Everyone is afraid of the future, and why it’s a good thing

future

 

“I’m so afraid I can’t cope up with the lessons.”

“I don’t know if I can survive such a tough university life.”

These are the sentences that my juniors, and also my friends, told me on Facebook. And, yes, honestly speaking, these were pretty much the same things that I once asked my own seniors before I came to university as well. As the first person in my family to study overseas, there are of course tremendous expectations, and also unexpected circumstances, those that one can anticipate, and those that one can hardly hope.

Well, it is so a humane thing to have fear on anything, especially on something that may be existing in our own ‘uncharted territories’. Reminiscing myself two years earlier, I was back then a half-excited, and a half-nervous, soon-to-be university student. Being half an optimist, but at the same time overtly a skeptic, these are the very feelings that I could describe days before coming to the university. My parents were university graduates, but they studied in the same hometown I was born and raised; I would be the first to leave, and to experience, a bigger perspective of the outside world. Meeting new people with completely different cultural values and social norms, yes, I got that uneasy, initial feeling, too; life became split into two possibilities, all in the presence of the unexpected. First, it leads you to rediscovering yourself, or second, you fail to cope with the changes that you just ‘withdraw’ yourself from the existing reality. Thinking of the fact that I have to do laundry myself, get in to surrounding places by my own, organize stuff through my own planning, and to be completely independent in the absence of my family (but I am grateful that my aunt, uncle, and cousin helped me so much in transiting to university life) were the fears I always thought of in the future.

Back then, it was 2013; flash forward to 2015, I’m already on my halfway. I am utterly grateful that I can complete the transition phase fairly well, and truth be told, I am now more open-minded than I was two years earlier. Stereotyping still lingers in my mind, but now in a rather controlled setting. I’ve met a lot of new people from various countries and backgrounds (well, not all of them had my positive impressions), but pretty much I learned to understand their values and their own stances towards certain areas that may not be suitable to our own cultural notions. Yes, I do my best to tolerate them.

Still, it can’t stop me from fear of the future. With Indonesia’s currency values dropping over 40% in the last two years, of course it keeps me worried about my chances of getting into higher, postgraduate education. Or whether in spite of my (relatively) good grades, I can afford to get a stable job in the future. Excluding my random thoughts about any ‘plausible’ (but not necessarily possible) scenarios in the very distant future (perhaps things befalling the elder me or my future generations). It is as though my mindset were set in a constant, survivalist mode.

Fear itself doesn’t have to be a paranoia-inducing idea; you don’t have to kill someone off just to eliminate it, because truth be told, we can’t eliminate fear. It is one of the most powerful legacies that evolution has ‘bestowed’ us within millions of years; fear, if stimulated into a controlled setting, can actually be a good thing by itself. I am not a psychologist, but I would rather derive the benefits from my own understanding and common sense.

One: fear enables us to outline contingency plans

Simply speaking, don’t put all eggs in one basket.

Two: fear conditions us (most of us) to value the present moment

Nothing in this physical universe is destined to last forever; the only constant is change, oftentimes unexpected. I don’t believe in the ideal of ‘benevolent universe’, so much so as I believe in that of a savage one; we see everything, from both sides and the extremes, taking place simultaneously. The universe is just damn indifferent, after all. So, for all the best and the worst, enjoy this moment now.

Three: fear stimulates us to learn something new we have never learned before

We can’t completely anticipate the unexpected, but learning new skills and things beyond our usual passions and expertise can actually help us cope with circumstances much better than having none. Simply speaking, just because we don’t precisely know what will happen in the future.

Four: fear prepares us to adjust to new realities much more easily

There are things we can avoid, and there are things we can’t help avoiding but slowly adapt. Nostalgia is a good thing, but too much reminiscing into the past will not make any adjustment into the future much better. Understanding the impermanence of the present, no matter how difficult or painful it will be (more often than not it is), helps us better in adjusting to new, and constantly changing, circumstances.

Five: fear enhances responsibility

Specifically, our own responsibilities as family members, friends, group members, or wherever any positions we are in charge of. It ‘forces’ us to put out all our efforts to accomplish a goal.

Anyway, not all, or not even any, of my advice is inherently useful. Too little fear induces arrogance, our propensity to underestimate all possibilities, or even a sense of superiority. We have seen enough how conflicts, wars, and other disasters have taken place, oftentimes out of the ignorance resulting from such ‘too little fear’, but too much thinking about them also unnecessarily robs the happiness out of us, making us closer to asylums than to happily living our lives. A balanced dose of fear is necessary, and even beneficial, if one can apply it in a careful, wise approach.

I am just writing as a student, not yet deeply experienced in any real-world stuff by the age of 20. Realizing the day-to-day fear that soldiers, doctors, surgeons, firefighters, police, scientists, entrepreneurs, parents, or even refugees have to face all the time (and almost all occupations inclusive), they surely have more to tell, and much more to share, than I do.

Bonus: some of the world’s best and most serious thinkers do even share their fears of what will happen to human civilization up to 50 million years to come (some exaggeration intended).

Movie title: The Reluctant Zionist

the reluctant zionist

 

As the definition ‘Jew’ above may be somewhat unclear and more than ambiguous (which Jew you are talking about? Israeli Jew? American Jew? Or ‘somewhat-somewhat’ self-claiming Jew?), I’ll personally choose to modify that person, most suitably a man (without intending to be a sexist), as an Israeli Jew.

