fear-not-best

The goal of terror is to terrorize, to instill a reflex of fear.  If terrorists–whether they be Christians, Jews, or Muslims–could find a better way to terrorize than killing, they would use it.  The killing is merely a means.  The goal is to divide and conquer through fear, to make us act in ways that undermine our principles and interests.

To say the obvious, we must keep the actual threat against us in perspective.  Since 9/11 93 people have been murdered by extremists in terrorist attacks in the U.S.  Of these, 45 were killed by Islamic jihadists and 48 by right wing or Christian radicals and white supremacists.  Horrible!  But in terms of the magnitude of the threat, in the same period 200,000 Americans were murdered.  That’s more than 2,000 times the number of people dying in conventional murders than in extremist terrorist attacks during the same period.

There is no surer path to defeat than to heed demagogues who use fear to win supporters.  We must not listen to them.  To this end, I offer ten quotations on the topic of fear:

No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
Edmund Burke

There is no passion so contagious as that of fear.
Montaigne

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.
Seneca

To him who is in fear everything rustles.
Sophocles

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
Bertrand Russell

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Panic is a sudden desertion of us, and a going over to the enemy of our imagination.
Christian Nevell Bovee

Fear is not a lasting teacher of duty.
Marcus Tulius Cicero

He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.
Napoleon

The thing I fear most is fear.
Montaigne

Quotations were selected from Proverbia.

One thought

  1. Well argued. As for perspective, 2,000 people died on 9/11, 4,000 died at the Bhopal chemical disaster. No one from Union Carbide was ever put on trial for that.

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