Lawrence, Carmen: Fear and politics

Carmen Lawrence

Fear and Politics, Scribe, Carlton North, Vic., 2006

The author was Premier of Western Australia and a federal Minister. She is now a professor of psychology. She explores the human experience of fear, looks at how xenophobia shapes Australian policies towards refugees, indigenous Australians and Islamic fundamentalists and examines exaggerated claims about crime and the threat from terrorists. She argues that fear should not be the foundation of moral and political argument.

Such fear is functional. Pressed into the employ of a narrow interpretation of Australia’s “national interest” it is used to justify policies and distract from failures. And it is clear that fear always serves the real elites …, the privileged few who throughout history have claimed to be uniquely positioned to identify the “dangers” from which they must protect us – witches, Jews, blacks, Muslims, communists, terrorists, illegals. (pp. 126-27)

A review is here and a radio discussion with the author is here. Lawrence returned to the fear theme during the 2016 election. Related is the famous quote from Herman Goering on the eve of his death at Nuremberg, 1946:

Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.

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