Ending the Tyranny of Survival Fear



The global marketplace - Global communications - Millennium change

Those who benefit from the old order, deny, and strongly resist change. Governments, for example, continue to operate on the basis that survival fear is their reason for existence. Survival fear justifies the Soviet's right to shoot down a Korean airliner that mistakenly flew over their territory. Survival fear causes the United States to hesitate in signing disarmament proposals with the Soviet Union in 1989. A real basis for a fear of invasion does exist for a few nations. The Israeli government can justify actions based on fear of the nation's survival, but in most parts of the world the justification of invasion does not exist.

The survival system has moved humankind from tribal society to family and nation. Now tribes only exist in peripheral groupings such as the North American Indians or groups in central Africa or South America. In the 20th century, nations are the preferred survival fear social organization and blanket the world. That triumph also marks their decline.

Survival fear is imaginary, but it still exists as a conditioned reaction, not a calculated and considered judgement. It is a memory still close to the surface. It was used by Nazi Germany to infer, through poster propaganda, that the Russians were barbarians. For the Nazis it was a blatant use of the fear of barbarism to strengthen the war effort. The United States used this fear in the belief that it was the democratic inheritor of the Greeks and the Communists were barbarians to be contained in a ring of military alliances.

The global marketplace

Societal breakdown is not solely the result of erosion of survival fear. Another reason is the global marketplace which brings an end to national markets. Articles such as cars, rice, and wheat, have no political nationality. They are world goods, consumed by people of various political entities without considering the nationality of the producer. The desire for fine Italian gloves, Scottish tweeds, and Costa Rican bananas, illustrates that consumer preferences are global, not national. The purchase of world goods is the normal expectation and this trend is unlikely to be reversed.

This global market is often in direct conflict with the national or cultural trance of a specific area. The politician's wish, that the inhabitants of a nation buy the products of that nation, is doomed to failure. The wry bumper sticker on a British car, I BOUGHT BRITISH, SOMEBODY HAD TO, mocks the idea that anyone can persuade consumers to support nationhood on economic grounds.

The global market transforms the habits of particular segments of humanity in geographic areas. An example is the apple growers of British Columbia who have lost the market of their own nation to the global market. They now have to change the type of fruit grown to meet a marketing niche in California. The global market continually inter-acts with local commercial activity and entrenched local business practices. The result is a continual restructuring of social, economic, legal, and political organizations. Change is rapidly being accepted as the norm.

Global consumerism has subsumed the discussion of party politics. It does not matter whether one speaks of capitalism (it's a jungle out there and only the rich and powerful survive) or of communism (the political state rules the economy and only the politically complaisant survive). They are two answers to one problem. How does a community facing external economic threats respond so that it can retain jobs and provide a comfortable standard of living?
For politicians, survival now means economic survival. In a study of the Netherlands1, Arend Lijphart, concluded that there were a number of rules that determined politics. The Netherlands is a trading nation and it is easy to understand that the primary rule is that politics is a business in which doctrinaire disputes have no part. The second rule is that it is a pragmatic business and compromise is more important than antagonizing opponents. A third rule is of allowing a select elite group to decide a crisis situation. A fourth one is to distribute resources in proportion to political strength. Fifthly, potentially divisive political disputes are neutralized by complicated arguments or legal principles. There are, also, other rules that reinforce the basic attitude of the nation being run as a business. The pragmatic Dutch have made it clear that politics is about economics, not religion or morals or nationality.

The sheer historical impetus of the collective survival fear is the politician's principal tool for motivating the electorate. Economic survival now means affluence, not the continuance of existence. This new political fiction has meant that politicians now engage in `Japan bashing' or exhortations to raise the GNP in the face of foreign competition. Fiscal policies and economic aggrandizement have become the measure of successful governance.
National governments now protect the individual from (barbarian) economic forces. Economic invasion has replaced armed invasion as the principal reason for political sovereignty and national power. The fear of possible loss of income allows politicians to assure the majority of voters that it will protect and enhance their income, - thereby justifying their power.

This fiction of national economic survival can only be temporarily useful to politicians. It flies in the face of the burgeoning global market: the global economy that can overwhelm any national economy. Nations can no longer solve their economic problems with unilateral actions. To forge a national policy opposing global economic forces is economic folly.

Canada is a nation that has tried to forge economic policy independent of market forces. The continuing political fear is loss of economic control; the Canadians will be poor and inconsequential and Americans rich and powerful. The fear that was responsible for the Boston Tea Party, that decisions made elsewhere do not serve local interests, will continue to plague us until we establish global control.
In 1987 Canada decided that an independent economic political policy was no longer possible. It had tried various economic policy schemes without success, but politicians were unwilling to accept the force of the global economy. Politically, the population was not prepared for the inevitable, either a Free Trade Agreement, or a lower standard of living. The result was that when Canada did enter a free trade agreement there was considerable political discord.

