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Politics

The politics of fear, then and now

Since the beginnings of civilization, humans have engaged in conflict with one another. This has been the case since we first coalesced into tribes and began settling in different areas on the planet. As tribes competed for areas where they could thrive and flourish, the concept of warfare developed.

At first warfare was used only as a means of survival as groups vied for sustenance. As warfare evolved, so did the means to implement it. This is probably when the first seeds of conquest were planted.

Someone once said that when man invented the wheel, he probably immediately started trying to figure out how to weaponize it. Whether or not this is true of our early ancestors is not certain, but judging from the track record of modern man with revolutionary inventions and discoveries, it could have very well been the case.

As civilizations developed and populations grew, the need for expansion grew as well. This often led to the eviction or attempted eviction of neighboring groups and the occupation of their land. At this point the defeated were killed and driven off while the victors enjoyed the spoils. Eventually the idea of enslavement would grow from those early seeds of conquest after it was realized that there was benefit in allowing some of the conquered to survive.

One boon to this was that by relegating the menial tasks to slaves, it freed up manpower to engage in more conquest. Thus began the cycle of warfare, conquest and expansion. The time would eventually come when this cycle would give rise to nations.

Let us now move forward to modern times. Humanity has indeed flourished. We have accomplished miraculous things from advancements in medicine to the exploration of outer space and unlocking secrets of the atom. Yet in spite of these achievements, a darkness remains among us that harkens back to a time in our distant past.

When tribes were conquered and assimilated and ultimately melded into nations, it created a problem. Obviously most of the vanquished did not share the aspirations of their conquerors, and even some among the conquerors likely did not share them as well.

In order for a nation to continue to thrive, a common denominator was needed. It was soon discovered that in the absence of a true threat, one of the best ways to incite people to aggression and/or exercise control over them was through fear. Since then, populations of the world have constantly lived in some form of fear.

Fear is a handy tool when in the hands of a capable applicator. Its razor-sharp double edge can be used to incite aggression even as it is simultaneously used to control the masses.

Modern history has shown us what the politics of fear are capable of. From the enslavement of a people to the sanctioned extermination of an entire race, the tool of fear has been used against us. From the stifling of free speech to the abridgment of human rights, fear has dominated the lives of many.

It has spurred us into wars under the guise of pre-emption and tricked us into the oppression of our fellow human beings. It has seeped into every corner of our civilization and many times poisoned our reasoning as well as paralyzed our judgment, as it continues its mission in the service of those who desire to see despair and subjugation. The politics of fear inspires escalation which leads to the proliferation of weapons of warfare to stave off the perceived threat. This has ultimately led to conflict many times.

Even here in America where no foreign army of occupation has ever set foot since its establishment, we are not immune. Here in the US we are certainly familiar with the anomalous specter of the "bogeyman." Although it has taken on many forms, its purpose and premise remains essentially the same.

In a perfect world, people should be able to live and let live without the prospect of conquest or hostility ever coming up. Sadly, this is far from a perfect world, and the threat of oppression is a very real possibility, therefore the need for defense against it is certainly legitimate. So where does the solution lie?

Is it in escalation, where we engage in a race to be the first to procure devastating weapons of mass destruction to discourage belligerence? Does it lie in steadfast resistance to aggression by refusal to be controlled and enslaved? Or does the solution lie somewhere between these two?

So what would happen if that oppressive entity happened to be one's own government? There are many people right here in America who believes our government has turned on us or could possibly do so at some point in the near future. But why would it turn against its own people? It would have to be for the purpose of control over them because it would serve no purpose for a government to kill off its citizens simply for the sake of doing so.

However, it is more likely that a rogue government would target a certain group of people rather than its entire population unless that population has already been subdued. In a country like the US, more surreptitious and insidious means to enslave would have to be used. An outright direct assault on our freedoms would surely be met with stiff resistance... Or would it?

For instance, how many would throw in the towel when the government nationalized the energy and food industries and began rationing these only to "good" citizens? And all those guns would eventually become virtually useless once it took over the arms industry and put a stranglehold on replacement parts and bullets.

When these issues arise, Tiananmen Square and the lone soul facing down that column of tanks comes to mind. He had no weapons or body armor. All he had was his outrage and his courage.

Surely there are some who will say that it was foolhardy or if those people had been armed they would not have been so miserably crushed by government forces. However, had those soldiers not been so overcome by the politics of fear, they would have had the courage not to fire on their unarmed countrymen.

So is armed resistance really the key to preventing oppression from one's own government? Or does the answer lie more with a government that rules by the law and not above it?

Only by respect for others and adherence to the rule of law by all can we ever hope to have peace. And above all, we can never let ourselves fall victim to the politics of fear.

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