When, in his inauguration speech in 1933, Franklin D Roosvelt told the American people that they had “nothing to fear but fear itself”, he was exercising what Barack Obama later called the “audacity of hope.”
As Amnesty International yesterday warned that the policies of President Donald Trump and other leaders which demonise entire groups of people pose a growing danger for the world, perhaps it is time to reflect on what Roosvelt meant.
At the height of the Great Depression, he warned his fellow Americans that their fear, exhibited by a run on the banks, was making things worse. He characterised that fear as “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” He urged them to “now realise as we have never realised before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well...”
The politics of fear is terrorism by other means and is in danger of becoming a pandemic. It was seen during the Brexit campaign in Britain, is evident in France in the run-up to next month’s presidential election there, and is also in the ascendant in Turkey, Hungary, and the Philippines.
The hope, however, is that such fear-mongering has galvanised ordinary people in many countries to mobilise against such hateful rhetoric. In doing so, they could no worse than draw sustenance from the wise words of FDR.
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