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Orlando Hawkins

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Is power ( or obtaining power) a prerequisite for fear and control or is fear a prerequisite for power and control?

In the book "The Denial of Death" written by Ernest Becker, it is stated that "men worship and fear power and so give their loyalty to those who dispense it" (127). The conversation in class somehow managed to makes its way into the discourse of Nazi Germany and the 2008 Pres elections in the U.S. It was stated that the extravagant social and economic conditions was the pretense of Hitler coming into power and once he had the power and support of the masses he was able to control everyone else by implementing fear into their consciousness so they "willingly" gave up their liberties.

The other argument was that people, due to this "worship" of fear, allowed to Hitler to come into power because they were afraid that they were going to die if they did not follow the orders of the Nazi government. So in this case, fear was the pretense of Hitler having as much power as he did.

Both sides, equally intriguing left me quite perplexed. So what is it power that leads to fear and control or is it fear that leads to power and control over the masses?

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  • Sep 27 2011: Orlando,great question but I dont think it gets at the root of the symbiotic relationship between power and fear(subservience). Men worshiped and feared Kings and Pharaohs. Today we elect Prime Ministers and Presidents but we still (mostly) give them all our power and then bitch about it. Why? Interestingly, animals also fear and are subservient to the aplha leader. It seems to me that the follower/leader dominator/subservient paradym is inate in the animal/human species. The answer to why that is so may be as ascertianable or obscure as why there is both a north and a south pole? Or why is there male and female? Why is the world always divided into opposites? Could it be in part the way our brains are organized into hemispheres? Or are brains in hemispheres becuase the earth is divided into hemispheres? ( universe divided into light and dark, etc etc) In any event, this split, this division in consciousness is in our genes. and universal as near as I can tell.
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      Sep 27 2011: I like that statement about giving someone power and then bitching about it..that is very, very true...

      Its also interesting that you mentioned that because I had a conversation with someone about how we are just like wolves, who willingly follow their pack leader...you see this with some primates as well..

      If this is indeed true, this would explain why there really has not been any radical movements coming from the masses in general (at least in the U.S.)....

      It also raises the question of are hierarchies a construct of society, biology or is it a conscious decision?
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    Sep 26 2011: Hitler didn't rise to power through the use of fear. He used religious indoctrination and hope. He was elected to power in a democracy. He only turned to fear later when he himself was afraid of being betrayed. Prior to that he was little different from any other extravagant politician. He managed to secure the olympic games in Germany as well.

    The reason I say he did it through hope, was that people felt he would cause things to get better, as opposed to not electing him would make things worse. Life was already terrible for germans in the post ww1 era. He gave them the hope of a better life.

    I believe that the 2008 election was the opposite. while his message was of hope, people were voting out of fear. They were afraid that things would get worse if they did not vote for him.

    In my opinion, it is power that leads to fear. The people who hold power, are afraid of losing that power, and then force their fears onto the people that they are in power of.
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      Sep 26 2011: in fact, hitler was never elected. almost, but not quite. but it is true that people tolerated his role, probably because they hoped for benefits. btw the same is true about communists. they never managed to get elected.
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        Sep 26 2011: Ah my mistake. I was thinking of an election early in his political career, when the party nearly bankrupted itself in an attempt to have him elected.

        Perhaps I've been exposed to too many conspiracy theorists claiming Obama is the new Hitler, and it's distorting my memory of what was taught in history classes.
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      Sep 27 2011: I agree with both of you. I also believe that it is power that leads to fear. When it comes to the case of Hitler, once he obtained power and gained control of the people, he could twist them any way that he wanted to and no one would have done anything due to the fact that he was going to be responsible for bringing Germany out of a crisis and into glory (which he actually did in a way)

      I look at the situation like this: Imagine being a homeless person, who is desperate. All of a sudden someone comes up to you and states that not only that they have food, but they'll provide you with a place to stay, education and employment...who in their right mind, in the current situation would deny such a thing?

      Nliow I must say, in regards to Obama, I was not comparing him to Hitler in a negative way (as how Tea Party members do)...But if you look at it symbolically, they pretty much are the same (in the sense of coming out of nowhere and promising their country that they are going to rise to glory) and both are great speakers. Now I'm not saying that Obama is going to start concentration camps and genocide (that would be absurd) but what I'm looking at is how they managed to persuade people to put all their trust in them by saying certain words like (Hope, Greatness, Change, etc).How they were able to move their countries and shift the consciousness from ("government is worthless" to "there is some hope"..

      If my original question did come off implicating a conspiracy, my apologies.
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    Sep 29 2011: Neither. Fear is the abscence of information. Information is power.
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    Sep 27 2011: This entire conversation reminds me of the book "Fear: The history of a political idea" by Corey Robin.

    I don't remember much of it anymore, but the general gist of the book was about how fear is a very powerful tool, and that we need to be cautious of allowing fear to motivate every aspect of our lives. How nearly everything that America (and most of the world) does, is fueled in some way by fear.
  • Sep 27 2011: time for 2 minute response...watch the "news" on any station regarding particularly the republican nomination for president....95% of the "analysis" is pyschological couched in political tones...but its all about finding a "leader"...someone to lead us, someone we can trust, someone who looks and acts "presidential" ..its like looking for the "perfect' father figure.The real policy differences are ignored and the debates (dems or repubs) are beautypagents. We all know this but rarely do we ask why? I belive that biology controls the limbic system where our emotional responses originate ...and we make decisions on who we like and who is like us.....all the analysis is psycho-babble and jargon so that we can largely delude ourselves into thinking our frontal lobes are really deciding the issue. Why else would everyone focus 90% of their energy on irrelevant data/information? Its the biology and nature of the mind.