are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues,
the wrath of their society. Moral courage is
a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for
those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. Each time a person
stands up for an idea, or acts to improve the lot of
others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of
hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those
ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and
resistance. --Robert F.
Kennedy, South Africa, 1966
has happened to the voice of political courage today?
Where are the people willing to take a risk and stand for what they believe
in? Where are those who stand for what is
morally right, rather than politically expedient? Where
is real visionary leadership today? Is there
a cloud of negativity and fear hanging over the country these days that makes it
especially hard for anyone to take a risk of any kind or to speak truth to power? Is this fearful climate a result of 9/11 and the
terrorists attacks, or are there deeper forces at work?
fear-producing culture in America is eerily pervasive, especially in the media. Fear sellsnewspapers, movies, television. We
are being scared out of our wits by any number of horrible stories everyday about things
that could harm useverything from a potential Iraqi war igniting terrorists
worldwide against us, to dirty nuclear bombs radiating our cities, to deadly toxins in our
food and water, to growing cancer rates, to dishonest corporate executives losing our life
savings. With thousands of crazy murderers, robbers and rapists (now even in the
churches), the NRA sternly warns us that the only solution is for every citizen to own
lots of guns. Oh, and if youre a progressive politician, you better not fly in a
small plane, as they have a way of crashing just before a tight election
how does this general climate of fear affect political discussions? We have regularly sponsored public dialogues at
our educational center in Washington, D.C., and I was really shocked recently when a
friend whom I had invited to speak on a panel about current events reluctantly declined
the offer. He said his boss recommended that
he not speak because their company had a contract with a federal agency, and something he
might say could jeopardize the contract (even though he wouldnt be officially
representing the company or the agency and wasnt even speaking on company time)! Unfortunately, this is rather typical of people in
Washington with government contracts --they cant speak on any important issues! Is this the unspoken control that is generating
even more fear in Washington--especially with recent legislation like the Patriot Act and
Homeland Securityand now the extension of the Patriot Actthat take away more
of our rights. Do we live in a democracy or
what? Isnt free speech supposed to be
protected by our constitution?
how does fear affect us as a nation? According to the new science of pychoneuroimmunology
and the study of neuropeptides, our negative thoughts and emotions weaken our immune
system and harm our personal health and well-being. But
what about the effects of our collective thoughts on our collective health as a society? What, for example, is all the fearful thinking in
Washington D.C. about terrorists and security and government control doing to our
collective health? Is it in fact helping to
create an emotional field of terror that attracts the things we most fear, such as the
recent sniper attacks and anthrax-ridden letters? Isnt
it interesting that of all the cities they could have chosen for randomly shooting
innocent people, that the snipers happened to choose our nations capitol, where
major political decisions were at that moment being made about a possible war in Iraq that
could randomly kill innocent civilians?
some message in the fact that both the sniper and anthrax attacks were not perpetrated by foreign terrorists, but rather by
some of our very own fellow citizens, trained at our own military facilities? Isnt it obvious when two lone snipers
shooting a few people at random can completely terrorize a whole city, that we cant
possibly protect ourselves in the usual way? Isnt
it obvious when a few crazy terrorists could hijack an American plane and slam it into our
own Pentagon, that we can never be secure on a physical level, no matter how many weapons
we have and how many walls we build? Hello?!! Is anyone awake out there?
looking too much to external methods to protect ourselves, instead of becoming internally
strong and spiritually aligned as individuals and as a nation? What will a Fortress America mentality
really achieve? Will it actually lock us inrather
than lock others out? Are we so frightened
that few of us can speak up and challenge this craziness?
Are we so frightened that well be called unpatriotic if we dare oppose
a war in Iraq even though it could ignite the whole Arab world against us and draw
other nations into a nuclear war in the Middle East?
And if were really so fearful of terrorists, why are we about to
launch this major attack which will probably incite many wrathful terrorists attacks on us
here at home?
What can we do to stop this oppressive fear that seeks refuge in
a false conformity? As Franklin Roosevelt so
wisely told the American people in his Inaugural Address during the Great Depression:
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Fear creates a vibration that is paralyzing. To dispel fear and develop the
courage to speak up, we have to look at the patterns of thinking that feed fear.
enlightened members of humanity have always known that energy follows thought. Whatever we
think about, we direct energy towards, and this focused energy gives thought the power to
manifest physically. Thought is causal and powerfully creative. With our thoughts we make
the world. The physical world is a clear
expression of what weve thought about in the past. If we dont like what we
see, we need to change our thinking. With each new thought we create the world anew. Our
thoughts are the basic building blocks of the universe.
This is the incredible power we as humans havefor good or evil
As Einstein so wisely said, we cant solve a problem from
the same level of consciousness that created the problem in the first place. If we are
acting out of deep paranoia, our solutions to the problem of terrorism are bound to only
create more of the same, and not really make us more secure. This is clearly a turning
point in our history. We need, more than ever, to hear the wisdom of many voices, and
listen for the deeper causes of this crisis. But first we have to break through the cloud
of fear and suppression, so we can think more clearly and discover the deeper causes of
the anger and hopelessness that leads to terrorism. Only
thus can we create a better world that works for all and so be truly secure.
What can we do to overcome fear?
First, we have to become aware of the daily diet we take in with all our
senses, with our eyes and ears, as well as our mouth, and consciously limit it. The constant drumbeat of fear in our media and
entertainment poisons us as much as any food we eat.
Fear is an emotion felt in our solar plexus, but it is energized by our
thoughts. We may feel momentarily frightened,
but fearful feelings will grow more powerful if we feed them with our thoughts and imagine
even more horrible things.
overcome fear, we can also watch our thoughts carefully and practice mindfulness, a
meditative technique that is especially powerful in helping us become a detached observer
or witness to our thoughts. Rather than trying to suppress or inhibit fearful thoughts, we
simply notice what were feeling or thinking, and then withdraw our attention and
focus our attention on something more positive and life-affirming.
can focus instead on all the good work people are doing around the world to help humanity. We need to subscribe to at least one positive
source of information for every negative one we consume. We need to focus on the true
issues at stake in this crisis, on true human need, and develop a willingness to learn
from whatever happens. This can lead to increased knowledge and development, and
ultimately, greater usefulness helping create a better world.
powerful technique for transforming fear is to visualize white light pouring in through
the top of our head (at whats called the pineal or crown center) to cleanse and
balance the mind and the emotions. We can
align with our highest self or soul, and with the great spiritual teachers of humanity,
invoking the fire of courage to strengthen and protect us. We can ask to be guided
spiritually as to what is the best course of action for the highest good of all.
Throughout history, every courageous and altruistic act has
been inspired by Spiritfor thus are new heroes and heroines born
.those who can
truly sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance and
transform our world! As Gandhi once said,
A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their
mission can alter the course of history.
is co-author of Spiritual
Politics and Executive Director of The Center for Visionary Leadership
in Washington, DC and San Francisco, which offers public educational
programs, values-based leadership training and consulting services for
business, government and non-profit organizations. She can be reached
in the San Francisco area at The Center for Visionary Leadership, 369 3rd
St. #563, San Rafael, CA 94901; 415-472-9540 or in Washington, DC at