Fear is a necessary emotion, when I say that fear is not useful, I do not mean that unilaterally. If you are being chased by a hungry lion or attacked, fear is a useful instinct. The larger message is that although we experience fear as an emotional response, our body experiences a visceral fear to things that are unlikely to cause us physical harm. We fear public speaking, in places where it is an understood practice, we fear change and the unfamiliar, we fear the unknown. Basically we are very very afraid, but I have found through research, that as our society has grown, we have literally become safer. We are less likely to die now than ever before in history. Why then do I not experience life in that way?
By reading the news, I fill myself with fear and I have to admit that I currently choose to be willfully ignorant on that front. I do not read the news, I find that I get enough information just being a person in the world. I also read it in longer form of books rather than short news articles. I find that having a broader and more nuanced view is easier to have over time than in short bursts or responding to the immediate. I take my life slower, I realize I do not need to know it all, nor can I know it all. I also know in my heart I was not made to handle all of the sorrow of the world. I am aware of the despair in my surroundings and some of the sadness of the world. When I experience all the news all the time, I am filled with a sense of loss and overwhelming grief for the pain in our world. I cannot handle life if I am constantly exposing myself to distress. I cannot feel all the sorrow in the world and be a useful member of society. I feel my feelings in a physical way and spending my whole day feeling sad and crying over the tragedies taking place worldwide would not lead to a productive or fulfilling life. I have found by consciously giving myself space away from all the stimuli, I am better able to experience the world around me and to do what I can to help.
Culture likes to use fear as a motivating factor by considering how we can scare people into action. I like to think that we would realize that the shock value doesn’t matter, but honestly as we grow our society ends up focusing on the click bait and the instant reward is more important than the lasting. If the tide someday shifts away from instant gratification, to a slower pace of life (more Norwegian, specifically their slow TV) that may change. When we scare people into action though, we can only create temporary momentum, when people feel safe they will stop acting. I also believe when we act from a place of fear we slow down the rational part of our brain and respond more instinctively with less understanding and sophistication.
Here is the bottom line, we experience more fear (for clarification it is more likely anxiety which was once explained to me, in a book, as fear without a basis for being) than before, and yet we have less reason to be. I think our society as a whole needs to consider what could happen and change if we motivate based on love and kindness rather than fear and anxiety.