Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Can Fear be a Useful Tool for Progressives?

David Roberts thinks not.
We will build nothing, create nothing, inspire nothing of worth while in the grip of fear.

It is often said that violence 'sends a message' to this or that recipient. Often the alleged message is about the firmness of our resolve -- 'we really mean it!' We send messages of this nature to the Middle East fairly regularly these days; its inbox is full. Israel sends the message to Lebanon. Russia sends the message to Chechnya. Indonesia sends the message to its separatists. And so on.

This is bullshit of the most pernicious possible sort.

Violence sends no message. This is not merely some kind of moral disagreement or metaphor: Violence has no semantic content. Modern civilization has become expert at laying layer after layer of verbiage atop its violence, but it is all rationalization and justification. At root, everything violence 'says' is captured in the famous words of the Incredible Hulk: 'Hulk smash!'

Victims of violence do not sit back and contemplate what they may have done to prompt it. They do not reconsider or learn lessons. They fight back, or they flee. As I said in earlier posts, fear and anger pull us away from ratiocination. They are the affective equivalent of the fetal position, reducing us to pure ego, pure self-preservation.

Excerpt from the fourth part in a five-part series on Fear and Environmentalism. Long, but worth a read.

Filed Under: reflection

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