Wednesday, October 11, 2006

# Trust and Fear

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

North Korea has revealed that it has nuclear weapons. Terrorists are planning attacks at random places, random time. Natural disasters like hurricane/ earthquake are claiming thousands of lives. Even in micro scale, streets are no longer safe - snatch thiefs and rapists and killers are roaming in the streets...

A few weeks into lectures and studies in school, we learn, and re-learn about the basis of actuarial field - managing risk. We tried to identify risks, tried to understand people's fear, and tried to manage it. Uncertainty is the key word. Since older times, human has been fascinated by this nature of world - the only certain thing is that everything is always uncertain. Human has relentlessly tried to avoid uncertainty and reduce risks. Because we have FEAR.

Alongside with fear, we have TRUST. Trust is a wonderful nature of human being. By having trust, or in a higher extent, faith, human help one another. We build hopes and feel safe. Yet trust is such a fragile structure, hard to build and easy to destroy. In people's relation, we trust our family and friends. In financial world, we trust the insurance companies to manage our risks, or our banks to manage our finances. In socio-economic context, we trust (to some extent) our government, NGO, institutions and social bodies to provide stability and safety, and hopefully, equality.

Trust and Fear forms such a complex relationship. Balancing the two components are not easy. Reith Lectures series have delved deeply to try to understsand the interaction between these two natures - Onora O'neill (2002) with her lectures "A Question of Trust", Wole Soyinka (2004) with his lectures "Climates of Fear" have explored the effects of these emotions to human, and to a wider context, the society and world.

In older times, fear is easier to identify. It takes more tangible forms like natural disasters, wars, political problems, etc. The sources of fear stood broadly in public - we know who/what are the threats. That implies we have a chance to try to manage or do something about it. Also, we have a clearer concept of what is trustable/ reliable. We have clear definition of what is good and what is bad. And trust is a virtue which brings us forward in life.

Lately, various threats have taken into a more tacit form. Terrorist threats, for example, is so evasive, and yet so threatening. While last time people fear government/dictator who controlled the society/economy/politics, now we fear enemies who are underground, who might be anywhere, who might target anyone. It is not the states or institutions who are in charge, it seems like evil is on the loose. Remember the beheading of foreign soldiers in Iraq? How it casted a terror that the bigger ones are not always the one controlling the game. Within the same issue, look at how the campaign of anti-terrorism has eroded the trust in governments, or in the superpowers in the world.

In financial world, scandals after scandals are revealed. Companies were once in the talent race - recruiting the brightest and best. Yet Enron, Arthur Anderson and many other cases showed that talents alone could not guarantee success of companies. Trust is crucial, yet the strings of events have just done more harm than good to build people's trust in companies.

Also, old threats are resurging. Last time we feared the atomic bomb threat, we were worried about the arm races. Hence, human seek cooperative efforts via diplomatic agreements to keep them under control. In recent decades, the public perceptioin of fear moves to economical/ social threats more than these destructive threats. Somebody even forecasted that the future wars would be waged in terms of economics/ trades/ Internet/ etc. Yet, with North Korea's revelation about its nuclear power, suddenly we were back to the older times. The scary message conveyed, "You get bullied if you don't have WMD, you don't if you have."

Climates of fear is indeed encompassing us. With trust eroding in most aspects, human huddle in fear for the many risks and threats which seem to come from all directions. We really need to recognize that we have a crisis now - our fundamental values of goodness are being taken over by various threats.

By thrashing out fear after fear, I do not mean to say we are doomed. What I want to say is we still have hope, if we work for it. Until now, I still believe of purity and goodness as the fundamental state of human nature. It is just that human values have been polluted, and we need to clean them up. We need hope, we need faith, we need prayer, we need trust in each other. And we need each other. I hope the readers of this post could have a moment to ponder about the many issues that surround us today, and have a prayer for a better tomorrow. Have faith.


Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Wow! You gave us a lot to think about, and I didn't realize that philosophical concepts are part of your course! But of course it's all relevant.

I was almost never a scaredycat in my life, not frightened of anything for years and years. It's only in the last six or so years that I have started to have concerns and twinges of anxiety.
I. About the frailty of life and that accidents can happen to good people.
2. We are often powerless when our political leaders go up a path that is dangerous.
3. The Twin Towers attack really appalled me and the consequences of rants about terrorists and the manipulation of fear.
4. As I see friends getting older and often sick I do feel an anxiety about the physical body and the mental state breaking down. What if I lost my memory like some people I know?

Okay, it's a sunny day today, so let's think positive. Yesterday was awful - about 35 with a high wind and our state has the worst drought ever in recorded history.

YD said...

Thanks Wendy.

Haha... No, philosophical concepts are not taught in my course actually. In our course, we discussed various insurance policies and how they target to reduce risks of clients. It's basically more like applied social science.

I tend to divert from what I am really suppose to be studying, and inadvertently went into exploring about the underlying values, for this case - human's emotions. Bad for exam, cuz I would be answering totally irrelevant answers to the questions.

