Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Power of Fear

When I went to Salem, Massachusetts a couple weeks ago, I had the chance to learn a little about the witch trials that took place there.   As I mentioned in an earlier post, it brought to mind that conventional wisdom can sometimes be a very dangerous thing.   As many of us know, fear is probably the most dominate emotion that controls our lives.   Our fears of rejection, failure, the unknown, and sometimes even success, can lead to behaviors that limit ourselves from realizing our true potential as a race and can cause societies do irrational things to alleviate that fear.   And do the leaders of societies recognize the power of fear and use it to manipulate its people by defining a convenient conventional wisdom?

Below is a brief snip from wikipedia that describes the initial events of the Salem witch trails.

In Salem Village in 1692, Betty Parris, age 9, and her cousin Abigail Williams, age 11, the daughter and niece (respectively) of the ReverendSamuel Parris, began to have fits described as "beyond the power of Epileptic Fits or natural disease to effect" by John Hale, minister in nearby Beverly.[13] The girls screamed, threw things about the room, uttered strange sounds, crawled under furniture, and contorted themselves into peculiar positions, according to the eyewitness account of Rev. Deodat Lawson, a former minister in the town. The girls complained of being pinched and pricked with pins. A doctor, historically assumed to be William Griggs, could find no physical evidence of any ailment. Other young women in the village began to exhibit similar behaviors. When Lawson preached in the Salem Village meetinghouse, he was interrupted several times by outbursts of the afflicted.[14]
The first three people accused and arrested for allegedly afflicting Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, 12-year-old Ann Putnam, Jr., and Elizabeth Hubbard were Sarah GoodSarah Osborne, and Tituba.[15] Sarah Good was homeless and known to beg for food or shelter from neighbors. Sarah Osborne had sex with her indentured servant and rarely attended church meetings. Tituba, as a slave of a different ethnicity than thePuritans, was an obvious target for accusations. All of these outcast women fit the description of the "usual suspects" for witchcraft accusations, and no one stood up for them. These women were brought before the local magistrates on the complaint of witchcraft and interrogated for several days, starting on March 1, 1692, then sent to jail (Boyer 3).
Other accusations followed in March: Martha CoreyDorothy Good (mistakenly called Dorcas Good in her arrest warrant) and Rebecca Nurse in Salem Village, and Rachel Clinton in nearby Ipswich. Martha Corey had voiced skepticism about the credibility of the girls' accusations, drawing attention to herself. The charges against her and Rebecca Nurse deeply troubled the community because Martha Corey was a full covenanted member of the Church in Salem Village, as was Rebecca Nurse in the Church in Salem Town. If such upstanding people could be witches, then anybody could be a witch, and church membership was no protection from accusation. Dorothy Good, the daughter of Sarah Good, was only 4 years old, and when questioned by the magistrates her answers were construed as a confession, implicating her mother. In Ipswich, Rachel Clinton was arrested for witchcraft at the end of March[16] on charges unrelated to the afflictions of the girls in Salem Village.

The people of Salem were fearful of the uncontrollable behavior of the young girls and the possibility of it spreading to others in the community.   Something had to be done.  Because the science of the day could not explain what was happening, the community accepted the explanation that witchcraft must be the cause, and the only way to eradicate the problem was to accuse woman of some mystical powers that were being used to threaten the town.   These 'witches' had to be eliminated.

Was this story created for economic and control reasons?   Did the land that some of these 'witches' own revert to others if convicted?

I look at the controversy over the Ground Zero Mosque and the anti Islamic sentiment surrounding it as a similar situation.   Most people in our country don't understand Islam and the people that practice it.  They think that the 1.6 billion Muslim people on our planet are terrorist and are fearful that any tolerance toward this religion is a threat to our survival.   The images of WTC only reinforces that.   Fear is causing people to act irrationally.    Is there a subliminal resentment that our economic woes are caused by the Islamic world because of our high reliance on their oil?   Could the mood swing to such that we begin to believe it is our moral obligation to 'take over' these countries to free the world of such vial people... and maybe get control of the oil.

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