Monday, September 10, 2007

Why do we Fear?

Below is an excerpt of an article written by Eric Loo, who used to be the external moderator for UTAR's Journalism programme. He is no longer in that position now because Janet Steele has taken over.

Even though he lives in Australia, he still writes for Malaysiakini from time to time, which is where the excerpt below is taken. I also had the opportunity to meet him more than a year ago when he visited UTAR and I found him friendly, intelligent and his teaching philosophy closely mirrors my own.


What we fear but know not why
Eric Loo

“Shhh, don’t talk to strangers, they could be Special Branch.” Many say that’s wise. You never know who you’re talking to. Or, is it irrational fear that tells us, “Don’t get involved"? We did live in muted fear of ‘getting involved’ after May 1969.

Until today, my 78-year-old mother is fearful of ‘the government’, ‘the Malays’ and ‘the police’. She's also a product of WW2 when she saw Japanese soldiers hauled off my grandpa for questioning. He didn’t return for weeks. Like most of her generation, her internalized fear is understandable.

Anecdotes I hear and observations of Malaysian civic life tells me the fear of ‘getting involved’ is as real today among baby boomers as it was with my mother’s generation. There’s hope though. Ever since we strolled the multimedia corridor, an empowered younger generation of socially-conscious netizens are learning more about our race-tainted history. And, they’re not happy. Lately, vigilant bloggers have been trawling the contents of Malaysiakini and other alternative media sites.

Early this week, I received a compilation of political thuggery, social injustices and racist statements spewed in public with impunity by our politicians. Common knowledge they are. But, when compiled as a package, the imageries are quite unsettling. My mother would shudder at those imageries, her deep-seated fears replayed. To the younger generation sheltered from the history of 1969, I suspect, the imageries and rhetoric would evoke mixed reactions of ridicule and rage against the political degenerates. ...........

Stoking fear is the strongest terror tactic used by governments to silent the voice of conscience and dissent. Nothing new in that. (See Amnesty International 2007 Report). What’s worrying is when we become part of fear itself, not knowing exactly what and why we fear. Anxious moments of uncertainties. Which often leads to irrational reactions – followed by resigned acceptance of the status quo - each time we’re confronted with an over-the-top rhetoric of re-constructed realities. Politicians have long used this tactic to manipulate their constituents, garner support, and discredit their opponents. ...........

What now? To combat fear in a plural society, one must first recognise the basic principles of freedom, equity and transparent governance. “No one wins unless everyone wins.” Indeed, an appropriate Springsteen creed. Our homegrown civil society groups have advocated these principles at length since the 1998 reformasi days.

What we need now is less pointless fiery diatribe but more robust reasoned dialogue in the public space. Pockets of apathy among Malaysians, I’d like to think, do not reflect our internal weaknesses nor lack of intellectual resources or character flaws - but rather it mirrors a waning faith in the viability of speaking up for what’s right.

The mainstream media, the editors, in publishing their sycophantic editorials and generating politically correct contents, are, in this sense, accomplices in the perpetuation of a political system that thrives on fomenting fear. Editors continue to fail in their leadership in representing the people’s interests.

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The excerpt is rather long so, I may remove much of it later--don't want to be accused of copyright violation! But enjoy it while you can :-)

12 comments:

suesin23 said...

fear is an uncontrollable feeling. sometimes we fear for no reason and certain times there are reasons to fear.. for example, when you walk down a street and a dog suddenly appear in front of you and started to stare at you, you will feel fear.. it just comes to you naturally.. haha

KahJoon said...

fear is a feeling. feelings dont come without a stimuli. feelings are caused by provocation. the example of the dog u used, when the dog stare at you, that is the stimuli that provokes the fear. why fear? it is because u've heard/seen/experienced dog bites. :)

KahJoon said...

fear is a feeling. feelings dont come without a stimuli. feelings are caused by provocation. the example of the dog u used, when the dog stare at you, that is the stimuli that provokes the fear. why fear? it is because u've heard/seen/experienced dog bites. :)

suesin23 said...

u may be right in certain ways bt rite now i dowan to comment first.. wait till im really free and i will come up with stronger point and justifications..

Carmen N said...

Hmmm... is it possible to fear for no reason at all? Sue Sin's got me thinking here...

Apart from the dog story that SS told, which is about an external stimuli (dog), what about fears that do not have external stimuli but internal?

