Only murder works for crime novels and only fear works for sales. The reason purveyors of Snake Oil, Cure All Nostrums, and Insurance Policies have been around for such a long time is because they rely on fear to carry their sales pitches. We the people appear to have learned little or nothing of their fear mongering or, if we have, we’re not prepared to risk ignoring them.
At first glance the death insurers seem the most cynical – ‘Give us your money now and we will see you are buried well later,’ or, ‘Don’t let your death be a burden to your loved ones.’ Better, one would think, to keep the money for those who inherit to decide how you are to be remembered but that only works if you think. A worse example must be the warmongers. These are the folks who buy into the armament business and then goad us into war, or the threat of war, to ensure the products of their investments are in demand. The warmongers are bad all right but the worst of the worst it turns out are the sophists vying for high office. Here we see fear mongering at a new level – at a cynically false level of high promise that can never be realized. How could it? How can those stump pumpers leaning on the lecterns of the presidential candidates debate defeat the radical Muslim Jihadists? They can try with guns and bombs and draconian immigration procedures but we know, those of us who are impervious to the rhetoric of fear mongers, know that being a Muslim isn’t being a soldier or a cleric – it’s an idea. Just as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism . . . are all ideas. We also know, we who hold back the reptilian cortex long enough to think, know that defeating an idea requires another idea – a better idea.
Most of the folks on those debate stages this month would claim Christianity, or Judaism, as their ideas and can, by virtue of the wonders their god can be deemed to perform, see that guns and bombs are the answer – which is astounding given the centuries of persecution of the Jews because they are still with us. Not that Christians have always enjoyed lives of milk and honey. European history literally drips in the blood of Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans , Protestants . . . and the British Isles have seen more than its fair share of blood letting from the Shannon Estuary to Scotland’s Scapa Flow.
They’re all still here. These separators of mankind’s ideas are still here. Not one has been defeated by pike or sword, bayonet or bullet, nuclear bombs or gas ovens. If they are all still here why are these reptilian fear mongers cluttering up the debate stages still banging the same drum?
Perhaps because, “I will protect our country,” is an easy sell because it’s packed with fear. Try selling, “I will educate your children so they can see what I see. I will teach them about ideas and ideals and wisdom and the power of truth. I will unlock their minds so they might have lives so much better than yours.” No fear in there and it would require the listener to attend for nearly half a minute. That’s not the American way. The American way is short, not more than five seconds, ‘War on Drugs,’ or ‘From my Cold, Dead, Hand,’ or ‘Electric when You want It, Gas when You need It.’ The latter is a little long but seems not to have hindered Chevy’s sale of the Volt. The point though is the elimination of thought. They are ready-made conclusions right in line with the American education system and they work. They work as the Bible and the Koran work – ready-made easy to understand guides to the entry to heaven. They fall down though when the recipient learns to read – a good reason for not teaching it? A sharp reader quickly sees conflict and controversy in those tomes and is in immediate danger of being lost to the cause – worse, he might spread the word. It was always better to take off his head than risk danger to the system. We saw plenty of that in medieval Europe and see it now in the modern Middle East. Our modern candidates are undeterred – they’re going to stick to tradition. They’re going to shoot down planes, bomb things and people too, but no boots on the ground because we have learned from Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya – except for few advisers that is. I’m trying to remember now when advisers first went to Vietnam.
There is one exception out there amid the nomination hopefuls in the form of Bernie Sanders. He talks of ideas and, heresy of heresies, education. Can you imagine anyone seriously attempting national candidature talking of education? Who cares? Leave it to the private sector – roll out the original sophists, teachers who taught what they were paid to teach, as was done 2,500 years ago in Sophocles’ Greece. They learned back then that private schools were a bad idea. People came to understand the importance of a genuine broad education and in some parts of the world the the lessons are retained but not in the US. In the US an education has to be bought by the parent who understands exactly what the child is to be taught and the results are clear. Business before people. War is big business.
The same applies to the religions where the child is taken into the fold early to establish a belief template in its formative years. We saw it in Northern Ireland when sixteen year old Protestants debated with their Catholic contemporaries. The polarization in ones so young was horrible to witness. Although the problem still exists in Ireland it has much less traction in those now more informed societies.
Muslim teachings though are falling on the ears of the less informed, and poorly shod, leaving them with no other values. This is where the corrections need take place. This is well within the power of the administrations. No need to stamp on the culture; open the doors to alternatives. Sanders can see it and I suspect many others can see it but the fear of failure overwhelms the others. Selling education on the stump equates to political suicide unless, unless fear is introduced into the equation. How about, ‘Russian Ed Trumps US Ed, Korean Ed trumps Russian Ed.’ Here’s a punchy one: ‘Learn now, or learn later – you decide.’