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    For Many Locals, The Fear Of The Unknown Is Greater Than The Fear Of The Taliban

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    Populists feed on fear. So do dictators. The cunning leader knows how to profit from fear, which is the most accessible tool to tame people. Anxiety, disguised as chaotic reason, can lead even the strongest mind astray.

    Homes, workplaces, schools, playgrounds; ideas, religion, state — institutions founded on fear. To forbid is to punish. To permit, reward.

    The person is conditioned, even if the process mightn’t be predetermined. Fear stays perpetually within. Manipulators know the job best, which is to use fear for myriad purposes: from accumulating power to inciting violence.

    Both communists and capitalists know it. Theocracies thrive solely on it. However, the method varies. Communism does it by owning the means of productions; capitalism inculcates the fear of mortality and material loss; theocracies, since Ancient Egypt, have offered intangible protection against the unknown.

    Fear is a paradoxical doubled-edged sword. On the one hand, it uses an individual’s desire for security to steer a pledge of allegiance to a central power, on the other, it creates a sense of constant insecurity. This amalgamation leads to irrationality—the kind which exists purely on fear, not ignorance.

    Fear is a magnet. Reason can loosen up the rope and make it possible to overcome its gravity. And yet, the former looms large, because it is deeply rooted.

    Take, for instance, Islamophobia. It did not take long for some in the ‘literate’ West to succumb to the fear. In response, a coalition came up with a holy, yet secular, alliance against everything that uses the term ‘Islam’ —that could be ordinary people adhering to the religion or terrorist groups that use it for their power agendas. The fear has pushed western academia, media, and politics into simplifying complex realities. That’s because the space for reason in a fearful mind—individual or collective—is less.

    Fear can surpass reason. It presents a scattered view of surroundings and keeps a person occupied in piecing together a puzzle of emotions, stirred in a way that their origins seem unclear. The blend of negativity surrounding the unknown, and the desire for stability, creates a will to incline towards anything that promises security.

    That’s where populists have cashed in since Thucydides’s portrait of the Athenian general Cleon. Today, the support for the Taliban is derived from the same fear—this time, a fear of alienation.

    Here, too, reason is triumphed by the need for security that makes a case for a strong central identity, no matter how violent it may be. The supporters of the Taliban mostly circumvent the real motives of the group, the lure for power, and tout it as redemption and protection under the banner of Islam.

    The Taliban offer a distinctive identity that stands in contrast to the West, which has already alienated the locals. This compliance with identity overlaps with a desire for stability and dependability.

    The hysteria of fear is hard to overcome. For, it demands robust effort on the part of an individual or the populace. Reason needs to be at play long enough to deconstruct the deep-rooted pattern of thoughts that yield a bleary vision, seeking refuge only in external authority. After all, if things do not make sense, it is convenient to leave the job to someone else.

    Even so, the art of looking beyond that fear, once mastered, liberates one from external manipulative forces, in turn putting us in a larger framework of things and opening up seas of possibilities. Therefore, the maxim, ‘look beyond fear’

    This intellectual and emotive liberty comes at the cost of the bliss of ignorance. However, those who dare to see beyond fear, find meaningful solace.

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