up from the Webinar is that the best course is simply to acknowledge that fear is a reality for all of us, and it is nothing to lecture or belittle people about. People who are fearful are not stupid or crazy. Fear just is. And other tactics need to be explored to deal with the political tendency to rachet fear up as a useful “us vs them” tactic.
There is plenty of good material available about the topic, beginning with those references noted in #26 for May 21. Do take the time to take a look at these references.