Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Role of Fear in Politics

At Grist there's a dispute over the role of fear. Glen Hurowitz summarizes and posts in defense of fear, using the reasoning that fear overcomes apathy. He winds up by saying, first you scare people then you give them hope.

I understand the logic, and maybe even agree on an individual basis--emotions seem to serve the role of overcoming inertia: fear, love, hate, jealousy--they all counteract our tendencies to stay in ruts (particularly strong for me).

As a matter of fact, it's almost the same formula as revivalists use, you scare people with hell, with reminders of their own wickedness, loneliness, whatever, then you offer them hope with the grace of God. It's been working for centuries.

But on a social level I resist. Glen's formula can be generalized; politicians strive to stir emotion (whether it's mocking rivals or disrespecting them, as can be seen this week, and last week)
then offer hope. So it's the way the world works, and environmentalists have as much right to do this as anyone else.

I dislike conflict, which means I dislike emotion, which means I seek refuge in the Progressive's dream (actually the culmination of the Enlightenment) that reason can dissolve all conflicts and create the millennium. That's one reason why computers/software are/were so attractive to me; I have the idea that the proper system design can satisfy everyone. (And fail to remember the law of 2 out of 3: software can be cheap, good, or quickly done.)

So should we worry about vanishing ice? Yes. Should we act? Yes. But humans are going to muddle through for a while longer, even if we don't do exactly what activists want.

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