Posted on | January 12, 2011 | No Comments
We are constantly subjected to fear. Fear of the economic consequences of a closing factory. Fear of the senseless acts of a mass murderer. Fear of corruption, fear of losing our environment to the avaricious hands of multinational corporations. Yet we have never been so safe.
American president Franklin D. Roosevelt declared as he was sworn in that « the only thing we have to fear is fear itself ». There is truth in this: fear isolates us, leads us to avoid others, to stay beyond their reach. However if we wish to stand up and face the great issues of this century, we will depend on others as we never did before.
Thus fear that the local factory will move is a recognition of the simple fact that we have been unable to mobilize ourselves, to cooperate in order to insure our well-being. Fear of mental illness forces us to stigmatize behaviour we do not understand, to reject those who suffer in a manner unknown to us, and ultimately prevents us from recognizing the signs and symptoms which would warn of a coming tragedy. Fear of corruption leads us to play the game as well, to think of ourselves first in foremost for fear of not getting our slice of the pie. Our incapacity to protect the environment is a result of the fear to lose our economical well-being. So fear is not the symptom, but the cause of many evils. We even sacrifice our individual rights for the sake of “war against terror”.
To fear we must respond with empathy. To self interest we must answer with the respect of others. To isolation, with trust. We have the resources and capabilities to insure our economical well-being. We can care for the most fragile members of society, understand them and act in order to prevent violence rather than falling victim to it. We can demand that business be dealt in a manner respectful of all stake-holders and not to the benefit of a single entity. We can make sure that our values, caring for our environment being one of them, are taken into consideration by our business partners, for those who will rise up to the challenge will also benefit from this.
If fear of losing what we have forces us to aim for the lowest common denominator, we will not only certainly lose what we have, but any unrealized potential we may hold. If empathy and respect lead the way, we all win, as individuals and as a society. We will never live in a perfect world of course, but we can clearly aim for a better one.
We are safe. The Age of Fear is over. Welcome to the Age of Empathy.