Fear is the Mind Killer

I'm tired of seeing people living in fear

April 16, 2021

"Fear is the mind-killer" Elon Musk tweeted a little over a year ago, given the events of the time this was a somewhat controversial statement, a small storm spread around this tweet as random NPCs expressed their anger and imaginary journalists even wrote a few articles about this tweet. At this time I had not yet internalized the fact that Twitter is of no benefit to you so I was an active Twitter user and I had a good time scrolling through the comments of this tweet to laugh at the number of people who had no idea that this was a quote from the book Dune.

It is of course an incredibly insightful and important quote, this phrase and theme is repeated several times throughout the book and of the other themes and important phrases similarly repeated this is the among the first to appear and arguably the most prevalent. In the first chapter Paul, the main character, is brought to a religious leader of sorts who has him participate in a ritual which is designed to determine if he is human or if he is an animal (figuratively of course). In the words of Frank Herbert, "animal consciousness does not extend beyond the given moment nor into the idea that its victims may become extinct… the animal destroys and does not produce … animal pleasures remain close to sensation levels and avoid the perceptual." Animals are governed by emotion they seek short-term pleasure and do not think for what is best for the future or what is best for others. On the other hand a human is governed by logic, humans of course feel emotion but they are not governed by it they of course are influenced by it but they are capable of making decisions that contradict their emotions.

Fear of course is among the strongest emotions that must be overcome in order to have rational thought, hence the repetition of the phrase "fear is the mind-killer," we cannot think rationally when under the influence of fear. I hope this is a concept that is familiar to all of us. I know a number of arachnophobes who refuse to enter a room if they think that there is a chance that a spider could be in there, this is completely irrational, what is a spider going to do eat you? A person is literally a million times larger than a spider, this makes no sense. But of course, when under the influence of their fear, an arachnophobe is unable to recognize this logic.

The knowledge that fear is the mind-killer is more important today than it ever has been. Many companies profit off of fear. CNN director Charlie Chester has admitted that, "Fear is the thing that keeps you tuned in.” "News" agencies, along with many other companies work to keep you in fear so that you can be driven by fear, like an animal is, led to consoom their product like a sheep. Humans don't give heed to fearmongerers, humans seek out information rather than propaganda.

Of course it is easy to ignore fearmongerers when they are corporations which you can tune out, but it is much harder when it is your government selling fear. As we all know the world was shut down in 2020, however in the Fall a bunch of unelected officials in our local government allowed my university to reopen as long as the number of COVID cases didn't get too high, if they were to get to high then they'd shut us down again. This of course sounds reasonable until you realize that we were never told what "too high" was. Was 300 "too high?" Or was 3,000 "too high?" Or did the number have to reach 10,000 before it was "too high?" School administration may or may not have been told the answer to this, but the student body and the general public were never told what these unelected officials determined was "too high".

There was a point during that semester where the university strongly encouraged us to recommit to following the pandemic related regulations since they feared that the unelected officials may shut us down. As a result of this a large panic came over campus as many people convinced themselves and others that we'd inevitably get shut down again. For the next week or two everyone went about their day not sure if they'd be spending their next day in class or if they'd be packing their bags again. It was hard for many students to focus on their schoolwork when there were rumors like that spreading without any sort of statement from the university to discredit them. Luckily we weren't shut down but I can assure you that those few weeks were not pleasant.

Interestingly I happened to come across some actual data from that time period that was put in an easily digestible format. With knowledge of the actual numbers from that time of panic I decided it would be interesting to ask people what they thought the actual numbers were during that time. After they remember the panic of that time they are shocked to hear that the actual number was less than a tenth of what they assumed would have justified such a panic. Of course I still have no idea how that number compared to what the unelected officials who govern us say is "too high" but it certainly was not high enough to justify the level of fear that we all felt. Why was nothing done to calm our fear?

Of course, all over the world, things are not yet fully open and we are told that things cannot fully open until things are under control, or numbers are within safe limits. Again this sounds reasonable until you realize that we are not being told what "under control" means or what the "safe limits" are. A hidden goalpost is a tool of a fearmongerer, if we know where the limit is then they can't make us afraid of it when we are far from it. You may notice that many states within the United States are beginning to fully open up, this is not because of any change in danger, numbers have stayed relatively consistent within the past few months, instead this opening is motivated by politics, the same Governors who shut down their states recognize that it is about time for them to start running for re-election and are hoping that voters will forget that it was them who turned their world upside-down.

There are multiple reasons why I usually refrain from talking about these topics here, many people have many different opinions about the pandemic but frankly I am sick of seeing people stuck in a state of fear, and I am sick of seeing leaders of all kinds fuel that fear rather than give people hope. Fear is the mind-killer, do not let it control you and try to save others from its grasp.