Fear – A vital response to physical and emotional danger.
One of our high school graduates had the opportunity to fly to Thailand to attend an International Yoga Conference. He has diligently been studying yoga for a couple of years now. It was very difficult at times; as not only is it taught in English, he also had to learn so many things his rural government education just did not teach; an18-year-old boy who didn’t know what or where his spine was.
This young man joined his brothers at Wat Opot about 8 years ago. Same story, a promiscuous husband brings home the disease to his family and it eventually kills him and many times those he infected. As with many AIDS orphans, before the disease ruined their family structure, their families had money. They had a nice home and many times went to good schools and lived in nice neighborhoods.
AIDS orphans are in that sense different than those orphaned by poverty. The disease does not affect only the underprivileged populations. Wealthy parents die and leave behind children. Greedy relatives steal fortunes and the children are left behind. Some of our children have seen “the good life” or at least understand that there is more to life than living on $1 a day. They know with hard work and an education they can become as successful as they wish –success measured in whatever terms they deem.
I say this because this young man knows what he can (and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will) become. He studied when he didn’t want to, he had his ups and downs but he persevered. And last week he boarded an airplane to another country. With his new passport in hand, he called me from the airport sounding like a kid at Disneyland. His voice was 3 octaves higher and he was talking in run-on sentences. I laughed at his excitement. He said later that he was so scared to fly. That he had to stop thinking about the airplane in the air. He wanted the experience so badly, but feared it as much.
There is a site listing persistent, irrational fears of specific objects, activities or situations that lead to a compelling desire to avoid it. A.K.A. - Phobia’s. There are fears (phobia’s) that kept the human population alive to reproduce such as Iophobia, snakephobia, agrizoophobia, or parasitophobia. And then there are those such as epistemophobia, kakorrhaphiophobia, xenophobia, or zeusophobia, which may have kept them alive only to lead them into battle and kill each other.
Overcoming fear! That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Something so simple as the fear of an immunization that is over in seconds, can cause someone to fret about it for weeks or until they make themselves sick. A dentist visit? An HIV test? Fear. Every time I land at a US airport, I hear LOUD and clear that the country is in Code Yellow (Elevated / Significant Risk) or Code Orange (High Risk). That is the first thing I hear upon departing the plane and entering immigration. My headphones blaring in my ears cannot drowned it out! It’s like:
“Hello and welcome to the United States, the land of fear. We appreciate you coming, but you should know that you are in Significant DANGER, it could be lurking around the corner, fear the man in front of you, he could have a bomb, fear the woman struggling with 3 children, DON'T help her, it could be a trap, and by all means fear the elderly woman in the wheel chair, because who knows WHAT she has nestled into that blue wig!
Homeland Security Advisory System has set 5 color-coded Terrorist level:
Did anyone even know there is a Green and Blue? I didn’t. What happens in a country that is run by fear? An idea that the entire country should be afraid of the “Significant Risk of Terrorist Attacks” – a.k.a Code Yellow. Really? The word significant which means having or likely to have influence or effect? Significant? Really?
The United States is likely to have a terrorist attack at any moment. Any moment! How about living in a lesser color such as a Guarded Code Blue; blue is a nice calming color, maybe a baby blue perhaps. Well, the nice shade of blue that could soothe a politically worn out country has yet to be announced. And how about Sea Green! The US government going green? Now that really makes me LOL! Blue = General Risk of Terrorist Attack and Green = Low Risk. No matter what color the Government chooses, the absolute best my country can put the nation at is LOW risk. But like I mentioned, the US has never ever dropped below the Elevated Code Yellow since it incorporated the color-coded system on 11 March, 2002 – in 2009, it was proposed to have the pretty environmental colors, 1 and 2 removed from the list entirely and make Yellow the new green, but as far as I could find, that proposal went nowhere.
According to Wikipedia, “There are actually no published criteria for the threat levels, and thus no independent way to tell whether the current threat level is accurate.” Now not to pat myself on the back, although I do occasionally, but I’m pretty savy in the google search department. I do not take internet information at face value. Additional research is ALWAYS necessary. Soooo, armed with my 2nd café latte and hot plate of fried bananas, I searched and I searched…for more than an hour (Phnom Penh coffee shop’s are great, especially when waiting for the rain to stop) and found nothing at any of the government sites that could tell me any information on what exactly the criteria is for the levels. What does that mean; besides of course that Wikipedia is correct? That means that fear (of the unknown) is a wonderful tool of control. That which controls fear is in control. I continue to wonder about the use of “Fear of God”…why should one fear God? – hmmm, another day or Wayne, do you want to take that one?
The teachers in the school our children attend use a long stick to control the children who misbehave, enough so that the children behave, most of the time. There has on occasion been a child that doesn’t want to go to school because they are “afraid” of the teacher. It’s not that unusual I guess, when I was in high school the boys who broke the rules received ‘swats’. Sounds innocent enough, until you see one of the school’s tough football players afterwards with red swollen eyes. At Wat Opot, we have talked to the kids about the idea behind the use of a stick (or violence in general) as a means of control. In regards to not listening or defiance, we have asked “You are not listening to me, would you listen to me if I had a stick poised over my head?”
Unfortunately, their response is, “yes”. We continually try to explain that fear of the stick may make you sit up straight and pretend to listen, but does it make you learn?
In all my reading and searching, I find it ironic that the coded color warnings which continue to create noise pollution at all US airports were replaced on 26 April, 2011. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that a new two-level terrorism threat advisory scale will replace the color-coded system because it often presented "little practical information" to the public. THe National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) will provide alerts "specific to the threat" with "a specified end date". Napolitano stated "This new system is built on a clear and simple premise: when a credible threat develops that could impact the public, we will tell you. We will provide whatever information we can so you know how to protect yourselves, your families, and your communities."
If this is the new system in place and IF this system REPLACED the old one, then why am I still hearing colors - why are they on the website? Why can I download a TERRORIST WARNING icon to put on my webpage to give me up to the minute color coded warnings from a system that should by all means and purposes no longer exist? I flew almost a year after the new system was announced. Why didn't I hear anything from the new two-level terrorism threat advisory scale? Maybe because this is why:
Since it's inception, the NTSA has found no terrorist threats, period. If there are no terrorist threats, then you cannot implement fear in the people. I'm sure that whoever created the new system will be overjoyed to one day actually get to put it to use; but until then, we'll keep on with an outdated model because what fun is a safe country filled with happy secure people?
The color code is like a big stick Homeland Security waves above our heads. A large yellow outdated stick. But outdated or not, that yellow stick makes people sit up and take notice; they will fear it…but will they really change their ways or will they just get used to the sunny color until it changes to Orange or Red? What about the strong-willed individual who challenges the stick or whatever entity holds it? Over time, with enough strikes, many will submit and learn to fear not only the stick and the one holding it, they will fear those who look like the stick holder, or pray like the stick holder or love like the stick holder. Fear begets hate. What is the tipping point when that fear turns to hate? How many strikes does it take until submission; until the pent up frustrations turn fear into hate? How long until one learns to hate skin color, religion, the opposite sex…When? When does it stop?
I used the United States as an example because the more I researched the more interested, albeit baffled, I became, but of course, fear does not reside in only one country. Like the AIDS virus, fear and hate have no boundaries, nor do they adhere to one certain race, culture, religion, etc.
But always the optimistic realist (or am I the realistic optimist?), I trust that fear can die and along with it hate. If only it could be as easy as swallowing your fears and stepping onto a plane. Not onto a plane headed into destruction, but one headed for the pure bliss of the unknown.