In my Intro to International Studies class, we have been talking about how misperceptions happen in the international system. Leaders in government often misconstrue or wrongly emphasize data based on stereotypes already in place, or on past events that went badly. For example politicians often have "Munich Syndrome," meaning they are afraid that if they ever give in to the demands of another country, that is an appeasement just like how Hitler was appeased by Neville Chamberlain in 1939 when he stepped aside while Hitler invaded Poland. Politicians today compare completely unrelated situations to this all the time, and are often very paranoid that history could repeat itself somehow. No one wants to be the Neville Chamberlain of the 21st century. Fear oftentimes rules over reason and levelheadedness in politics, and realist theory would suggest that states are willing to do anything to protect their security. When President Bush announced that the United States would be invading Iraq, the politics of fear was behind one of his main purposes for going. The American people were made to believe that September 11th or something like it would happen again if we didn't act, and people are more willing to agree if they are afraid.
Outside of large international politics, even politics on the smaller scale seems motivated by fear to me. During the talk last week on "Does Democracy Matter?" Dr. Erfani encouraged us to be involved and active in democracy in more ways that just voting. One reason this is a rarity may be laziness or ignorance as to how to get involved, but I would argue a third reason is fear. People are afraid to face to problems in the world, and the problems in democracy itself, because it is all so overwhelming. It's so much easier to say that your small contribution wouldn't really matter, and just step back, than it is to really face the world with your eyes wide open. Dealing with all of these problems would bring up so many fears, that sometimes it's easier to stay away from them. I am no different than this, I'm afraid of what's happening to world culture, of what's happening in human relations, in religion, in countries far away with conflicts going on that I can' t even fathom.
Fear holds people back, and causes decisions to be made less rationally oftentimes. At the same time, fear is not usually unfounded, and a certain amount of fear is healthy. I just believe that when fear is used as a weapon, like it is oftentimes in politics over the world, it stunts progression.