.

The Only Thing to Fear

What prevents us from engaging in meaningful, honest and open discourse about deeply held opinions? What do we fear in this regard?

Fear is not only a motivator terrorists employ. Many of us are told when young that we must be (overly) concerned with what others think of us, worried about their opinion ... to fear for one's reputation.

We are taught the shame of being seen as "inappropriate," of standing out as an anomaly in the otherwise homogenous group. I think we can add to this now, as privacy has been taken and given away, and as civil liberties are being removed, that many say less and less for fear they might recorded, overheard, that rumor might spread calling investigative attention ... and that our well-being could be jeopardized purely on the basis of what we read, who we speak with or what our stated positions may be.

The former fear I think of as "What would the neighbors say?" This fear is a powerful motivator towards a kind of mediocrity of existence, and while it has it's good points (I don't want my urban neighbor to keep chickens in her apartment), we tend to work too hard on maintaining images of normalcy at the expense of creativity. This fear is spirit killing to greater or lesser degrees.

The second fear, of some sort of repressive authorities, may prove to be a less neurotic concern. If, however, we can not speak honestly in the country that touts freedom, if we must fear some sort of punishment, direct or covert, from taking stands on issues that are deeply significant to ourselves, then this is not the America I was taught to love ... it has been sold to people I do not respect and have no desire to serve. As a father of two great kids, I have fielded the stories having to do, in essence, with the pressure to blend in with the group.

My daughter clearly has felt that appearing to be too smart will reduce her attractiveness in general and my son believes to some extent that wearing Abercrombie shirts will give him a certain stamp in some sort of social club. These are normal experiences many of us have had and so, may be easy to brush off. Yet, I remember the sort of shame in having convinced my parents to buy a cheap version of "the right sort of" boots in high school (this was the 70s, Frye harness boots) and being ridiculed in my knockoffs.

My family could not afford Fryes. Much more destructive — how many bright girls have been persuaded to dumb down, to put their beautiful lights of intelligence under the proverbial bushel? How much has been lost to these people and how much has been lost to the world? Even small fears may evolve into spirit killing. Blogs are relatively new portals, a sort of pub counter of the noosphere where we gather to speak our minds.

As in pubs, a (virtual) community evolves of the bloggers, the regulars (respondents) and, we assume, ten times as many who remain in the shadows, either believing their two cents are worthless than the others two pennies or, afraid to make their opinions known.

By the way, it's not only the silent who are afraid to make their opinions known. Or, I shoud put that another way ... while their are many who like to state their opinions — there are many who simultaneously do not want it known that these are their opinions. Consequently many take on "noms de blog," fake names, nicknames, partial names, etc. They are afraid, maybe rightly so, that their boss might run across the blog, that people will figure out who they are, that the person they are arguing with might look them up and worse, might track them down. Hence, many boldly throw out their true thoughts, but from behind bushes or walls.

Retribution is probably an archetypal fear. The fear of punishment or retribution is the effect underpinning all law. If you don't obey X then Y will happen. Y is always a negative value. Without negative consequences put in place by our cultures, for a fact, rules would be broadly ignored as humans applied their situational and varied ethics. However, the extrapolation or perversion perhaps of this set of penalties is it's repressive use by any government or power in preventing a populace or a person, from following and making known their beliefs (assuming they aren't in the realm of hate crimes, extreme perversity, etc).

There are many defined fears that play into both categories of fear I have mentioned. Look at this selection, an ABC of fears that may factor in one's decision to refrain from stating opinions publicly or from engaging in honest and open public discourse.

  • Allodoxaphobia: Fear of opinions.
  • Catagelophobia: Fear of being ridiculed.
  • Doxophobia: Fear of expressing opinions or of receiving praise.
  • Eleutherophobia: Fear of freedom.
  •  Epistemophobia: Fear of knowledge.
  • Eremophobia: Fear of being oneself or of loneliness.
  • Gelotophobia: Fear of being laughed at.
  • Glossophobia: Fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak. Hamartophobia: Fear of sinning.
  • Heresyphobia or Hereiophobia: Fear of challenges to official doctrine or of radical deviation.
  • Ideophobia: Fear of ideas.
  • Katagelophobia: Fear of ridicule.
  • Mastigophobia: Fear of punishment.
  • Neophobia: Fear of anything new.
  • Ophthalmophobia: Fear of being stared at.
  • Phronemophobia: Fear of thinking.
  • Poinephobia: Fear of punishment
  • Prosophobia: Fear of progress.
  • Psychophobia: Fear of mind.
  • Rhabdophobia: Fear of being severely punished or beaten by a rod, or of being severely criticized.
  • Social Phobia: Fear of being evaluated negatively in social situations.
  • Sociophobia: Fear of society or people in general.
  • Sophophobia: Fear of learning.
  • Tropophobia: Fear of moving or making changes.
  • Verbophobia: Fear of words.

I found the selection enlightening, a variety of angles on the theme of what promotes silence and hiding, on the one hand, or an effort to at least promoteboneself as one of the herd. Your thoughts are invited, openly or from whatever distance you prefer. Are you afraid? Do we have good reason to fear? What should we fear if anything? What prevents you from publicly speaking your mind?

And yes ... there is a fear of fear: Phobophobia. Widely promoted by a man named Roosevelt in an inaugural speech ... it is germane in this discussion to the extent we may avoid any situation or engagenet where fear might raise it's frightening head.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

H.E. Pennypacker September 12, 2012 at 02:44 PM
One winter a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. "Oh," cried the Farmer with his last breath, "I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel."
Brian Carlson September 12, 2012 at 09:32 PM
That's a nice tale and like most, has some sensible application. I think the challenge with tales and maxims is we often collect those that reinforce what we decided to do prior in any case. The same may be said of Bible verses, sutras and surrahs. We know that we need to be compassionate and that we need compassion, or have needed it.
mau September 12, 2012 at 10:07 PM
As my son often tells his father when they are working on a project together "you are over-thinking it".
Brian Carlson September 13, 2012 at 01:32 AM
This is what professors do.
$$andSense September 13, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Don't forget hoplophobia. Lot's of hoplophobics around, I have been told.

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