'The survival of our democracies depends not on our capacity to hit back at the terrorists, but on our capacity to think for ourselves.'
To talk of Australians and fear in the one breath might seem a contradiction. The defining element of our vision of ourselves is of a resilient and fearless bunch of iconoclasts who could never be stampeded into frightened submission.
But Dr Carmen Lawrence argues that fear has been a crucial factor in shaping Australian public policy in recent years, and in Fear and Politics she charts its consequences on the Australian body politic. She discusses how xenophobia has shaped policies toward refugees, indigenous Australians, and Islamic fundamentalists, and examines the effects of being constantly warned about the risk of terrorism. She also looks at the sustained campaigns on law and order, and the exaggerated anxieties people now have of the risks of assault, murder, child abuse, and robbery.
Dr Lawrence argues that fear can never provide a foundation of moral and political argument, and that the necessary antidote to the toxin of fear is a wholehearted embrace of the principles of freedom, equality, and co-operation. Human betterment must again be the prime focus of politics — for all of our sakes.