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The Culture Of Fear

Why Are We Scared?
Why Are We Scared?

Why are we so scared?

I grew up with the traditional French fears: fascism and globalization. They were easy targets, and fighting back included chanting socialist songs in demonstrations, keeping an eye on the Front National—the French far-right political party—and watching old French movies to thwart Hollywood’s plans to take on the world. The enemies were white supremacists, easy to spot with their shaved head, military boots and cans of Kronenbourg beers in their (right) hand. Or fat American idiots who thought France was some backward and remote country without electricity but great vines and sexy women.

It was that easy. The rest of the world (which we didn’t care about much anyway) was a relatively peaceful place and France was still great and powerful (in our dreams).

And one day, it became more complicated. Suddenly, we were scared of having sex. Even (French) kisses were out of a question, thanks to a new disease that was going to kill us all: AIDS. Homosexuals died, drug addicts died, and apparently we would too if we weren’t careful. Or so said the nurses and doctors who came at school and taught us all that we needed to know about the virus. At the age of ten, we knew—in theory—what a threesome was, and whether a blow job would put us at risk. So much for French romanticism…

Soon after, the infected blood scandal burst out and so did people’s trust in the government and in hospitals. And then, the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (Mad Cow Disease) was discovered and most started to question the food industry. We also noticed that transgenic food was getting quite widespread, and while activists burned genetically-modified field crops, we would squint to read the labels, hoping to eat healthy and stay alive. No sex, no food. That was getting quite fun.

As if inspecting your lovers and your food altogether wasn’t enough, politics were getting a bit scary too. The fascists. Them, again. Suddenly, they weren’t just young skinheads anymore, but respectable people, workers, immigrants even, who feared unemployment and others immigrants. Insecurity became the main world, a quick blanket term for a variety of symptoms: second generation immigrants identity crisis (and sometimes plain stupidity)? Insecurity. A bus driver bullied? Insecurity. Unemployment rate raising? Insecurity. People being sick after eating in a local—ethnic, that goes without saying—restaurant? Insecurity. Oh, excuse me. “Food” insecurity.

The simple act of living is getting quite dangerous. A new disease seems to be discovered every day, and of course, prevention methods follow: a bunch of sponsored pills to swallow and a healthy lifestyle (Subway, eat fresh?) to adopt. For “home insecurity”, a new alarm and a big fucking gun (where legal, of course—we wouldn’t want you to break the law, but think of your wife and your kids…). For “work insecurity”, there’s only one way amigo, work work and don’t complain, don’t join a union and walk straight, think straight. And while we’re at it, don’t commute to work (you want to get stab or what?): buy a huge SUV and drive.

And then we found yet another reason to be scared. Terrorism and terrorists. Bombs in subways, planes crashing into buildings. Fear is fed 24/7 on TV, on radio, through press conferences and editorials. They want to kill us all, they want to destroy our civilization, they are our enemies. Words, facts, news and data are carefully edited and twisted to make us fear the world and the unknown. “Tomorrow, light snow, some sunshine in the evening and severe risk of terrorist attack—please don’t go outside after dark.”

Meanwhile, we vote for the guy who has a quick fix. “I’ll bomb them all! I’ll send these immigrants back home and you will get your jobs back! No more poor people around, we’ll get rid of them!”

Oh, that helps. But we are so busy being scared that we don’t think anymore. Lately, we have been accepting almost everything blindly.

You know what? I’m tired. I’m tired of being scared, and I’m tired of being shown new things to be scared of.

I’m done. Done being scared.

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