“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular. We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” Edward R. Murrow
The amygdala is an anatomical term for the part of the brain that deals with emotions, “… the core of a neural system for processing fearful and threatening stimuli…and activation of appropriate fear-related behaviors in response…”; quite often it responds to crowd reaction without even knowing what the threat is. I always found the phrase “irrational fear” to be an oxymoron since, when you calmly think it through, it is an emotion and therefore has no rationality. What we should really fear is not the fear itself, but giving into it; seldom does anything good from that.
To calm the amygdala we are often told to slow down (except of course if it triggers fleeing from a rabid dog or some wild beast), take deep cleansing breaths and think things through in order not to be a slave to your emotions. As Aristotle put it, “He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.” Wise man that Aristotle, he knew that by controlling your fears you will find a way to overcome them, find solutions to problems and also avoid destructive and embarrassing behavior.
Unfortunately we live in a time when such wisdom is no longer accepted; emotions are more valued than reason, and fear is no longer something to be addressed as harmful, but embraced as both an ideology and a manipulative tool. Does the frontal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for logical thinking, reasoning, and managing emotions, no longer exist? Has society had a collective frontal lobotomy? We should understand that as an emotion, fear only exists in the mind where it creates a perception of danger or a threat that may not be real.
Edward R. Murrow was a courageous WWII correspondent and journalist, and a leading voice against the abuses of McCarthyism. If he were alive today, I can only imagine his reactions to the phenomenon of “Wokeism”, that hysterical and irrational fear mongering that values subjective feeling while denying objective fact. He would caution that to allow fear to dominate would lead us into “…an age of unreason…” making us easier to control; he would be horrified that such an acute anxiety disorder became a political ideology as it did with the McCarthy hearings.
One of the main premises of wokeism, if it has any, is that anything or anyone it considers offensive is not just objectionable, but literally needs to be “canceled”; it goes so far as to redefine people, places, words or things to fit a conclusion, rather than a thought process of finding the facts to support one. While such behavior can hardly be called an ideology, anything that the woke find offensive is subject to a categorization like “racism”, “white supremacy”, “fascism” or whatever the latest fashionable derogative of the day they embrace. If the woke finds something offensive, they are entitled to destroy whatever liberties it finds in the way of their solutions, like freedom of speech, expression, property rights, etc.
This has been the historical behavior of authoritarian activists and ideologues through the ages like Napoleon, who once observed that “In politics, an absurdity is not an impediment.” They too used such tactics because they were insecure in their own positions and feared to intellectually engage with anyone who disagreed with them. They did differ with today’s woke in so far as cancellation had a more fatal meaning; that’s not to say wokeism will not evolve similarly as their day is young. For now they avoid, and even rage against any idea that they answer to any objections to their worldview; easier that way to maintain their moral superiority.
This closed vision against reality pertains to the arts too as a rejection of the joy of creation, of song, of stories that offend, whether it’s literature or the daily news. For the woke everything offends someone, even the most insignificant things, which creates a world of darkness where we are incapable of learning anything because everything is offensive. The worst fear for the woke is that there are people who don’t feel guilty about what the woke find offensive, who don’t subscribe to the ideology of fear, but have found that nothing in life is to be feared, only understood.