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.