Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Fear Factor--A Culture of Fear

Do you feel afraid all the time? You should, or at least that is what we are often told in this post 9/11 world in the United States (Of course, I can’t speak for other countries so I will limit my observations to the US). The use of the motivational, rhetorical, topi of fear is omnipresent everywhere you look today and has been dubbed the “Culture of Fear.” The last presidential election is the obvious example of the use of fear as a motivational technique. If you don’t vote for Bush, You, Americans, will be attacked by terrorists again. This tactic was reinforced with security alerts being raised at critical points during the election process and many Americans found themselves immobilized with fear, relieved that someone would deal with the crises for them. However, politics is not the only place where our culture is fear motivated; we are also experiencing the “fear factor” in advertising and “entertainment” forums. Drug companies have been notorious. If I have to sit through another drug commercial telling me that I may die at any moment if I do not use this product. . . . I just might scream. My favorite is the heart/ vein commercial where you see an older man speaking to you on the right side of the screen while on the left part of the screen is a pumping heart sound accompanied by a vein about ready to burst – the music/pumping sounds and the enlarged vein crescendos until . . . . the “drug,” the life saver, comes to the rescue. I don’t remember which drug this commercial is for but the image sticks with me. I am now afraid of aliments I never knew existed and aliments which I may never possess, but . . . damn . . . I better get myself checked out right now! Of course, the fear factor here does not stop with advertisements, but talk shows also pick up on the trend—you must be screened for this, you must be screened for that. If your body has not gone under a microscopic search for every possible aliment in the world . . . you will die. How did we ever live before the onset of the medical establishment and drug companies? We must not have lived, it just isn’t possible! There are also the ads for beauty products. I must be afraid of aging. These really get me because they tend to work on me. The fine lines in my face, sagging body parts, gray hair and puffy eyes. If I am 40 and look it . . . that’s it . . . game over. Somehow women get old while men become dignified. Yet even this is changing, men used to be able to escape this conundrum but not any more. The world of beauty products realized that they were missing 50% of the population and now are targeting men . . . what took them so long? I mean . . . really! I believe it is important to see these images for what they are. Yes, there are life threatening factors in living. Yes, we are living in an uncertain world where bad things happen. Yes, I may die of a heart attack. But it will most likely be brought on by anxiety caused by the fear factor! I think it is important to deconstruct these images for what they really are . . . passive aggressive attempts to make us vote a certain way, spend our money a certain way, view life a certain way and, most important, to keep us in a place where we are too afraid to really, actively, do anything. We, then, leave all decisions and action up to the “professionals” who are more able, or so it is suggested, to handle the mucky world we live in. Leave the navigation up to the others who know better while we run around getting our platelets checked, our fine lines erased and our medicine cabinet filled with medications which now have a social value higher than gold. Let’s, instead, detangle ourselves from the web of fear and risk walking out and participating in world again. After all, there are only so many television programs to watch, might as well debunk what we can when we can. Rebekah

1 comment:

  1. Oh, how I hate those drug commercials! They tell you that you MUST take this product to feel good... then give you a list of about 74 side effects. You'll be vomiting, headachy, constipated and/or incontinent, dizzy, neaseus, depressed, drowsy, have a rash and may have a stroke or heart attack BUT you'll sleep great! Yeah, sure.


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