Resisting the forces of fear


Turn, turn any corner
Hear, you must hear what the people say
You know that somethin’ is goin’ on around here
It surely, surely, surely won’t stand the light of day… no

Speak out, you got to speak out against the madness
You got to speak your mind, if you dare

It’s been a long time comin’
It’s going to be a long time gone
But you know the darkest hour
Is always, always just before the dawn
Lyric – Long Time Gone – Crosby, Stills & Nash

What intrigues me most about my behaviour, though I must confess it’s the behaviour of most people, is my willing acceptance of authoritarian pronouncements. My willingness to concede to the dictates of a voice of authority without questioning it. More intriguing is my willingness to dumb myself down and not speak out even when I know that I do not agree with what is being said.
We are all under constraint. There are challenges to our freedom of expression. Everyone is fearful. We live in fear even of our own longstanding friends and social groups with whom we interact regularly. We are careful while speaking, and this is true for everyone without exception. We’re on tenterhooks about saying something or expressing a view that may be misunderstood.
This is not a good time, especially for writers who like to tell the truth. Writers have to negotiate their way carefully like tightrope walkers between two swaying coconut palms in a high wind.
What keeps me and most of us from openly disagreeing with declarations that are obviously wrong; why don’t we openly disagree or speak out and air our point of view?
It’s simply because we fear going against the will of the majority who do not think deeply about anything. We fear rocking the boat, capsizing it and going under. We fear the unthinking, and the ‘shiftless-non-thinkers’* that surround us.
‘Shiftless-non-thinkers’* is a phrase I coined to describe the sheeplike in ‘The Journey – Battle with the Thought People’ in Passive activist. Active pacifist. “Shiftless-non-thinkers are the most disturbing. They are unable to see things in perspective. They stop thinking at a point… a self-imposed point which they do not or cannot go beyond, yet they are self-satisfied… Yet the shiftless-non-thinkers are wily enemies… by being masters of disguise and accomplished impersonators; sometimes disguised as academics, sometimes as artists, or as musicians, or as technocrats, or as writers, or as scientists, or as historians, acquaintances and co-workers; the shiftless-non-thinkers could occupy anybody’s body. Intelligent and reasonable people are vastly outnumbered by shiftless non-thinkers, and so, yes, they should be feared; they are dangerous because they can’t be reasoned with.”
I do not disagree openly and without fear with the rising culture of intolerance that prevails across the country, I fight with my conscience and find it hard to surrender to my own insecurities and submerge my identity and thoughts with the intellectually incapable masses and be part of a herd.
I am not alone with my fears or my reluctance to speak out or write about what I have in my mind, other thinking people of conscience also do not, due to what is called ‘Learned helplessness’, Wilful blindness and Amor fati.
Learned helplessness is an abject and helpless acceptance of our perceived absence of control to act and speak out to avoid confrontation with the agent or factor that caused unpleasantness.
Wilful blindness is the other escape route of most thinking people who do not wish to take responsibility for themselves and which I too resort to.
Wilful blindness as author Margaret Heffernan describes it, is, “pervasive cognitive and emotional mechanisms by which we choose, sometimes consciously but mostly not, to remain unseeing in situations where ‘we could know, and should know, but don’t know’ because it makes us feel better not to know.”
Wilful blindness is what most privileged people in the country I live in, practice. This Insulates and keep us guilt free.
Amor Fati, Latin for “Love of Fate”, or “Love of one’s own fate” is when we accept the view that we are not in control of our own lives and that we are merely actors, acting out a predestined, pre-written and perhaps divine, script.
“It’s a mindset that promotes the acceptance of what is, which, in itself, reduces our capacity to struggle—because struggle is nothing more than the refusal to accept what is”. Omar Itani
Overcoming fear is tough. I have no solution for overcoming fear. Yet on analysing my own reasons for not speaking out against the madness, I realised that wilful blindness and learned helplessness, though, may protect me from myself, my conscience still has ‘free will’ and engages and clashes with my conscious and aware self in a disturbing internal dialogue.
Hurtful as this finding of my ‘self’ appears to be, it’s difficult to capitulate to the prevailing atmosphere of fear and submit to the pressures of popular and unthinking ‘opinionists’.
A good defence from the forces of fear is to follow the example of M. K. Gandhi, i.e. to draw upon our natural and fundamental powers of conscience and courage and take the tried and tested route that Gandhiji demonstrated – ahimsa, non-co-operation, passive resistance, being responsible citizens, taking collective action, and supporting social justice.
Be good citizens. When existing political and legal systems are corrupted our best defence from the forces of fear is to be good citizens. Very careful, good citizens.
A citizen’s duty. “It is up to us citizens wherever we are to take control of ourselves and the governments that we create, remind them that they are our servants and not our masters, and get the best possible services from the government. It is up to us to delegate only so much power as we think it is prudent for the government to exercise. It is the citizens’ responsibility to take upon their shoulders the task of seeing that order, justice, and freedom are maintained. (adapted & paraphrased from National Centre for Constitutional Studies –
Citizen’s responsibility is to voice our concerns and participate in decisions that affect public welfare in a helpful constructive manner by thinking positively and doing things that we can within our own abilities to improve, educate and enhance awareness,
Join collective action in solidarity against the forces of fear. Support Civil Society movements and environmental groups after studying them and agreeing with their methods and objectives to fight for a better present and future against venal politicians and their vested interests.
Support social justness and those marginalised by politicians and corporate exploiters. Speak out against corporations and the politicians who are in their payroll. Protest, and demand information about so-called public utility schemes floated by corrupt politicians without public discussion.
The Gandhian way is a good way, it’s been a long time gone. But now, it’s a long time coming, and we’ve got to dare to speak out against the madness.

Pratap Antony writes on ecology and environment, social justice, pluralism and music when not reading and listening to music in the company of five dogs.


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