Fear Culture vs Safety Culture

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Frank Furedi:

"More than any other philosopher, Thomas Hobbes highlighted the claim that fear serves as a foundation for establishing the authority of the sovereign ruler. But fear has served not only the cause of political authority. Fear has always played a central role in the evolution of morality and in the constitution of moral authority. In turn, moral authority has underpinned the web of meaning through which society learns to live with its fears. That is why in recent times, the unraveling of moral authority has profoundly altered the meaning of fear. Society’s reluctance to take moral authority seriously has created an environment where fear exists relatively uncontained by moral guidance and has become a problem in its own right.

Twenty-first-century fear culture has three important dimensions that distinguish it from previous modes of fearing. The disassociation of fear from the grammar of morality is the most fundamental feature of the contemporary culture of fear. Consequently, sentiments such as the one expressed in Proverbs (1:7), “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” make little sense to a culture that regards fear only as a negative emotion. The second important characteristic of today’s fear culture is that in the absence of a moral consensus about what we should value, how we fear becomes fragmented and privatized. Instead of binding a community together, fear often serves as a focus of conflict. The absence of a shared experience of fear exposes and reinforces the relative weakness of common meanings through which society makes sense of the threats it faces. Finally, the decoupling of fear from the language of morality appears to endow fearing with an objective, yet incomprehensible character. In response to this development, society encourages a risk-averse survivalist mode, where safety is regarded as its fundamental value."