Fear Factor

More and more families are attempting to live simply, to become self sufficient. They are investigating what they are eating, what they clean with, where their goods and services come from. They are asking more questions, examining more labels, and becoming active consumers.

In many, many ways, this is a wonderful thing to see. Parents should know what they are feeding to their children. We should be able to say for sure that the cleansers and detergents we use are indeed safe. We should want to know that the earth and the future that we leave for our children will be a healthy and clean one. It is best to focus on sustainability and durability over having to have more, more, more, and all of the newest and greatest toys.

However, I find myself troubled by a trend I am seeing. It follows two patterns:

1) Well meaning parents, caregivers, activists, politicians, etc are becoming passionate about issues relating to sustainability and the environment, and thanks to the various forms of media we are blessed with, especially social media, that passion and that knowledge can be shared. However, sometimes, that internal fire for a cause becomes a dangerous thing to play with. These individuals, with originally good intentions, can become rabid crusaders to the point of alienating their listeners, resorting to cruelty and insults, and sometimes, simply incorrect knowledge. What do you MEAN you circumcised your son? Don’t you KNOW the mental turmoil HE WILL FACE because you ONLY CARED ABOUT HIS COSMETIC APPEARANCE? Why do you not buy a 100% organic diet? Don’t you know that the cost of organic food NOW is cheaper than cancer later? DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN? Why are you not prioritizing? You used formula to supplement your breast feeding? I know not all mothers choose to SACRIFICE ENOUGH to exclusively breastfeed, but I FOR ONE REFUSE TO FEED MY PRECIOUS CHILD POISON!! 

I bet you’ve seen this a time or two.

2) Businesses are using scare tactics to sell products. They are preying on the fears of loving parents, caregivers, families, and friends for their loved ones to sell goods. Buy OUR PRODUCT or ELSE! Otherwise, your child/loved one/significant other/family/friend will end up dying/injured/poisoned/a diabetic/with cancer. Use this or the earth will be destroyed/polluted/harmed/trashed. DON’T YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR BABIES AND FAMILIES? DON’T YOU LOVE THE PLANET??

See what the underlying theme here is? It’s fear.

I have been seeing these fear tactics A LOT lately, particularly in online settings or in stores. I have been doing a lot of reflection as to why this is occurring. I’m not sure I have all of the answers, but I’ll pose some possibilities.

1) With the advent of social media and the internet, everyone is now suddenly “an expert” (I saw it on Wikipedia or Facebook, so therefore it must be true). Arguments become significantly more heated when you can hide behind a computer screen to do your dirty work. And it’s also easier to become invested in a cause via the internet, as well. Passion + knowledge + social anonymity = a recipe for disaster.

2) Parents want the best for their children. And in an age where more of us are asking why, where, and what when it comes to caring for our kids, it is easier to fall victim to the “you must do X in order to prevent Y” scheme. Individuals do it to win arguments or to criticize or make others feel guilty. Businesses do it to sell a product.

3) We want answers, and sometimes, we simply don’t have them, or they are hidden from us, or it takes time to obtain them, which we don’t always have to give. We become nervous and scared, and either become victims in the fear quest or, sadly, the perpetrators.

I’m not saying that everything frightening that we read or hear isn’t true. The sad reality is that there are a lot of bad things in the world–there are people who want to hurt us, toxins in the air and food, and we are indeed losing many natural resources due to bad human decisions. But why are we fighting with each other? Why are we allowing businesses to prey on our fears? Quite honestly, it is better to do one or two small things in the pursuit for a more healthy and sustainable life, than it is to listen to every bad story, only to become overwhelmed and quit.

It’s wrong for us to do this to each other, and it’s unacceptable that businesses feed off of the fears and love of families and friends. It’s time to accept that we can’t win every war, that small acts are sometimes enough, and that we all WILL make mistakes, and that it is okay. Don’t play into the fear factor game.

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