You Have the Power

Choosing courage in a culture of fear


| September 23, 2004


One Spring Day Frances Moore Lappe and Jeffrey Perkins hailed a cab in Boston. Noticing the strong Russian accent of the driver, they asked, 'So, what do you think of America?' After hesitation, he answered, 'You Americans are all afraid.' As they passed two BMW's in Harvard Square, the driver pointed and said, 'Those people are the most afraid.' In Russia they feared the KGB. For the 'philosopher behind the wheel' and for the authors, in America, the problem is an attitude that trust is itself dangerous. Since 9-11, the terror alert system put in place has never dropped below yellow. Hospital entrances now warn: Do not enter if exposed to anthrax (as if we'd even know!). While terrorism is certainly real, warnings like these enforce a feeling of powerlessness, the idea of an unseen and uncontrollable enemy that is always in ones midst. In You Have the Power, Frances Moore Lappe and Jeffrey Perkins offer ways to transcend this sense of powerlessness, not by shutting oneself into the protection of one's home, but by using fear as a source of energy and strength, an invitation to plunge forward. By offering powerful tools for releasing us from our fear, Lapp? and Perkins show that fear can be a precious resource that people can use to treat ourselves and the world better.

The authors explain that human beings are naturally curious. We are problem-solvers and creators, and often problem-solving requires taking a risk. And yet somehow, with so many problems, we don't believe that we have the power to create the world we really want. Despite reports from the Carnegie Endowment that the world may actually be getting less dangerous, with fewer weapons of mass destruction than there were fifteen years ago, 'the fear-hype blinds us to the threats we should be addressing.' Fear is one of the oldest forms of social control in history. Once it is sparked, people police themselves.

We have always known that cooperation is fun and pleasurable, and that to live with passion, to fulfill the 'twin needs for deeper meaning and genuine connection' are the most important aspects of human life. And each of these requires stepping into the unknown. We need not interpret feelings of fear as signs that our actions are wrong, letting ourselves be crippled by them, but rather, we can let fear be a signal that we are following our deepest wisdom.

Go there >>Small Planet Institute

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