Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
Violence, Guns & Fearology: Jim Hanson's Questions
by R. Michael Fisher - Thursday, December 20, 2012, 08:47 AM
Below, Jim Hanson (a CSIIE Instructor) responded to my last Forum piece on school violence and mass murders (re: the recent Newtown, CN case). I'd like to give some short responses to him, and invite others to join the conversation.
Micheal, a nice, simple introductory statement.  The question is, I guess, what fearology brings to diagnosing and treating the problem of gun violence.  There are several fear-related issues.
1. The fear of the killers, which gets into psychology/psychiatry and how mordant fear might trigger violence, which will be tough nut to crack and variable from one individual to another.
2. The fear of potential victims being attacked, which on one hand is exploited by the NRA and other gun advocates to increase arms especially for selected persons such as teachers, which on the other hand is felt by people who want to decrease and control arms.
3. The political fear that Big Government is plotting to destroy the Second Admendment and other civil rights and liberties.
4. The sociological fear that social institutions are breaking down and society is becoming anarchistic.
5. The cultural fear that violence has become an aesthetic/moral value, certainly aesthetic as evidenced by the violence in movies, games, and other entertainment, and arguably moral regarding government use of violence through wars, special forces, drones,and capital punishment.
6. Case studies of localities such as Newwtown that are traumatized by violence.
To me, these are quite different issues that vary regarding relevance to fearology and appropriate questions and methdologies,  The first three appear to be less relevant to fearology, while the latter three are more relevant.
Good luck with your inquiry, Jim Hanson (CSIIE Instructor)
Dec. 19, 2012
First, thanks Jim for pushing into the issues and drawing out some good points for dialogue, and challenging me (us) on what an integral fearology (fearanalysis as methodology) could bring (in your words) "to diagnosing and treating the problem of gun violence." Second, I have to say, it is unclear yet, still untried, what such a methodology could bring to improving the "problem of gun violence." This takes more than one person's intelligence, it takes patience, desire, and techniques, and critical analysis and assessment from a willing body of people who want to work on it. All I can do is give a theoretical guidline and potential methodology, but people have to "do the practices" or otherwise we won't even understand what the methodology of fearanalysis is. And the "talk-talk" about it will only be speculation and opinion, and likely disinterest afterawhile. So, how do we get around that problem of engagement in the methodology?
The problem of engagement is a challenge, let me tell you, I've been doing this for 25 yrs. People are real enthused (usually) to get on a band wagon about an "issue" but little are they motivated to "do a practice" (i.e., take on and test a theory and methodology, read new information that may change the way you look at reality, and yourself, etc.).
Fearanalysis tells me that people are "afraid to look deeper" than the surface issues (symptom) of which "gun violence" is--I have said it before: the real problem is a Fear Problem. We could claim, with a lot of evidence, "people are afraid of change" and, "when fearful already, they often are rigidly habitual and reflexive and can't change." This is not always true. Fear also brings changes, but the ethical issue is "what kind of changes" and "for what good, for whom?" My experience tells me "people are afraid of fear" (nothing new, that a lot of other people have uttered for centuries). They don't want to really talk about it: that is, fear itself. They, more so, might talk about "issues" (e.g., fear of x, y, z)--like "fear of guns" and/or "fear of losing their guns" (or being restricted by Big Gov't or whatnot), as Jim points out. And, yes, people are afraid of being "victimized" (which is understandable).
To be clear, the problem is a gun problem but it is so much more. Fearology can help the analysis of both, but fearology is not interested to only stay with the symptom. So, that's one thing a fearanalysis offers to the issue: Don't just focus on guns and violence from them (Jim points to the sociological, cultural and political aspects)--the issue is a Fear Problem (i.e., how do we "use" and "misuse" fear in our society and who supports those uses, why, and is it ethical or healthy?)...
The simplest, rhetorical argument (if not a tautology) is that people use guns to kill (not necessarily people) and/or protect themselves; they do that because they want to overpower another sentient being when they decide to, for whatever seeming rationale they produce, or ethics they espouses (e.g., "it's my right to kill and/or bear arms"). Basically, from a fearanalysis, the need (or desperation) to overpower another sentient being at will, with "fire power" (or whatever means) is about their fear-based need to control and self-preserve. We have to ask is that "natural" when we live in a "culture of fear" that constructs that attitude continually from birth? A fearology deconstructs simple 'norms' and their assumptions about the nature and role of fear. And, continuing the argument (if not a tautology)... A gun-in-hand (or the closet, glove-compartment in a car, or purse, or tucked in a belt on one's hip) is itself a 'fear' architecture that one is choosing (usually unconsciously) to dwell-in. 'Fear' is more subtle than "fear," as fearology has shown, and it begins (as does a gun-in-hand) to shape one's self-identity.
The self/ego attaches to that victorious possibility of overpowering another (satisfying a "false security" perception)--and, you can bet, that living in that architecture of 'fear' (or, predator-prey ecology of fear), that it will unfold either psychically and/or physically with time. The gun-in-hand becomes an activating symbolic-meaning making system of power-over (i.e., it is better to make someone else afraid of me than them making me afraid of them) And, if you can carry it, and dwell within it, you will always be aware that someone else is doing what you are doing. And, so the tautology is: carry gun and have fear, and have fear because I carry gun (leads to obsession, carry more guns, more, more). Yes, guns, no matter in who's hands are going to frighten everyone more, than if we didn't have them. Guns are like "taking a pain reliever" pill. When you have stage 4 cancer and don't know it because it hasn't been diagnosed. My point: the gun problem and our pills we take within that problem set, are not the real deeper problem, which is the Fear Problem, and is yet diagnosed (i.e., we are in denial still).
I don't want to go on and on with the "gun problem" details, and problematics, including the critiques of my own claims above, all I will say is that they come from a seasoned fearologist, and that may make a difference to the diagnosis and treatment of the gun problem--however, more so, I'd say they are more effective in us dealing with the Fear Problem (cycle of fear = cycle of violence). And, it will all be more effective if I am not the only one doing this diagnosis or treatment!
I realize I went at Jim's questions and points, indirectly, and that's mainly because of my contextualization approach of a fearanalysis... in which often involves backing off the obvious diagnosis and "issues" and flying around a bit above sea level, and then, back again... I know, and Jim is right, fearology will have to stay on the ground too, with very practical matters and techniques, and offerings, or else most people will write it off pretty quick... especially in pragmatist USA.
I look forward to more thoughts from you all.