Fear: the Badge of Civilization

by MitakuyeOyasin

It could be argued that at least one or the benefits of civilization is the taming of human fears. It might even be argued that, more than just a benefit, one of the goals of civilization is this taming or fears. If things that are untamed can be corralled and controlled, life will be safer, more enjoyable, and peace of mind will displace the dis-ease of fear.

For the white men who first hit the shores of Turtle Island, almost everything posed a threat. They could easily starve, freeze to death during a harsh winter or be killed by wild animals or ''savage'' Indians. So, with the help of the ''wild, savage, and barbaric'' Indians, they learned how to farm, and gifts of food kept starvation at bay.

As for the IndIans, the white men adopted a three-phased approach to dealing with them. They would cooperate with them while they were the weaker force. They would tolerate them when they were about of equal strength. And they would dominate them when numbers and weapons made them stronger than these Natives who had befriended them and helped them to survive.

The untamed wilderness with Is forests and wild animals was brought into submission with the gun, the axe, the plow, and more settlers. Civilization was on its way.

Anything in the way of the white man had to be tamed, controlled, manipulated or removed. If a mountain stood in the way, make a way through it. Move the rivers with dams. If the skies didn't deliver enough rain, irrigate. If the paths aren't wide enough, make highways. Tame the sky by learning to fly. If disease is a threat, find a cure. If another nation is a threat, build bigger and better weapons.

But for all that civilization has done to replace fearful threats with peace of mind, fear remains. It may come in different forms, but for many Americans, fear is as present today as it was for the passengers leaving the Mayflower.

Consider this: Why do so many Americans feel compelled to own guns? (No, I am not taking about shotguns used for hunting, even though I question how sporting it is to kill an animal when it is not needed for food! But for the sake of argument let's leave shotguns out of this.) l am taking about assault riles and pistols, weapons designed to be used against people.

I have heard the NRA argue about the need to fight against miliary and/or police state takeovers, and I find this argument to be ludicrous. My people have a long history of losing battles against the military simply because, even when we had weapons, they had bigger and better ones. Mortars and cannons were really dreaded. Today it's smart bombs, tanks and helicopters, and no matter how much testosterone you have in you, that little old deer rifle doesn't stand a chance.

Then they'll tell you that you need to be afraid of somebody trying to steal your car or break into your house, and if you have a .38 handy,you can stop them. That may or may not be true, but l am only pointing out that, if that's why you need a gun, then fear has made your decision for you.

Let's move along. Talk to some of the kids at your local school. What are they thinking and feeling? Many of them live in daily terror of not being accepted by their peers. That's why peer pressure tells them how to act, what to wear, who to run with and how they are going to feel inside day in and day out. On top of that, they have vague fears about being successful, making something of their lIves, and facIng the great unknown, tomorrow.

The outrageous costs of medical care and medical insurance today are a direct result of fear. People run to the doctor for everything, just in case they have something serious. Most of what bothers most people would go away in a few days without costly pills,tests,and visits to specIalists, and much of what gives them their aches and pains is the ever-present fear that something might really be wrong with them. Don't believe me on this. Ask your doctor.

The advertizing industry thrIves on creating fears and then showing how, with a little cash, your fears will go away. Are you beginning to show signs of aging? A multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry can paint and plasticize you back to eternal youth and take your fear away.

''Do you want to be honored, recognIzed as successful, and make a statement to that effect?'' asks the automobile industry. ''Drive our car and drive away the fear of what others think of you!''

And on goes, infecting every facet of life in modern, civilized America. ''Don't enjoy today. Be afraid!''

Modern Americans would profit by learning from my ancestors. There was a quality to life lived simply.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online August 13, 1999

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