For example, fear of doing wrong? Fear of saying something stupid? Where do those fears come from? Are they self-generated? Taught to us by other people?

suesin23 said...

haha.. dr. Carmen, i think i mistaken here.. fear has its own reason.. but under some certain circumstances, u fear but u dont know or u r nt sure what the reason is.. For example, sometimes when i drive, but there's this little feeling of fear that appears suddenly.. everything has a reason but sometimes we just dont know..haha

KahJoon said...

sue sin: u fear but u dont know or u r nt sure what the reason is.

kj: u know what i call that? PANIC. when u panic of course u cant think straight and therefore u definitely duno y u fear lo. after awhile when u have calmed down and think about it i'm sure u can pin point the cause/stimuli.

internal stimuli. fear of doing wrong. hmm i still consider that as external stimuli. here's the reason: you wont do wrong until someone tells u that u have done something wrong. our mind is empty in the first place when we were born and we were teached/conditioned to know wat is right and what is wrong according to society. so i consider that as outer influence d.

the same goes to the fear of saying something stupid. the saying wont sound stupid unless someone says its stupid. so the fear is not on the things that the person wants to say but the fear is on the things that ppl will say.

haa..do i have a point? pls "shoot" me if i'm wrong.

cRiT wAnNaBE said...

Fear is an extremely powerful emotion. It can inspire a whole nation to reform (this might sound rather vague, but kindly allow me to make a point), and can also drive another to insanity.

What is the nature of fear then? In fact, even before we can look into Eric Loo's excerpt in an in depth manner, the emotion of fear needs to be clearly defined and understood (at times, we might think that we know what fear is,and what causes it, but in fact, we don't).

I've looked through all the comments about fear, but they are just opinions of individuals. Does everyone experience the same kind of fear that Kah Joon, Sue Sin or Eric Loo's mother has faced?

Is there an underlying cause? Is fear merely an outward manifestation of what is happening beneath? Perhaps caused by our deep seated insecurities? Inferiority? Pride? The list can go on and on.

Personally, fear is merely an outward expression of the many vulnerabilities that i have which cannot be seen by the naked eye. There is more than meets the eye. So is fear. Can i kindly request for someone to at least attempt a comprehesive definition of fear, and not just sporadic opinions of fear? Thanks!

KahJoon said...

well you see, fear don't exist if it is not stirred in your mind. that is my short reply of ur various questions raised..the psychological definition of fear have to wait thou..

jeannie said...

I think I gt a little bit of wat u mean,KJ. But must it be either internal or external stimuli?Can't it be both? If u are afraid of saying something stupid, yes, it is the external stimuli that makes u fear but internally, aren't u having the same conflict? The stimuli is in you yourself. You are fighting against yourself to prevent fear (that's where conflict comes in as in self voice 1 vs self voice 2).Doesn't that count as external+internal stimuli?
You know, sometimes it's not that an external stimuli that is so fearful,so terrible that makes people scared but the fear that they think up themselves (internally)that makes them fear. There are people who really think too much until they fear everything.They come up with the fear themselves. I know many people experienced this: You are not worried about your results at first. You think u did quite ok but the more u think about it, the more you think it's not OK at all (even when the fact is u have done well). So the more scared u are about getting the results. Isn't that a fear that comes up internally?

125z Rider said...

I am thinking what jeannie said, If it is Intrapersonal, is it internal stimuli?

KahJoon said...

jeannie, u are somehow correct in some ways. but i am still adamant that external stimuli is the major factor here. do i really have to explain again? when we are born, our mind are empty, then when we grow up, we are thought what to fear/ experience/ saw someting horryfying..thats why we fear. do a baby know what is fear in the first place? definitely no. the baby has to learn/experience something first. lets say pain. when the baby touches a hot kettle. the baby will feel pain, this teaches the baby not to touch the kettle again for fear of getting the pain again. this is already an external stimuli.

your examples of ppl thinkin too much isn't that strong actually. you said ppl think too much until they fear everything. first, where the fear come from first. external stimuli. the baby example can be used here. this person has experienced something that this person dont like and therefore this person is like in a trauma..thinking too much till the fear is evoked again.

talking about results. well you see hor, results are set by other ppl other than ourselves. these ppl set the standards for us. this already show external stimuli. let's say we live in a world where getting a D is great while getting an A is bad. do u think ppl still wan to get A? NO. its because our society frowns upon failure and this in turn causes people to fear failure. what if our society do not frown upon failure? definitely the fear wont exist anymore lo. justified my external stimuli arguments..

pls pls, i do not want to explain again..i am suffering from explaining myself so many times..argh