Sunday, September 4, 2011

the fear factor

How long can fear be used as a leadership tool? Lord knows it's common enough among mediocre military commanders and uncertain CEO's, but at what point does the fear of those instilled with fear lose its compelling savor ... or, I imagine, at what point is that fear seen by those who instill it as a drag on the effectiveness in achieving a goal? A (wo)man who is afraid never works to his or her fullest potential because some percentage of his or her good energy is wasted on looking over a shoulder, trying to assure that s/he won't get stabbed in the back. I don't know the answer to such questions but somewhere in the mix, I notice:

-- In Israel, a country that has, like the United States, made a compelling use of fear, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets again to protest the social/financial imbalances that were robbing them of an expected livelihood.

Jonathan Levy, one of the protest organisers, told the BBC: "All the non-rich people in Israel, no matter if they're secular or religious, old or young, realise that we've abandoned some really important battlefields in this country, that is economy, and we only dealt obsessively with security problems."

-- As the the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Towers approaches, The Associated Press has attempted to quantify the arrests and convictions worldwide of those who were more easily (gleefully?) assessed as 'terrorists' in the wake of that horrific event.

The sheer volume of convictions, along with almost 120,000 arrests, shows how a keen global awareness of terrorism has seeped into societies, and how the war against it is shifting to the courts. But it also suggests that dozens of countries are using the fight against terrorism to curb political dissent.

--  In the United States, a costly and enormous series of bureaucracies have been created and paid for post-9/11 as a means of assuring the security of Americans. Assuring security, of course, is another way of underscoring the fact that no one is safe and that the expenditures and sacrifices are worth it.

It's understandable if you've never heard of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created to ensure that the government doesn't go overboard with new terrorism-fighting powers bestowed by the Patriot Act and other counterterrorism measures. The board has no members, no staff, no office.

How different is the human mind or heart from such social structures and perceptions? Seeking security, being afraid of losing what passes for security, building structures to keep danger in check outside the walls? What expenditures and sacrifices are made and in the end the old question comes back to haunt and nag: Who benefits? Is fear and adequate empirical defense against the future? Sometimes yes, sometimes no ... the answers are personal but it seems to me that some note should be taken of the suggestion that ...

What the hell: You've got to die of something. You might as well make it something you find useful and credible on your own terms. If you make a mistake, well, you've made mistakes in the past and survived the fallout. Correct what you can. But even if you don't survive, still you've got to die of something and you might as well make it something you find useful and credible in your terms.

When it comes to leading a peaceful life, fear as a habit or leadership tool is vastly overrated and destructive ... damned near something worth fearing.


  1. Fear seems to be one of those disciplining tools that may work for a while and in some situations to keep us "children" (in a wider sense, who isn’t?) on track or at bay, safe from the consequences of our own actions. Same could be said about religion, law or any set of spiritual or social rules, since the fear factor often plays a part in them. Ultimately though, fear seems to be a poor and wasteful substitute for individual consciousness and awareness, rooted on inner peace, but to get anywhere near that, we need to grow up a lot (with or without the aid of fear), sometimes heal our very deep wounds, especially in such a troubled world.

    A "child" only lies, steals or hurts another because s/he thinks s/he can get away with it. S/he isn't fully aware of the suffering s/he is causing or that s/he is hurting herself, both in the present but also in the longer term. As we mature we realise that we may run away from the consequences of our actions, but we cannot hide forever. Sooner or later, we realise that what we have done and still do to others, we have done and still do to ourselves and what we have done and still do to ourselves we have done and still do to others. Sooner or later, our own consciousness becomes our own judge, teacher, father and mother, and its voice becomes so loud and clear that no longer we can go on pretending we’re not listening.

    Question is, at which point in our lives do we realise that fear-based religion, laws or any external set of rules aren’t enough anymore and that we should follow our own inner voice? At which point in our lives does the same fear factor that, in the past, may have kept us safe on track or at bay, now becomes an obstacle to feeling the inner peace we all need to stop, truthfully listen and follow our own inner voice? At which point in our lives do we decide to grow up? I guess this is an answer that none of us can find in a book or blog. We must find it for ourselves.

  2. Tiago -- The older and lazier I get, the more grateful I become to those who do my work for me. Thanks.