Culture of Fear

WRITTEN BY MILLIE ZHANG 

Prompt: Investigate what is meant by a “culture of fear” and the manner in which it is created. What occurs to create a culture of fear in Sierra Leone? Compare this to what would be “cool” about war.

Before reading the following response to the prompt stated above, it would be highly recommended that the audience reads the following article called “Childhood Exposure to Media Violence Predicts Young Adult Aggressive Behavior, According to a New 15-Year Study” released by the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/releases/media_violence.html) and the summary to Ishmael Beah’s book A Long Way Gone: The book is a firsthand account of Beah’s time as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone. Beah ran away from his village at the age of 12 after it was attacked by rebels, and he became forever separated from his immediate family. He wandered the war-filled country and was forced to join an army unit who brainwashed him into using guns and drugs. By 13, he had perpetuated and witnessed a great deal of violence. At the age of 16, however, UNICEF removed him from the unit and put him into a rehabilitation program. With the help of some of the staff he was able to return to a civilian life and get off drugs. He was then given an opportunity to teach others about child soldiers. He traveled the United States recounting his story.


The “culture of fear” and the manner which it is created in the circumstances of the Sierra Leone war are generally the same; the only differences would come due to the cause which supported the “culture of fear”.  As Beah and his other friends became child soldiers on the side of the Sierra Leone army, the “culture of fear” for them was created when rebels would come into towns and do terrible deeds during their childhood such as raping mothers and daughters, torturing innocent children, and burning people alive for fun and amusement.  In comparison, if one of the RUF child soldiers were to tell his story of a “culture of fear”, the only difference would be the name which describes the terrible pillager who brought destruction, suffering, and death to anyone he encounters.  The sudden raids and ruthless murderous rampages which child soldiers undergo due to being drugged up by marijuana, brown-brown, and cocaine as well as the inhumane methods in which child soldiers like Beah execute their prisoners contribute to the growing “culture of fear” normal civilians had towards the war; this fright is displayed when Beah, Saidu, and the others encounter other villages who may have been initially friendly but became hostile due to the fear that young boys like them were evil child soldiers.  The constant repetition of this instance also adds on to the “culture of fear”.  

Countering this mindset, even when the boys who would become child soldiers experienced the “culture of fear”, they still eventually came to view whatever happened around them whether it be numerous drugs or mindless death as “cool”.  Similarly, the methods in which this perspective is reached is the same for the “culture of fear”; incessant repetition.  Through the processes of indoctrination and brainwashing, Beah and the other boys were forced to watch bloody, violent movies such as Rambo and take marijuana, brown-brown, and cocaine.  The drugs made the youth less susceptible to feeling suffering and thus made them feel like divine figures who cast divine punishment upon the rebels who had murdered their families in cold blood when on the battlefield since they did not feel the pain of bullets bruising past their skin when in the warzone.  Additionally, the constant watching and rewatching of the movie Rambo and films like it added to the “coolness” of the entire concept of war itself.  In that Sylvester Stallone’s character was portrayed as the great hero of the country who fought relentlessly no matter how bloody and brutal it became to gain vengeance for his fellow American soldiers.

Do you agree with this definition of the “culture of fear”? If not, what is your definition of this culture? Is it possible that this culture existed in other social environments around the world? If so, what are several examples?

What do you think?

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