Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Wole Soyinka's Climate of Fear: The Quest for Dignity in a Dehumanized World

"The history of contempt and disdain, and the denial of that rather unquantifiable virtue called dignity is at the heart of the current state of fear."

In 2004, Nobel Laureate, playwright, poet and political activist Wole Soyinka delivered the U.K.'s prestigious Reith Lectures Cimate of Fear. In four terrific lectures (audio recordings and trascriptions of which are now available online) the blindingly erudite and eloquent Soyinka, examined the conglomeration of inchoate terrors that presently haunt humanity: from the unquantifiable specter of a globalized Al Qaeda, with its networks of leaderless cells poised to strike at any moment; to the equally paralyzing and brutal responses of states - torture, rendition, surveillance, secret prisons and "war without end." In 2005, the lectures were developed into a book titled Climate of Fear : The Quest for Dignity in a Dehumanized World. Below are a few choice quotes from the first of the four lectures The Changing Mask of Fear.

"A notable aspect of all-pervasive fear is that it induces a degree of the loss of self-apprehension - a part of one's self has been appropriated, a level of consciousness, and this may even lead to a reduction in one's self-esteem - in short, a loss of inner dignity.

What terrifies the world however is no longer the possibility of over-muscled states unleashing on the world the ultimate scenario - the Mutual Assured Destruction that once, paradoxically, also served as its own mutually restraining mechanism. Today the fear is one of furtive, invisible power, the power of the quasi-state, that entity that lays no claim to any physical boundaries, flies no national flag, is unlisted in any international associations, and acts every bit as mad as the M.A.D. gospel of annihilation that was so calmly annunciated by the super-powers.

Any course of action, or inaction, that appears to encourage impunity, does implicate, however, the submission of the world to a regimen of fear. Yet that very recognition makes it possible to propose that it is within collective, not unilateral action...that we can sustain the hopes of humanity's survival. Terror against Terror may be emotionally satisfying in the immediate, but who really wants to live under the permanent shadow of a new variant of the world's - Mutual Assured Destruction?"

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