I think some of the Reith lectures have encouraged me to think about these two emotions. The other day I saw Soyinka's book "Climates of Fear" on sale in the Camden Lock Bookshop for 3 pounds and I decided to grab it. The bookshop is a wonderful haven for me. I have always found books that are worth reading and yet very cheap.

Many thanks for sharing your fears, as well as your hopes and faith. I realized I haven't really confronted my own fears yet. So let's see what I am aware of currently:

1. About the well being of my family and my friends. Whenever something bad happens to someone I know, it affects me a lot in terms of emotions.

2. About inequality in various aspects - in gender, in race, in ethnics, in economic sense, etc.

3. About future life in my home country. There are some imbalancing forces eroding the fundamental pillars we built our country with - racial harmony, equality and democracy.

4. About the goodness and wholesomeness of human's hearts. Humanity is under threats.

5. About health and life. It is an interesting subject that nothing can be anticipated.

Suddenly I remembered, besides hopes and faiths, the more important thing is action. We need to change.

Anyway, let's put aside all those things. It's great to hear that you have a sunny day there! I m looking forward to some sunshine too!

YD said...

Ooops sorry the Camden Lock Bookshops link was wrong. Here is the correct one:

Camden Lock Bookshop

The Moody Minstrel said...

Fear is precisely what terrorists and rogue states like North Korea want. If we give in to fear, we give in to them. They win lock, stock, and barrel.

Go to the U.S. right now and see just how much the terrorists have won there. They've succeeded in turning our whole society and culture upside down. Ironically, the current government has also won a big victory thanks to the terrorists. They can use that fear to put their policies into action without any real resistance, stifling all opposition and calling it "national security". Criticize them and you're accused of siding with if not aiding the terrorists. And then the terrorists and the government keep helping each other by opposing each other.

Crazy world...

Pandabonium said...

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself".

I highly recommend a read (or re-read as the case may be) of "1984" by George Orwell. Today's governments are using fear and made-up plots and enemies to scare the bejesus out of people and take away rights that have been hard won over hundreds of years. The recent "torture" bill in the USA does away with writ of habeas corpus - something that goes back to the Magna Carta.

Read 1984 (I would also recommend the movie "Brazil") and see just how much they parallel what is going on today. Don't buy into the fear. Don't give up your happiness or your rights in an effort to feel "safe". Turn off the damned TV and get your news from papers or their internet counterparts so you can control what and how in depth the stories are that you read rather than being inundated with short soundbites all day.

The more you tune out the daily propaganda blast and learn about the history of "terror" as a political tool, the less you be afraid and the better your decisions will be not to mention your nerves.

Yes, there are things that are dangerous and scary, but it has always been thus. The important thing is to keep one's head and recognize the real threats from the fake ones. And to recognize that things we have no control over and therefore should not be worried about.

Some things, like aging, memory loss, and so on, are in that last catagory and are an inexorable or unkowable part of life. Maybe it was the experience of nearly bleeding to death in an ER several years ago, but I no longer have any fear of death. My father had dimensia before he died and it hurt him (and of course those who loved him), a brilliant man if I may say so, seeing his own mind slipping away. Yet, with love of his family he still had happiness in his last few years. It showed me a way. The way of accepting life as it is. No matter what happens.

YD said...

Yea, the manipulation of people's emotion by playing into their fear works for both sides. Sadly a lot of times it's the government that the public vote for that betray their trust.

The world has never ceased to amaze us with the chaos.

Wow, that's an in-depth exploration of the manipulation of fear as well as good advice for handling it. Thanks so much for your wise comments, as usual.

Thanks for the recommendation of 1984, the famous book that altered the views of people about society and governments. I stumbled upon it in the public library, but haven't bought one for collection. I think it's time to do so. =)

Your advice reminded me of a small booklet that I read before, "Preparing for death and helping the dying - a Buddhist Perspective" by Sangye Khadro. It spoke about the transitory and impermanent nature of everything in life, and suggested various ways to remove our fear about death - mindfulness, awareness and understanding, loving-kindness, etc.

I'm sorry to hear about your dad. It's a blessing though to have a family who are together and care. Being grateful for the things we have in this life help us to live more wholesomely with less worries.

Thanks again for your wise comments. I just can't help myself coming back again and again to re-read it.

Kurakat said...

What course are you taking, YD?

YD said...

haha kurakat, i think you have asked me the same question before... I am taking MSc Actuarial Management course, it's an extension of BSc Actuarial Science course.

hope you enjoy the posts. ^_^

Kurakat said...

The greatest mode of defence is to be on the offence.

To be on the offence doesn't mean you start shooting, but that you have shown your opponent that you can and will start shooting if you want to and there is nothing he can do to prevent bleeding damage to be done to them.

Even if we can't launch decisively damaging preemptive strikes, we can make the enemy suffer so much fighting with us that tehy wil lregret even trying. This i the poisoned shrimp approach.

I am more of a realist. Much as I have always cherished the values of faith, hope, trust and love, I know at the bottom of my heart that WMD is a must.

To be able to maintain the peace, the sovereign state(s) need to have a monopoly of arms (i.e. WMD). And that is the underlying idea of the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine.