You Have the Power

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.

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Small Planet

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