Fear of consequences needed to deal with autocrats, terrorists and mobs.
FRIGHTEN INTO SUBMISSION: From a school or street bully to a ruffian, rowdy or hooligan from a rampaging horde or violent mob to violent forces unleashed by terrorists, extremists, autocrats, despots or dictators, use of fear is the common factor. Fear is used as a weapon to browbeat and coerce the victim, torment and oppress the population, suppress dissent, intimidate or persecute the opposition, shock and awe the enemy into submission and surrender.
THE FEAR TOOLKIT: Extreme violence and brutality has been used traditionally by tyrants and bigots to terrorise and compel whole populations to comply with their dictates. Amassing a formidable armed force or financial war chest and threatening annihilation has often been used in history to subjugate the victim nation or organisation. World War II ended with nuclear weapons used as weapons of mass destruction to obtain surrender. Nuclear leaks and threats have since caused widespread panic. Chemical weapons are devastating and can demoralise both the military and the civilian population. Bioweapons are another threat to humanity. The virus from Wuhan has struck extreme fear in people worldwide. An array of computer viruses and cyber-attacks have stoked further insecurity globally.
THE EFFECT OF FEAR ON OPPONENTS OR VICTIMS: The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the world’s health and economy. The panic, financial losses and public disorder in open societies that has followed is now being exploited to implement regime change and rearrange the world order by ambitious politicians and autocrats. In all animals including humans, fear and danger cause a “fight or flight” reaction with an adrenal rush and other physiological changes required to fight or flee to survive. If the victim flees, the aggressor gains the victim’s territory, assets and resources at minimal cost. Extreme fright causes a physical and cognitive paralysis enabling a dangerous predator to overpower a stunned victim. Fear of failure, rejection, injury or loss in life leads to inability to perform optimally and leads to the feared outcome. A feeling of hopelessness leads to apathy, depression or suicide in an individual and to collapse of the administrative and security framework and chain of command in an organisation or nation.
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE: We cannot afford to remain hapless victims of the pandemic and other disasters and paralysed by the fear of a dystopian future. Open societies are best served by putting up a united defence like vaccines against viruses, security cooperation against cyber-attacks to allay fear and loss of confidence. The British Parliament is belatedly discussing measures to regulate genetic research and improve biosafety. The rest of the world needs to fast forward effective international legislation and regulation for biosafety and stop life threatening research. International treaties and organisations have not fully succeeded in preventing bioweapon research, nuclear proliferation and chemical warfare by rogue regimes. All these need urgent and united action by nations and societies where sanity, law and order prevail.
FIGHT FEAR WITH FEAR: Law and order is enforced by striking fear in the hearts of those who intend or attempt to break local or international law or treaties. To fight the use of fear of violence and banned weapons by perpetrators of war by any means, even more fearful consequences have to be imposed on their financial and organisational integrity. Even laboratory leaks of deadly pathogens and other reckless actions should attract punitive action, international sanctions and boycotts. The idiom “fight fire with fire” advises us to use the weapons or tactics of our aggressor even if we find them distasteful. Attempts by rogue elements and regimes to use disinformation, false propaganda, indoctrination and psy-ops have to be countered suitably to prevent them from dividing and misleading us. Instead, an information war should be unleashed to bring down autocrats and bigots by arousing a popular revolt among their mesmerised indoctrinated followers and support base. We also need to identify and punish the compromised among us who support such evil forces. The fear of punitive action and deterrent punishment should be such as to dissuade any misadventure by those threatening global order, health, peace and prosperity.
Dr P.S. Venkatesh Rao is a Consultant Endocrine, Breast & Laparoscopic Surgeon at Bengaluru.