Sunday, 20 February 2011

"The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself" FDR in 1933

Don't be afraid of afraid; don't be scared of scared; or, of warning and alarming. The only trouble is that then (in 1933) the danger was obvious; today we are cossetted in the complacent and comfortable materialism of the acquisitive society, with our fatal assumption that energy grows on trees and that things can only get better!

"I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days."

Franklin D. Roosevelt - opening paragraph, First Inaugural Address, Jan 1933 at the height of the depression.

This is prompted by my careless comment at a Transition Worcester meeting, last week, that others, as I am, should be almost scared into saving energy. I am scared of the future, as two others at the meeting also confessed to be. However, it seems, this is something that must never speak its name!

For decades, as I see it, the green movement has been the prophetic voice warning of danger ahead unless we take on that manifesto of a sustainable society that the Green Party has promoted since 1971. I think, it is better not to hide uncomfortable home truths from people but to assume that they have the maturity and responsibility to be able to take them.

I admire, but cannot copy, the Prof James Lovelock approach of quiet speaking sweet reasonableness. He's the most delightful and pleasant doom-monger I have ever heard on Radio 4! Perhaps he comes over as being so happy in dishing out the bad news, 'cos he knows he's near the end of his life!

I think we need to give the reason why it is urgent to save energy, to spend less, to make things last and to, generally, lower our impact on life support systems creaking at the seams. Transition - and each of us - needs to give "a leadership of frankness and vigour", as President Roosevelt put it.