Fear has a bad reputation. Nobody wants to live in a society of fear; it’s an emotion to be avoided. As such, the role of the modern state is driven by the public’s desire to avoid those fear-inducing elements of modern life.
But that does not mean the role of the state is to eliminate fear. Rather it needs to manage what might be termed the “fear factor”. This is the fine line between using fear to encourage public compliance with the law (i.e. fear of prison is itself a preventative strategy), while at the same time convincing the very same people that they don’t need to live in a constant state of dread, anxiety and fearfulness.
We have much to be emotional about right now. In writing moment, a pandemic is upon us, with attendant political and economic crises. Among the emotions this has evoked, fear is indisputably the most palpable and discussed. But there is also frustration and anger, for example, at slow or insufficient government actions. And those who have already lost loved ones will of course feel sadness and grief. These are indeed dark times, casting a deep shadow over, or perhaps shadowed by, our inner lives.
In Germany, right-wing terror is on the rise. In the past years, events such as the 2016 mass shooting in a Munich shopping mall, the knife attack on politician Henriette Reker in 2015, the murder of Walter Lübcke and the attack of a synagogue in Halle in 2019, and the most recent terror attack in Hanau in February 2020 have left the country reeling. In light of these events, a wide range of liberal to conservative politicians and observers have issued public statements that condemn sentiments of hatred that are thought of as motivating these violent crimes. ‘Hate is a poison that… is responsible for far too many crimes,’ said chancellor Angela Merkel after the Hanau shooting. Others have explicitly accused the far-right populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) of fueling hate that would lead to an increase in right-wing violence. The AfD should be considered ‘the political arm of hate,’ said Green party member Cem Özdemir in a recent interview, while AfD politicians have been vehemently protesting the accusations and denying any connections between their politics, the dissemination of hate and the rise in terror attacks in Germany.
In Swedish, there is a word for the shame we feel when we choose air travel over more ecological options. The Swedes call it ‘flygskam.’ They also coined the words ‘tågskryt’ (train pride) en ‘smygflyga’ (flying in secret). The question whether we should feel ashamed when making unecological choices is not restricted to Swedish media. But does this shame actually contribute to the greening of society?
In the previous post Mathew Flinders identified the ways in which collaborative research touches the emotions of academics and places different kinds of demands on them. In our joint article with Milton Brown, Paul Ward and Zanib Rasool (available here) we identified the emotional work of collaboration and the ways in which it touched us personally. Here I reflect on my own academic journey and explore how it helped to work both inside and outside academia.