Hoodwinked into a Culture of Fear

Hoodwinked into a Culture of Fear May 12, 2015

Gareth Higgins:

Our culture has been hoodwinked by the idea that we’re living in the center of crisis, when actually we’re in the midst of the evolution of hope. It is true that each killing is a universe of loss to the victim’s loved ones, and solidarity with the suffering of others is not only part of the privilege of being human but a step on the path to the world in which no one will have to suffer that way again. But whether it is the misstatement that the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history (World War II is only the ninth-most-lethal conflict per capita in history and the others of the 10 worst all preceded 1900), or the latest hate crime being read as part of an epidemic, falsely interpreting the present creates inertia about the future. And those of us who are suffering will not be removed from harm’s way or helped to heal by sensationalist retellings of only the most horrific parts of our stories. The stories we tell will heal us, or destroy us.

Catering to (and nurturing) fear and pessimism is a function of one of the most dangerous beliefs: that violence can bring order out of chaos, cleansing the world for the righteous (what Walter Wink called the myth of redemptive violence). Instead, violence merely generates more fear, pessimism, and conditions from which more violence may grow. Our journalism—and our personal social media use—needs to be resourced to deal in context, compassion, detail, and pause. More important, healing the world requires reframing the story as one in which, while we lament real wounds and work to prevent them, things are getting better, and we can make them better still.

This is as true for the creative arts of television, cinema, literature, and music as much as it is for their nonfiction counterparts. But the news does not begin with the flashing red strip across the bottom of the screen. It begins inyour mind, and the story you’re telling about yourself. It catalyzes with your loved ones and neighbors to create a bigger story. It connects everywhere you go, on foot or chair or online. It is immensely powerful, although most of us aren’t conscious of this, most of the time. The way you tell the story about your world will actually co-create that world. The myth of redemptive violence needs to be replaced. Imagining a new myth is a privilege. It is also our responsibility.

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