Friday, 1 March 2019

Fear; part one ‘Is there more fear?'

While staying with family in Bergen earlier this month, I was fortunate to catch the International Literary Festival there. One of the talks that took my interest was entitled, ‘World Anxiety’ with the subtitle 'Migration, economic insecurity, terrorism and climate disaster - what if it was not these threats, but anxiety about them, which defines our times?' It was by Heinz Bude, a sociologist and author of ’Society of Fear’ and ’The Mood of the World’ and you can see my short interview with him below.

I so agree that fear and anxieties have seeped even more into so much of our news, communities, politics and indeed the whole World. Our society seems evermore to have unstable foundations. Our future prospects seem evermore uncertain. Fear is so much apart of life and different in different societies, but why the increase and how can we manage it? This topic also resonated, as I have been managing my own fears around the cancer diagnosis and treatment and can see how dangerous it can be to let fear run away with us. 

Having studied sociology many years ago, it was very refreshing and even fun, to be back exploring some of the roots of the fears. Our societies seem to be moving away from the idea of safety nets to the onus being on individuals to find their own way. Traditional expectations of a good life bump up against realities.

Heinz Bude
In ’Society of Fear’ Heinz writes that “Our entire lives seem to be on the line at every single moment. The fear of simply drifting through life is hard to bear.” The middle classes feel increasingly precarious, while the ‘lower rungs’ of our society feel even more powerless. Heinz talked about the 'suppressed anger' and 'quiet resentment’ he found in many societies and how our young are living with fears of missing out and failing to maximise opportunities. So many of us live with uncertain paths whether it be education, employment, housing or relationships. We seem to increasingly blame ourselves for not doing better; there are unlimited possibilities to grow and at each choice we fear missing out.

Our social media, while bringing benefits, is clearly also having a significant negative impact on many lives. So many of us are constantly measuring ourselves against each others glossy unrealistic instagramed lives. The more you use social networks, the more likely you are to see that someone is having more fun than you are right now. Fail and you become a loser. Can we keep up with it all? 

I remember reading that those who live in countries with almost full employment fear losing their jobs the most. Indeed the more successful societies are, then the higher the fear; the more we own the more there is to fear losing wealth or status. Heinz shows how fear is not coming from some ′powerful other′ but rather from the endless range of opportunities and possibilities which we face. Our world could implode at any moment. Social democracy is collapsing. We can’t stop climate change or terrorists or a banking disaster or avian flu or cancer. We’ve had this assumption that the world is getting better. However many are now asking, what if the worst is yet to come? 

How can we learn to live with fear, cope with it, manage it? Heinz says we need to accept fear as an element of existence; beware of those who say we can get rid of it.Step one seems to me, to be about recognising it and so I am grateful for Heinz Bude’s analysis that I’ve only been able to lightly touch in this blog (do read his books). Cancer is part of my fears at times but I can see there is other stuff that Heinz has identified that is also contributing to fear. Part two of this blog is coming soon and will explore this more.
More info:
International Literary Festival: https://www.littfestbergen.no/en/

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