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"Our Problem Is Fear"
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Halloween decor is everywhere -- in the Senior Care Clinic, in Walmart [hundreds of orange plastic pumpkins stacked high and far], in and on junk mail, as background for the muted TV ads -- "Beware! Beware! Beware!"

Noting all that helped me see that this holiday is a celebration of fear, or mock fear. Why are we making children's playmates out of ghosts, ghouls, devils and demons? No one is really afraid of goblins, right? But then, thinking about it some more, I understood that for our people and our culture generally, our problem is fear. This is true in three major areas: money, war, and health care.

[1] Money. For those who have money and for those who don't the problem is fear. Those who have money, or access to money, fear that they'll lose it. Those who have a lot of money are really afraid of losing it. People have been known to commit suicide because of "paper losses," the loss of imaginary wealth, one could say.

Those who don't have money, fear homelessness, cold, rain, starvation. An increasing number of people in this country are being forced into this state of mind. Looking at the entire planet the quantity of suffering caused by what is so glibly called "poverty" is shocking and shameful. We here all have so much more than our share.

Another fear connected to money is one that has made me thoughtful from time to time. I fear that the money could become totally worthless, and that everyone, rich and poor, will have nothing. It has happened in Germany, in China, in Argentina, in Zimbabwe. Of course, money itself works because of trust, and very much of my cynical thinking could lead to disaster.

I remember President Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms," for which we fought World War II. One of them was "Freedom from Fear." Which leads us to the next area:

[2] War. The U.S. is involved in two overt wars and uncounted covert ones. "Why?" one could ask. "Because of the attack of 9/11," is the answer. When the little girl asked Peter Jennings the next morning, "Why do they hate us so?" no one had the courage to answer her. Many Americans still do not know the answer to her question, which is, "Because the U.S. has been waging war against poor people for too many years."

The fear of a repeat of 9/11 has us spending annually more money on war and war preparations than the next ten countries taken together. Hundreds of billions of dollars, to kill, burn and demolish. The military industrial complex encourages that fear on purpose, in order to cash in. War is very profitable for some, even though it is horror and misery for others.

[3] Health care. All the recent blather about health care -- I was going to call it "debate" or "discussion," but those words don't describe what we've been watching -- is rooted in two fears. They are: the fear of pain and the fear of death.

Some individuals are more tolerant of pain than others. But as a people we have become obsessed with finding a pill or a plaster that will remove pain. Millions are spent on research, trying to get rid of pain. Millions are spent by "consumers" on the relievers we already have: aspirin, Excedrin, Bufferin, Advil, Tylenol, Iboprofen, et al.

Insurance sells the way it does because of this fear of pain, and the fear of death. And it has a very subtle effect. Most people who don't have it wish they did, and those who do have it think to themselves, "If I don't go to the doctor often, I'm not getting my money's worth." Waiting lines are unbelievable at clinics in search of access to doctors. Hypochondria is rampant.

Fear of death is at the bottom of the health care frenzy. No one, except the seriously mentally ill, wants to die early. But pretending that one doesn't want or intend to die ever is childish and silly. Whole industries, besides the health care and insurance industries, are based on this fear. Morticians are especially clever. Their alliance with lawmakers makes them very powerful. Laws about embalming, about transporting dead bodies, about cremation and other matters, combined with this widespread fear, make the morticians wealthy and the rest of us poorer.

I find it interesting to note how money seeps into the other fears. Is it all really about money? Well, in the long run, it isn't, as the preacher said to the fearful ones, "Even if you do have money to burn, you still can't take it with you."

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Copyright © 2009 Harry Willson

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