Canada's main manufacturing centre is Ontario, and it is not unusual for goods to be delivered to customers 3,000 kilometers or more from the manufacturing plant. As delivery is usually by rail or road, transportation costs are higher than for a comparable delivery by sea. In other words it is a higher or equal cost to deliver a car from Ontario to Vancouver as it is to deliver a car from Japan to Vancouver. As Canadians always face a sparse market, they do not gain the considerable economic advantages of an intensified production facility located in a mass market. The result was production at a continuing loss in global economic terms because it is protected by customs duty. The effect was a continued economic loss simply to keep what is called political independence.

A Canadian business leader, David Vice, President of Northern Telecom, addressing the Canadian Manufacturers Association in Quebec City, has described this continuing loss as follows:
...every dollar siphoned off to support artificially a level of security or standard of living not justified on competitive performance can only undermine the total structure and hasten our plunge into mediocrity. Living beyond our means by selling national resources squanders our birthright. We must earn what we would have.
Every issue must be resolved in terms of its impact on achieving and maintaining a global competitive edge. There's no such thing as a domestic issue in a global economy. Investing borrowed money in anything than that which hones the competitive edge of the economy is courting disaster....
As we survey the world scene today, we are left with one conclusion: economic dynamics have decisively shifted from a national economy to the world economy. From now on, any country but also any business, especially a large one will have to accept that it's the world economy that leads and that domestic economic and trade policies will succeed only if they strengthen that country's or company's international competitive position.2

Canada's politicians were unwilling to accept the power of outside economic forces and didn't prepare an alternative strategy. The free trade agreement became politically expedient only when Canada was falling behind economically. Political actions were a result of external circumstances. The political process was not prepared for the unpalatable truth - that they did not control the national economy.
After the U.S. stock market crash in October of 1987, the President held a press conference advising the nation that they need not fear, he was taking certain measures to solve the problem. Whatever his measures, they were irrelevant, his words impotent. It was all drama. The U.S. was unable to arrest the global forces that were driving down the dollar and such efforts were abandoned. Attempts to jockey for economic advantage, to disturb the free flow of goods, usually increases prices without any long term advantage to the nation causing the disturbance.

The growing recognition that attempts to control the global economy are ineffective is followed by accepting a new political structure. The global economy destroys the credibility of national political authorities. National sovereignty is breaking down. Our socioeconomic system, determined by global preferences, is dislocated from political reality. Countless political schemes have fallen by the wayside as politicians, in their desperation, allow environmental damage to occur, or justify lower wages, for a competitive advantage.

Global Communication

Another cause of societal breakdown is global travel and communications. The media has made all parts of the globe aware of how other people live and air travel is now responsible for a huge movement of people across national borders. Koreans by the thousand work on Saudi Arabian construction projects; Pakistanis go to Kuwait; Filipinos learn industrial skills in Japan; Japanese own half the hotels in Hawaii; Millions of Mexicans live in the United States; Arabs live in Britain; Americans, Canadians, Australians, and Europeans are everywhere. From 1960 onwards there has been an explosion of travel and communication. Almost without the world realizing it, its people have become neighbours. With the age of travel, the idea of `foreign-ness', is over - we now merely visit other shopping centres.

Global communication has made the world a global village and hastens the end of the nationalistic trance. Global communications and knowledge has weakened national societal values that were bred in ignorance. We know now of societal values quite distinct from our own. Canadians, for instance, can read of Balinese values in a book by Miguel Covarrubias, the ISLAND OF BALI.

The villages are organized into compact boards or councils, independent of other villages. Every married man that is, every grown man is a member of the council and is morally and physically obliged to co-operate for the welfare of the community. A man is assisted by his neighbours in every task he cannot perform alone; they help him willingly and as a matter of duty, not expecting any reward other than the knowledge that, were they in his case, he would help in the same manner. In this way paid labour and the relation of boss to coolie are reduced to a minimum in Bali. Since the world of a Balinese is his community, he is anxious to prove his worth, for his own welfare is in direct relation to his social behaviour and his communal standing. Moral sanctions are regarded as stronger than physical punishment, and no one will risk the dreaded punishment of exile from a village, when a man is publicly declared "dead" to his community. Once " thrown away," he cannot be admitted into another of the co-operative villages, so no misfortune could be greater to the Balinese of public disgrace. This makes of every village a closely unified organism in which the communal policy is harmony and co-operation a system that works to everybody's advantage.3

This is a society that is the antithesis of Canadian society and apparently functions to the satisfaction of the Balinese.

