A Culture of Fear?

Event Details

When
11/19/2009
6:00pm - 7:30pm
Where
Chicago Public Radio, Community Room
848 E Grand Ave (Navy Pier)
Chicago, IL, 60611-3509
United States
See map: Google Maps
County: 
Cook
Fee: 
Free. Open to the public.
Where
Chicago Public Radio, Community Room
848 E Grand Ave (Navy Pier)
Chicago, IL, 60611-3509
See map: Google Maps
County: 
Cook
Fee: 
Free. Open to the public.


PLEASE NOTE: Registration for this event is now closed.
If you have questions, please call 312.422.5580 or send us an email.

The Public Square and Chicago Public Radio invite you to a special Café Society discussion….


What does it mean to live and operate within a culture of fear? How does social and political anxiety alienate us from one another, separate political parties, and segregate communities? What are some strategies for resisting or disrupting a culture of fear?

Join us for a lively discussion that examines these questions and explores ways that fear and anxiety can dictate our moral imagination, our value systems, and our actions. Special guest Bill Ayers, school reform activist and Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will help kick-off the discussion. Chicago Public Radio personalities Alison Cuddy, co-host of Eight Forty-Eight; Julia McEvoy, Editor of the Education and Urban Affairs Desk at WBEZ; and Natalie Moore, South Side Community Bureau Reporter, will participate in the conversation, Café Society-style!


The full Café Society topic summary is below.

More about our special guest
Bill Ayers
is a school reform activist and Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is founder of the Center for Youth and Society and founder and co-director of the Small Schools Workshop. He has written extensively about social justice, democracy, and education. His most recent book, Race Course: Against White Supremacy, is a collection of personal essays co-authored by Bernardine Dohrn, about the troubling endurance of White Supremacy in American life.  

This event is presented by The Public Square and Chicago Public Radio-WBEZ 91.5FM.



 

 

A Culture of Fear?

Things that go bump in the night. Howling winds and chilling sights. Fear abounds. What do our fears (both real and imagined) tell us about the society we live in? In what ways do our anxieties dictate our value systems and actions?

While vampires and ghosts have their place in popular history, fear has a place in political history as a mechanism to further certain agendas. In his essay, The Politics of Fear, Alex Gourevitch writes, “In conditions when conventional political ideologies fail to inspire, there is a temptation to resort to the politics of fear as a way of restoring the power and authority of elites. The hope is that the quest for security, rather than anything higher, can become a unifying political principle in its own right.”

Some say that the Bush administration used the fear of terrorism to pass controversial laws under the Patriot Act. Looking back in history, others have pointed to the fear of “the other” as central to the atrocities that were committed in the Jim Crow era. In search of security and warmth, are we allowing our fears to influence policy and governance?

Michelle Chen thinks fear causes what she calls “in-humane” immigration policy. In her piece “Immigration chaos: rule of law versus rule by fear” on colorline.org she writes, “While many social and economic factors drive immigration, the chaos in the system ties directly back to previous policy decisions, and Washington's inaction has by default expanded the dilemma it supposedly wants to contain. As Congress turns away from rule of law in immigration policy, it turns over the system, and the fate of the people trapped in it, to those who rule by fear.”

With widespread unemployment, loss of health care, flu pandemics, and an ongoing war, many Americans have reason to be anxious. This anxiety for some has stirred feelings of intolerance. Jerrold Post, a professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, said, “The whole country’s under threat right now, with economic difficulties and political polarization. The need to have someone to blame is really strong in human psychology.”

Recently Rush Limbaugh faced criticism when he accused President Obama of trying to “destroy” the economy” during an interview on “Fox News with Chris Wallace.” He said, “I have to think that it may be on purpose because this is just outrageous, what is happening — a denial of liberty, an attack on freedom.” Limbaugh’s dramatic language drew a line in the sand between those out to “destroy” and those out to “defend” our civil liberties, and, for many, indicated a strategy that incites anxiety and provokes paranoia. This begs the question: does political angling cause more anxiety than the monster lurking under the bed? And do we really only have to fear fear itself?

Do we live in a culture of fear? How has fear been used to promote certain political agendas and what are the dangers of this strategy? What does it mean to live and operate within a culture of fear? How does social and political anxiety alienate us from one another, separate political parties, and segregate communities? What are some strategies for resisting or disrupting a culture of fear? Do you think Americans should be afraid of the direction this country is headed in and why? Does fear weaken the fabric of a democracy?
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For more information, call 312.422.5580.

The Illinois Humanities Council [IHC] is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Illinois General Assembly [through the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency], as well as by contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed by speakers, program participants, or audiences do not necessarily reflect those of the NEH, the IHC, our partnering organizations or our funders.