So I’ll make the plot like this: he’s a Holocaust survivor, a Polish Jew, and under the auspices of hope of a new Jewish state, migrated to Israel. He fought for the country’s independence, despite the fact that he had to ‘commit necessary evil’ against the original Arab inhabitants, and subsequently won the trust to become a government officer, in particular in consular affairs. He was appointed to represent Israeli government in global stage, but as time went by, his Zionist identity began to be questioned. Having seen the government’s somewhat irascible foreign-affairs dealings, and in particular the insider corruption and abuse of power, the man started to question his existence of life as well.

It was all until he secretly leaked some of the state secrets to a journalist, and his life is soon in deep troubles…

 

NB: any notes for improvement?

China, we fear you.

taiwanprotestsign_afpgetty

 

A Taiwanese attorney explains in brief summary how the Cross Straits Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) between Taiwan and China will increasingly put the former in political jeopardy – an increasing dependence on the latter that, many fear, will eventually end up with a ‘complete Chinese reunification’.

The original essay is available on the attorney’s Facebook account (only in Mandarin). The translation itself, meanwhile, can also be read on Tea Leaf Nation. And here I’ve copied the essay’s translation below.

 

China, We Fear You

Movie title: The Rescue

the rescue

 

 

Or make it like this: he used to be a millionaire, but ended up poor for his addiction to gambling and drugs throughout the Great Depression. Somehow, unexpectedly, after NAZI rose to power, and persecution of German Jews began, he became a hero, though after the World War II, he met his own tragic ending. You could decide how his life would end, whether he was deported to Siberia or to arid desert in Central Asia. You choose.

What the atheists really fear

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Here it goes: the most recently released research report by the University of Finland suggests that atheists, having challenged God, may have implicitly developed emotional arousal and considerable stresses. And thus the excerpt (from General Discussion section of the report) as follows:

 

We asked atheists (Studies 1 and 2) and religious individuals (Study 1) to verbally dare God to cause unpleasant events, like murders and illnesses to happen to themselves and their intimates. Atheists did not regard the statements as unpleasant as the religious participants did in their explicit self-report. The impact of conviction was strong as it explained 38% of the variance in the unpleasantness ratings. However, when the participants’ emotional arousal was analyzed by their skin conductance level during their verbal dares, a different picture emerged.
In the first study, reading the provocations addressed to God increased atheists’ emotional arousal more than reading neutral statements about such things as sleep and weather. Second, God statements resulted in equal tension among atheists as reading the offensive statements (e.g., “It’s okay to kick a puppy in the face”). Third, this same pattern of results was obtained for religious individuals. The results indicate that compared to their conviction and responses on the self-report measure, atheists’ implicit reactions to the God statements were more similar to the reactions of religious individuals.
The results raise the question as to whether it was actually asking God to do the awful things that was upsetting, or whether it was contemplating the event itself (e.g., the possibility that one’s parents might be murdered) which was upsetting. Because of the following results, we think the first type of inference is more likely. When reading the God statements in Study 2, atheists experienced greater emotional arousal than when reading the offensive statements. Moreover, when reading the God statements, atheists’ emotional arousal increased as much as did religious individuals’ arousal. Atheists also refused to say aloud the God statements and they felt the need to undo the statements equally often as religious individuals did, although neither group refused to say statements very often or retracted statements very often.
In Study 2, atheists were also asked to say aloud statements that were otherwise identical to the God statements but God was replaced with a wish (e.g., “I wish my parents were paralyzed”). Speaking the wish statements and the offensive statement increased the participants’ SC level more than speaking the neutral statements. Thus, again, it may be that considering the offensive events was unnerving. It is also possible that the atheists implicitly endorsed thought-action fusion, believing that talking about disturbing events increases the likelihood that the event will occur. Nonetheless, as the SC levels also showed that atheists were more affected by God statements than by wish or offensive statements, it may be safe to conclude that atheists were less comfortable with daring God than with daring a more nebulous and impersonal fate or simply contemplating the distressing events.

Source: Big Think’s Ideafeed and Taylor and Francis Online. Read the full report on the second link.

Study case: inside the minds of Mexican drug cartels

 

Any business-school student should carefully watch this mind-blowing video.

Whatever the mass media have shaped our minds regarding the ongoing drug war in Mexico, which has claimed in between 60,000 and 100,000 lives since the army deployment began on 2006, our perception regarding the drug cartels – the so-called ‘bad guys’ as our minds are molded to believe – is utterly limited.

Rodrigo Canales, an associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, wants to debunk our limited mindsets in perceiving these cartels. At least there are three ‘business strategies’ everyone is going to learn from this utterly deadly genius TED talk:

1. A drug cartel can instill a high sense of control by pursuing a brand of fear. (take for instance Los Zetas, a drug cartel composed of former paratroopers previously recruited, and later dismissed, by Gulf Cartel, another influential Mexican drug-trading organization )

2. Or, in a softer approach, a drug cartel, in the absence of government’s effectual policies, endorses social enterprise and civic engagement. (Knights’ Templar, the successor of previous La Familia Michoacana, is an epitome for this case. They often label themselves as ‘protectors of the oppressed’, as shown by how they kill people, particularly petty criminals, perceived as threats to the social stability of the societies they control)

3. Or, in a more sophisticated manner, a drug cartel functions as normally as a multinational corporation does. (Sinaloa Federation is a role model fit for this method. They have developed their own tunnels, operated their own submarines, and even engaged public-relations firms to give a positive trajectory of how local societies perceive of their organization)

At the same time, Canales also challenges us to readjust our mindsets regarding our perception, and how this can help the policymakers in pursuing a radically brand-new problem-solving approach to solve this age-old trouble, one that has taken over tens of thousands of lives in the Central America’s largest country.