Fear is an emotion, a type of energy we all have available to us to help protect us against threats and danger. Thus the emotion of fear can be quite useful, unless of course it is the only or predominate energy that animates us. A fearful person—one largely motivated by it—will likely see danger and threats to him/her self everywhere and in most every other person. Moreover, when every other person is a potential threat to ones’ success toward fulfilling one’s goal in life, then fear of others—especially those not like oneself—inevitably emerges.
Controlled by Fear
An individual controlled by fear is an individual with a diminished ability to develop his/her human potential. That is, “the more one focuses on fear, the more intense the feeling of fear becomes and the more it begins to control behavior and limit the choices a person can perceive. As the saying goes whatever you place your attention on grows stronger in your life. Thus, as an individual places fear at the center of his/her attention, that individual gives fear the power to immobilize and imprison him/her, and consequently to inhibit his/her ability to realize his/her potential. In effect, by holding fear centrally in mind, people limit their ability to perceive (and interpret) anything without the constraints that fear imposes. Consequently, fear becomes so much a part of life that aspects of life’s experiences–and even life itself– are hidden from view” (The Intent of Business, p 91). In short, when living in fear an individual is a humanly constrained individual. Such an individual plays into the hands of seeking control over others. That is, those seeking to control others need exactly this, people insufficient in self-directedness and learning who will be unlikely to oppose them and more likely to comply and conform if not cooperate.
The more constrained, the less humanly developed the better. Exploiters can’t have a citizenry of critically thinking and knowing people, since critical thinking people will not commit to their own exploitation and cooperate in the exploitation of others. That is, people wherein love, empathy and compassion for others are operative—having a sense of We, of our deep inter-connectedness—would oppose exploitation.
This implies that the exploiter hasn’t the capacity for authentic or genuine human relationship with others. To this point, as a way for the exploiter to be void of any feeling of a human connection, these individuals (a.k.a. psychopaths) relate to people as tools/objects—at best merely as intelligent animals but not human—to be used in service to their self-interests.
Insecurity with Fear
Deming in his point 8 of his 14-points for management acknowledged the prominence of fear in organizations. This is most often seen in the performance appraisal/management system—the pathway to mistrust—wherein the satisfaction of employees’ basic needs of living are provided conditional on them meeting of management set goals. Specifically, In Out of the Crisis, Deming spoke to the role of fear as a means for causing others to feel less secure. More to the point, when people feel insecure about their situation and/or themselves they are easily manipulated and exploited. Furthermore, when the continuance of one’s job is uncertain, when one’s income is held in abeyance conditional on the meeting of management’s (arbitrary) goals then it is understandable how one could behave unethically, as evidenced in the case of Wells Fargo defrauding its retail customers.
Unfortunately basic human need satisfaction has become an economic transaction and thus the means of establishing leverage, that is power-over another while at the same time returning profit to those now owning what is inherently a public good. Even in society, the sustaining of a human life through the satisfaction of fundamental human needs—with such public goods as water, healthcare, and education—have been increasingly commoditized (and privatized) to serve the profit goals of corporations.
So of course we are insecure regarding our ability to sustain ourselves, fearing we won’t be able to satisfy our basic needs and that of our family. Thus, for those seeking to exercise control over others, having people fearful (particularly of each other) is the lever most used—enacting fear is the means to control.
Ubiquity of Fear
The fact that fear is ubiquitous in U. S. society is largely due to capitalism’s capture of democracy—democracy incorporated to use the term from Sheldon Wolin. A societal culture wherein capitalism—a system absent of a moral compass—provides the values and beliefs informing one’s goal in life and the structuring of society, it is no wonder that people are competitive dog-eat-dog fearful individuals seeking domination over and exploitation of everything ‘out there’ in pursuit of material self-interest—in this system of orientation we are all psychopaths in potential. When it’s all about me getting mine and to hell with you!
It should therefore not be surprising to see and experience the prevalence of fear and the stark absence of trust in so many places. It is also no surprise that those securing positions of authority and power in organizations and society’s institutions are those who most embody the beliefs and values of capitalism—the least humanly developed individuals among us—since the system favors those who advance its dominance and exploitative intent over us all.
But those enacting fear as the means for exercising power over others are themselves fearful individuals. Because they haven’t the capacity for understanding their deep connectedness to all people and Nature, they are alone in and separated in the world. But, you might say, they aren’t alone and separated after all they have each other. But they only are members of this elite group of the powerful as long as they possess great wealth. In effect, members of this group aren’t in relation as authentic human beings but as the possessions they embody. So once the size of their wealth diminishes they will no longer be useful to those in the group and hence will be cast aside. Hence at some level they know that their relation with others in the group is not secure, for they know they are all of the same extremely self-serving mindset. Unavoidably their insecurity is felt as fear.
They’ve structured their entire life aligned with the values and beliefs of the capitalist system; they are the embodiment of an alienating system and thus can’t help but be fearful of others. In spite of this, because of the positions they hold, the wealth they possess and the corresponding power it affords, they’ve been very instrumental in creating a world in their image by enlisting the compliance from, if not complicity of, others through the enactment of fear.
Cease Being Fearful
As long as we cooperate with the system, as long as we continue our addiction to material gain—to getting as much as we can and to consuming as much as we can—we will be cooperating in our destruction.
But it need not be this way! Economics and the corresponding conduct of business need not be exploitative. There is no unchangeable law that requires them to be so. They are social constructions and therefore are quite changeable. All we need do is stop sleepwalking through life, wake up and embrace the fullness of our humanness.
It is suicidal to continue being controlled by fear. It is suicidal to continue adhering to values and beliefs that are detrimental to life itself. We need to let go of what know but that ain’t so to create a system that serves our humanness and supports the sustainability of all life on earth. At base we have to let go of the notion that we are inherently and solely material self-interest maximizing beings and that others and Nature is ours to exploit.
With the capitalist intent narrowly focused on unlimited wealth accumulation, each person is instrumental to this end; each is simply an object to be used for purposes of material gain. This is limiting to the (human) development of people and as a result we have not progressed in humanly productive way. In this sense “progress is about forward movement toward a higher state of human existence and thus requires enabling each person to realize or express his/her potential, as well as to enact his/her responsibility for the sustainability of the collective through their way of being-in-the-world” (The Intent of Business, p 117).
Accordingly, we need to cease cooperating with a system that is literally limiting our development and causing our very destruction—it is suicidal. We need to cease cooperating in the blind pursuit of material growth at the expense of human progress. We need to change our world-view if we are to participate in creating a livable sustainable world. We need to structure our life consistent with a world-view that supports the viability of life and human progress.
Thus, it is incumbent upon those who own and/or manage a business to fundamentally change the intent of (that) business to one that functions in support of human progress rather than narrowly on material growth. After all if you are one of these people you have the power and authority to do it. Also, it is incumbent upon those who are customers/consumers to patronize those businesses that support human progress. Have you the courage?