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(en) Sicilia Libertaria: Analyses. The society of fear (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Sun, 12 Mar 2023 08:07:45 +0200

The publication in 1986 of Ulrich Beck's book, "The society of risk", made it possible to redefine the daily life of large post-industrial cities as places where the balance between security and destruction is broken and state institutions are no longer able to manage the complexity and thus protect citizens. This is undoubtedly an interesting interpretation, even if it must be borne in mind that the "citizens" alluded to were basically the middle classes, since the subordinate social groups and, in general, the marginalized lived this situation already as a condition, both as regards the risk and the fall of the protective action of the state. The importance of Beck's work lies in drawing attention to the generalization of risk to the whole of society, with a corollary, fear, which for the author could represent the basis of reference for the creation of defensive organizations. It does not seem that this has happened or, at least, fear seems to have mainly produced discriminatory reactions, populism and nationalisms, generators of violence.

Fear is an anxiety reaction generated by a sudden and unexpected event, perceived as dangerous for one's physical integrity. However, it can also take the form of a permanent emotional state, active in different degrees but always present in the individual consciousness: fear becomes endemic and generalized, a condition of existence. With greater social complexity, greater risks: from the climate that already does not allow too many predictions, to the lack of food for everyone; fear of falling ill, but also of being manipulated by politicians or the internet... Uncertainty thus constitutes itself as a horizon of meaning, it ends up defining life itself, and action has no sure guarantees of success, with the danger of generating tiredness and abulia, fear of acting, but also violence. In the "society of fear", as we could define the current situations of megalopolises, the individual finds himself lost in the landscape that he considered safe, the historical one of his childhood, generator of material anchoring for the construction of his own identity. Yet, even in this generalized condition, there are those who are more afraid than others: the poor, the marginalized, the different and women. As Javier Marías wrote, "For centuries, women have lived with an extra fear, when they go down the street and even in their homes". In fact, it is certainly no coincidence that, in this situation of ever deeper crisis, violence against women has increased exponentially.

Generally, in daily life, societies function through habituation and naturalization processes: in the first case, it is a question of structuring actions through automatic repetition; in the second, to make these responses natural, even if historically constructed. In "societies of fear", what is naturalized is violence, in its various forms; while you get used to predatory behavior on the part of the aggressors and passivity and acceptance on the part of the attacked. Talking about predation is relatively easy if we allude to the economy or the military world, it is a little more difficult to do it when it comes to human relationships, even if the facts are under our eyes every day, from school bullying on the rise, to violence against women and, in any case, the ease with which quarrels and violence break out in especially male circles. The predatory reaction to the insecurity of becoming does not imply the production of the consciousness of the state of fear, except in terms of an unnamed malaise, projected outside oneself, onto others: one thus becomes intolerant of diversity, but also of small changes in horizon, as any woman knows who sees her husband explode because she can't find her belongings where she left them.

The situation of the victims or, in general, of the subjects that society keeps in a state of weakness, whether they are migrants or the poor, is different. In this case, that "supplement of fear" mentioned above is valid, evidently beyond the gender of the other, in which fear easily overflows into real constant fear of being attacked. In fact, in order to continue living, habituation is associated with another mechanism: temporary forgetfulness, a superficial process of constant repression, clearly induced by the culture of unequal societies, which construct fear as a control mechanism (up to forms of alienation , artificially induced). Thus women leave the house, generally forgetting the risk they run every day in mixing with people, they forget the fear of being attacked, even if those who have experienced situations of violence find it difficult to ignore. But fear is always lurking and whoever gets distracted runs the risk of becoming an easy victim. In this way, fear is spatialized and temporalized in our cities: there are safe places and dangerous places, according to the time of day or night, differentiating according to the gender of those who frequent them. This spatial and temporal violence is above all symbolic, but we know that the border with material violence is very porous, and a gesture or an insult can easily degenerate into stabbings or violations. It is still women who see their walking spaces reduced in this way, even if accompanied by their men.

Private space remains as a tendentially safe place, increasingly resembling a besieged fortress. A place to be in peace and, finally, forget the social, male pressure that thrives on urban streets. Unfortunately, the data on gender-based violence indicate that it is not only on the increase, but that in most cases it is violence that occurs within the family. The men beat and kill the women they are related to, many times the mothers of their own children. Thus, for women, fear cannot remain outside the door of one's home, since the enemy has already infiltrated it; indeed, they themselves opened the door for her. In the "society of fear", relationships are structured on the basis of violence, even if it is subterranean, positional, denied. And it is useless to get around it: this violence is fundamentally masculine, as are most of the murders in our society, as is war.

Emmanuel Amodio

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