Day 74: Fear the mind-killer

William Kittredge, in “Who Owns the West?”:

The deeply fearful are driven to righteousness, as we know, and they are the most fearsome fools we have.

The typical human being is smart, far smarter than commonly apparent. The typical human being is amiable and kind to at least some degree. A typical human being is tolerant and generous.

That is, until scared. In Frank Herbert's Dune, Paul Atreides, the protagonist and hero, silently recites to himself in times of danger, Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the mind-killer. In everyday like, that doesn't happen. When people are frightened, they revert to thinking with their brain stems and adrenal glands. They capitulate to prejudice, suspicion, rumor, and they become followers. People are prone to be followers in the best of times; in scary times, they are especially susceptible to demagoguery by the cynical opportunists who lurk in any society. And as Kittredge rightly observes, the most scared become righteous, which is never a good development.

Stronger minds stare down the mind-killer and grasp that most fears are baseless and distract us from the handful of things that we really ought to be frightened by. What scares me is how few stronger minds seem in evidence when we could really use them.