A Fear That Protects

     With all due respect to the late Frank Herbert, fear is an innate capability of the human animal. It’s not always purely negative; it’s often protective. In the latter instances, it might be best to respect and heed it. Of course, what it protects is the only valid measure of whether to face it…or fight it.

     Some things do not deserve protection. Illusions are among them. So are the purveyors of illusions, regardless of their motives for doing so.

     Another thing that doesn’t deserve protection is your aversion to disapproval. There are innumerable persons who’ll sneer at you, exclude you, and possibly slander you to others for the heinous crime of disagreeing with them. Many who would qualify as adults by the usual measures quail at such disapproval. They fear it as if it were something that could actually wound them.

     This is on my mind today because of two pieces – one recent, one rather old – that deal with such matters. The first is Will Briggs’s recent piece on the several purveyors of illusions. The merest snippet:

     Journalists are chosen for their gullibility, obsequiousness, lack of all scruples, ability to lie, and the quality of possessing no memory for past misstatements and having no compunction to self-contradict themselves with great regularity while beaming perfect sincerity. They are bad people.

     Never trust anything a Regime journalist says, whether he calls himself progressive, woke, or conservative.

     Please read the whole thing. Briggs cuts through the fog of equivocations, tu quoque defenses, and mistaken attributions of expertise and motives with a white-hot scalpel. I couldn’t improve on his prose if I were to spend the rest of the week at it.

     The second is this old plaint from Scott Aaronson, cited at Slate Star Codex, the nadir of which is only five words long:

     [E]veryone’s free choice demands respect.

     WTF, over? How does anyone’s “choice,” regardless of the subject at issue, “deserve” anything? Yes, we should respect freedom of choice itself. But the actual choices others make deserve nothing, except perhaps tolerance – and in some cases not even that.

     Yet many fear what would happen were they not to approve, openly and explicitly, the choices of others. Indeed, there’s been a huge campaign to elicit and intensify such fears, even when some of the “choices” involve actual crimes against others.

     There’s a gag-trope that’s been making the rounds for quite a while now:

     The questionable grammar aside, it’s a sentiment with which I feel some sympathy. But it doesn’t address the root of the thing, which is our fear of others’ disapproval. Those who are determined to use you will make use of that fear to the greatest possible extent.

  • Friends fear their friends’ disapproval.
  • Husbands fear their wives’ disapproval.
  • Children fear their parents’ disapproval.
  • Employees fear their employers’ disapproval.
  • Homeowners fear their neighbors’ disapproval.
  • And far too many of us fear pollsters’ disapproval.

     Which of those fears do you share, Gentle Reader? Do you think they’re protecting you from anything genuinely fearsome?

     Address each of those common fears and ask yourself: Why shouldn’t they fear my disapproval? Why should I be on the “receiving end?” It’s a mind-opener.

     The most egregious cases pertain to purveyed illusions. There are a lot of them in circulation today. If someone is trying to get you to accept and possibly parrot an illusion, he’s either deluded or evil. There are no other explanations. And never mind that such persons are likely to claim that you’re either stupid or evil; that’s just a reassertion of their disapproval of you in stronger terms.

     Ironically, the best protection against being manipulated by the fear of others’ disapproval is another fear, one that few people ponder these days: the fear of losing your self-respect. For one who is manipulable in that fashion and is aware of it cannot respect himself. And here we encounter yet another irony: to protect ourselves from that awareness, we contrive illusions of our own:

  • “I have to fit in.”
  • “Got to stay on his good side.”
  • “It’s the way things are these days.”
  • “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”
  • “I wouldn’t want to create the wrong impression.”

     …et cetera ad nauseam infinitam. But one who respects himself doesn’t make excuses for being bullied – and that is what manipulations through the fear of disapproval really are.

     He made, in his inexperience, the classic mistake: he tried to explain. Life had not yet taught him how futile that approach is, with men and women alike. He did not know that the only respect-compelling attitude toward any accusation, true or false, is “Take me or leave me as I am, and be damned!” – Frank Yerby, An Odor of Sanctity

     Do you really need anyone else’s approval?


    • Evil Franklin on May 24, 2023 at 8:54 AM

    “Take me or leave me as I am, and be damned!” Switches safety off on his AR15.

    Evil Franklin

    • Werner on May 24, 2023 at 11:55 AM

    Gavin DeBecker wrote The Gift of Fear; he points out that fear is a necessary survival instinct – pay attention to it. But his focus was on brain-stem alerts due to physical danger.   I do concur that we don’t need to manufacture specious fear of selected items, or render undue attention to those whom Heinlein called, “Mrs Grundy.”
    I am getting damned fed up with a lot of this tolerance of evil wearing a thin shawl of  “being nice.”

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