Confining viewpoints restricted by national considerations will not disappear easily, but the continuing advances of world-wide communications and consumerism are their death knell. The women of Saudi Arabia are aware of morals different from those imposed upon them, despite the government's attempt to deny them that knowledge. The blacks of South Africa are aware of political systems different from the viewpoint of their government. The genie of global mass communication is out of the bottle and will not be put back.

With global communications and consumerism increasingly bringing global views to the forefront there is an increase in the number of agreed-upon global viewpoints. For instance, there is now agreement that the best way to travel distances is by air. A mere fifty years ago some would have preferred steamer, some would prefer trains, some people would assume that a bus is the best way to travel, and some would think they would have to travel by camel. The global viewpoint has forced all cultures to accept as a reality that travel by air is best.

The effects of societal breakdown can also be seen in the family unit. The peasant family was an essential part of the authoritarian structure and as the number of people employing in farming diminish so does the cohesiveness of the family unit.

Before the eighteen hundreds over 90% of the population of Western Europe and North America were employed in agriculture. The family farm was the place where every member of society was needed. We have now seen a stunning reversal of that balance. The family farm as the base of an economy has ended. In five short years during the second world war the United States experienced a change of its demographic population from 60% rural and 40% urban to 40% rural and 60% urban.

The decline in the number of family farms has continued with a corresponding decrease in the importance of the family unit. In the nineteen eighties the United States, for the first time in its history, had more single people than married people. The family had ceased to be the basic social and economic unit of choice.

This does not mean that romance, or heterosexual love, or male-female companionship, or the uniting of couples to have children, has ended. What has ended is marriage based on social and economic pressure - where the family unit had to be held together because individuals could not survive alone. That viewpoint, which, until the last hundred years was the only acceptable viewpoint, has been eroded.
The third millennium will be based on a new social structure, smaller than the nation (which will merely be part of a large trading bloc) and larger than the family. It is likely to be a structure patterned to some extent on the Japanese ‘Ie’, or household, where the connection is determined more by shared economic ties rather than kinship roles. In the Japanese household the workplace, or work groups, have primacy, not families in the accepted Western sense. For example, a natural son who lacked business ability might be by-passed for another member of the work group. A common solution in Japan was to adopt a person to become the family head.

Japan has successfully transferred the ‘Ie’ into the modern corporation. Based on this concept the modern Japanese corporation portrays itself as an ongoing household benefiting its family of employees. The major problem with the Japanese structure is that the allegiance of the members is directed towards a person or group of persons, not an ideal. It has no focus outside ‘the family’.

Western business management, as of 1991, has begun to recognise that a corporation is a social vehicle for its employees. Corporations, it has now been recognised, are not just vehicles for producing wealth. Managing has come to mean nourishing a society. The basis for a new social structure will be ‘looking after its own’ but this ‘looking after its own’ will be the acceptance of a common goal, aspiration, or ideal, as the binding force for its members. It will not follow the Japanese ‘Ie’ where the binding force is a person/leader or persons.

Millennium change

The end of authoritarian structures and the entry into a third millennium has the advantage of millennium view. To think in terms of a millennium is to see the dominant thrust of society over a long period of time. Change, over the next thousand years, will be to some type of non-authoritarian structure. Another view is to see the past millennium as one where humanity was divided by separate trances and the new millennium being one of universal choice. We have a choice as to the society we want and that choice should be a global vision of the future.

Riane Eisler in THE CHALICE AND THE BLADE, wrote that the end of (survival) attitudes of domination – man over Nature – the patriarchal society – heralds a resurgence of feminine values. The signs of the displacement of fear based values are everywhere. Each crack in the edifices of present day politics or law is also a sign of forces breaking the seams of an old society. These signs are disbelief in public pronouncements by politicians, disbelief in the honesty of business executives, and a cynicism with the court system.
Contemplation of the end of survival fear and an acceptance of belonging to a global marketplace held together by global communications, hasten the breakdown of national politics and ‘business as usual’. Major changes are afoot. The problems are within our present system and systemic changes are called for and a growing number of people accept the need for a paradigm shift. We have found ourselves in one boat sailing in a broad galaxy and are slowly stressing the environment with our greedy grasping ways and so slowly destroying that boat. A vision of common ownership of the Earth and the willingness to seek universal answers must displace values that no longer serve us.


1. A. Lijphart, The Politics of Accommodation: Pluralism and Democracy in the Netherlands. University of California Press, Berkeley, 1968.
2. Quoted in the Toronto Globe and Mail, June 15, 1988. P. B19.
3. Island of Bali, by Miguel Covarrubias. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1937, Pp. 14-15.