A few weeks ago I read a statement that stopped me short. I had never thought of it before and I cannot remember who wrote it, but it makes sense in so many ways.
It was a short two-word statement that reveals way too much about us. The writer simply wrote, “Fear sells.” Fear sells.
I have no idea how long this has been a true statement or when fear started being such a powerful force in our lives, but there is no denying it. All I have to do is look around at just about every facet of our lives to see how true it is.
Take the things we buy. We have come to the point where businesses tell us what we need and then go ahead and sell it to us. That became abundantly clear with the success of Steve Jobs and the company he created.
Over and over Jobs told his company that it was their job to tell people what they wanted and then sell it to them. And Apple was momentously successful in doing just that.
The difference was no one ever bought a Mac because he was afraid of not buying one, maybe a little nervous about being left behind, but Apple was successful more because of hope than of fear.
Not so one of the other biggest parts of our economy, the combined efforts of the pharmaceutical giants. They use fear on an hourly basis.
I hear ominous voices tell me what terrible things might happen if I do not take this pill, get that injection or some other vaccination. They show me pictures that show really ugly images, scenes of people avoiding others as though they have the plague, all followed by the message that if I take this pill, get that injection or buy the treatment they are selling, all will be well.
And sadly, it works. The proof is the financial success of those industries.
How many of us, for example, would get a vaccination if we heard that two out of three people will not get a particular disease in their lifetime? I mean, two out of three is pretty good odds. But what we are told is that, “One out of three people will get this disease.”
So they depend on fear to sell.
And it works.
Of course, some fears are justified. I have insurance on my house and my car. In the past five years both a house and a truck were totally destroyed, and I was saved only by having insurance. I paid for insurance, I think, more out of common sense than fear.
And I appreciate the ads that encourage people not to text and drive or just not get distracted when they drive, using fear of what could happen if they do get distracted while they are hurtling a ton of steel at 88 feet per second.
The way I see it, some fear is legitimate and other fear is created out of thin air. Legitimate fear tells me that I am more likely to die in a car accident, one in 4,000, than I am to be struck by lighting, which is one in 700,000.
And people line up to buy Mega Millions lottery tickets on a one in 135,000,000 chance of winning, but refuse to fly when the chances of being in a crash are only about one in 350,000.
I have heard people say they won’t go to a movie because they fear a maniac might come in and start shooting things up. Or they don’t feel safe in a mall because someone might start shooting.
I will admit I am a little more conscious of crowds and crowded places than I was 10 years ago, but I refuse to allow fear to dictate where I go and what I do. If that were the case I would never leave the house.
And of course, the master salesman who is now running for president, is using fear to promote himself.
He wants us to fear people who dress differently than most of us do, to fear people who worship differently than many of us do, to fear people whose skin is a different color than most of us, who speak a different language than we do.
In short, he has been saying that we should be afraid of just about everything and that he and only he, can save us from all the danger in the world. The world, he implies, is set against us, it is “us” against “them” and since he is so successful (???) and talks so tough, (and dirty) we should vote for him. Fear sells.
But just as I refuse to allow fear to dictate where I go, who I see and what I do, I refuse to allow fear to encourage me to vote for someone who wants to be our dictator. That, I am convinced, is what he wants.
“I” will build a wall, “I” will keep Muslims out of the county, “I” will bring back jobs. “I” will make America great again. Take a look and listen to the speeches some dictators gave in the last century and hold them up beside the speeches Donald J. Trump has given the past year. The constant “I”, the shouting, the waving arms.
The comparison is enlightening – and frightening.