Review: Climate of Fear by Wole Soyinka
Title: Climate of Fear
Author: Soyinka, Wole
Length: 135 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Politics, Sociology
Publisher / Year: Profile Books/ 2004
Source: Second hand shop in Johannesburg.
Why I Read It: It sounded different and interesting.
Date Read: 08/10/11
This book came out of a number of Reith Lectures Soyinka made in 2004 and discusses the climate of fear around the world, and how it arose. With chapters titled ‘A Changing Mask of Fear’, ‘Of Power and Freedom’, ‘Rhetoric that Binds and Blinds’, ‘The Quest for Dignity’, and ‘I am Right; You are Dead!’ he explores the various aspects of fear and the way we live with it daily at present in various forms. He talks about its rise and what we can do to diminish it.
What Soyinka does a great job of in this book is showing how 9/11 didn’t change the world for most people, it really only awakened Americans to the fear that much of the world had already been living with through dictators or events like Lockerbie, the Air India bombing, and other massive acts of terrorism that have happened around the world previously. He in no way detracts from that event (9/11) but rather takes readers back through other events to highlight how it was a trend before that to show that it’s not one event but the way of the world that we need to work against to try to solve in order to keep things like it from happening again.
Much of the climate of fear that Soyinka discusses he says comes from what he terms as quasi-states. He says on page 27 as part of his attempt at defining them:
[...] that elusive entity that may cover the full gamut of ideologies and religions, contends for power but is not defined by physical boundaries that identify the sovereign state.
And much of the impetus behind the fear is the thirst for power that these quasi-states are after. Power is as hard to define as freedom but he does well at outlining a lot of the facets of both and discusses how power is often exercised as the withholding or removing of freedom from others. This is what causes the fear that we face – not knowing when our freedoms may be taken away, including even dignity. And when everything else has been taken away, people will do almost anything to at the very least keep their dignity.
The book is well researched and Soyinka uses numerous examples to show the power of rhetoric and how it harms. His end recommendation is for dialogue among groups, and for dignity to be allowed to each and every person and community. He argues his points well and provides a well-reasoned and balanced book that would be accesible to anyone, no matter where in the world they live, as he uses examples from around the world.
Interesting and different read for sure. I would recommend it to anyone interested in current events and politics, or in reading a different take on the fear and terrorism we deal with daily.