Dissing Fear

Political pundits like to accuse opponents of a “politics of fear”, or of hate.  In contrast, folks go out of their way to emphasize that theirs is a politics of hope or compassion.  Yet when each of us notices that we are feeling fear or hate, this doesn’t usually make us reject the beliefs that lead to such feelings.  Why do we embrace and accept our own fears and hates, even as we suggest that others’ fears and hates are bad signs about them?

One obvious explanation: relative to low status folks, high status folks have less occassion to fear or hate.  Pretty pampered prestigious people encounter fewer dangers to fear, or powerful enemies to hate.  Therefore publicly showing fear or hate is a sign of low status.  Complaining that your opponents have a “politics of fear” or hate is really just complaining about their low status.  Politics isn’t about policy, after all.

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