Fear and Trust

12:50 Sat 12 Aug 2006
[, ]

It’s extremely important not to get sucked into a binary “protective government versus evil terrorists” mindset. That dichotomy is false. In truth, the average person in the West is at odds with both the government forces and the people who are trying to blow up planes. Both sides are extremely interested in a fearful populace—the attackers because that’s their point, to make people afraid to try to make them unwilling to continue supporting their governments’ efforts, and the governments because it’s much easier to rule and exploit people who are afraid. And people who are afraid will be much more willing to cede more power to their governments, as we’ve clearly seen since 2001.

The average Westerner is caught in between forces that don’t care about them. The governments are mostly protecting the interests of certain elites, while also occasionally doing what democracy forces them to do. They’re also doing a variety of horrific things abroad that provoke a very angry response. Some of that anger results in attempts like yesterday’s. That anger also, in general, overwhelms voices that might be considered more moderate, so violent extremists gain more power.

Every time violence is done on either side, the extremists will rush to capitalize. “They attacked us! It is clear that we must punish them with violence to protect ourselves!” In addition, they will argue that because we are “under attack”, the norms of civil society cannot apply, and we must give up power to strong figures who claim they will “protect” us. We must give power to them so that they can “protect” us, and very soon they will claim a need to “protect” us not just from the enemy outside but also from enemies inside, essentially from people who argue that we shouldn’t cede so much to these “protectors”… and then we have what is essentially a militarized society engaged in repression and oppression.

The concept of a militarized society is comforting to some, perhaps even many, people. This is because the militarized worldview is reassuringly simple:
There’s us, and then there’s them.
We have to fight them.
Anyone who doesn’t help us fight them is one of them.
We’re good, they’re evil.

It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s comfortable. And if you get enough people who think this way together, it becomes increasingly impervious to contrary evidence, which in turn makes it more comfortable.

Don’t trust anyone who says that violence is the only answer.
Don’t trust anyone who calls for increased militarism.
Don’t trust anyone who says that the rules of law (or war) cannot be applied given the situation, and that increased force in violation of natural justice is required.
Don’t trust anyone who claims that the enemy (whoever they are) “only understands violence”.
Don’t trust anyone who portays the situation simplistically, reducing things to either “good” and “evil” or “them” and “us”.
Don’t trust anyone who claims that killing civilians is justifiable.

Always ask “who benefits?” and do not assume that those in power are constrained by any morality.

Leave a Reply