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Date of Publishing:
April 14, 2021

March 20, 2021, the view out of my window, protesting Nazis and police car © Anderwald + Grond

Song for my Fears

Ruth Anderwald

Their communal appearances make me dizzy. It is fear – not anxiety – that makes me dizzy these days[1]: the communal appearances of neo-nazis roaming the streets of Vienna every Saturday. I fear that they will not disappear anytime soon, and, on the contrary, that fascist thought gains relevance and attraction in politics again. I fear that greed prevails, and we may not find our way to a symbiotic lifestyle with our planet. Step by step, our lives are getting more difficult. These fears are intertwined with others in this piece.

To claim and disclaim:

I’m afraid. This fear maddens me; it leaves me dizzy, trembling. I have to push myself to react, to action, for that fear threatens to paralyse and confound me. Feeling helpless, I look for others to learn how they have dealt with their fear, with fears much more imminent than mine, with attacks on their life, being, and thinking.

The two resources I turn to are the leadership of others and creative expression to simultaneously look closely at and keep my fear in check. Singing certainly helps to calm down in situations of distress.

I am aware that in order to describe my fears, I appropriate Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White masks, whose narrator had reason to be afraid of people like me – a white mother – as much as I am aware of my actual and alleged fears being instrumentalised for political and economic purposes. But being afraid of myself and fearing people (who seem to be) like me seems to be the appropriate starting point when thinking about my own fears.[2] Too often being afraid is weaponized or used to exculpate cruelties committed, especially when a white woman is supposedly afraid or threatened. Thus, my afraid-ness is made a political tool to inhibit others’ presence, movement or being, but also to limit my and my likes’ movements and engagement. Even more, fear is the currency running our political climate.[3]

I start this text with the original outtake written by Frantz Fanon in 1952.[4] In the following paragraphs, the text and its meaning are twisted to form a song of my fears.

 

‘Look, a Negro!’ It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
‘Look, a Negro!’ It was true. It amused me.
‘Look, a Negro!’ The circle was drawing a bit tighter. I made no secret of my amusement.

‘Mama, see the Negro! I’m frightened! Frightened! Frightened!’ Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.

Song for my fears:

Look, a Nazi!’ It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
‘Look, a Nazi!’ It was true. It amused me.
‘Look, a Nazi!’ The circle was drawing a bit tighter. I made no secret of my amusement.

‘Mama, see the Nazi! I’m frightened! Frightened! Frightened!’ Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.

‘Look!’ It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
‘Look!’ It was true. It amused me.
‘Look!’ The circle was drawing a bit tighter. I made no secret of my amusement.

‘Mama, see! I’m frightened! Frightened! Frightened!’ Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.

‘Look, a fascist!’ It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
‘Look, a fascist!’ It was true. It amused me.
‘Look, a fascist!’ The circle was drawing a bit tighter. I made no secret of my amusement.

‘Mama, see the fascist! I’m frightened! Frightened! Frightened!’ Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.

‘Look, a dictator!’ It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
‘Look, a dictator!’ It was true. It amused me.
‘Look, a dictator!’ The circle was drawing a bit tighter. I made no secret of my amusement.

‘Mama, see the dictator! I’m frightened! Frightened! Frightened!’ Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.

‘Look, extinction!’ It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
‘Look, extinction!’ It was true. It amused me.
‘Look, extinction!’ The circle was drawing a bit tighter. I made no secret of my amusement.

‘Mama, see the extinction! I’m frightened! Frightened! Frightened!’ Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.

‘Look, surveillance!’ It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
‘Look, surveillance!’ It was true. It amused me.
‘Look, surveillance!’ The circle was drawing a bit tighter. I made no secret of my amusement.

‘Mama, see the surveillance! I’m frightened! Frightened! Frightened!’ Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.

‘Look, a virus!’ It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
‘Look, a virus!’ It was true. It amused me.
‘Look, a virus!’ The circle was drawing a bit tighter. I made no secret of my amusement.

‘Mama, see the virus! I’m frightened! Frightened! Frightened!’ Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.

‘Look, an incel!’ It was an external stimulus that flicked over me as I passed by. I made a tight smile.
‘Look, an incel!’ It was true. It amused me.
‘Look, an incel!’ The circle was drawing a bit tighter. I made no secret of my amusement.

‘Mama, see the incel! I’m frightened! Frightened! Frightened!’ Now they were beginning to be afraid of me. I made up my mind to laugh myself to tears, but laughter had become impossible.

Etc.

Footnotes

[1] https://www.on-dizziness.com/resources-overview/kierkegaard-and-dizziness

[2] As Wolfgang Tillmans puts it in his poem (2015):

In me is an asshole.

The point is not to deny

that, but to actively fight it.

[…]

In the end, it all boils down

to one aim:

Inhibit assholes.

(https://www.on-dizziness.com/resources-overview/we-fight-to-build-a-free-world from min 50:38)

[3] Cf. Ruth Wodak, The Politics of Fear. The Shameless Normalization of Far-Right Discourse, SAGE Publications, 2021; And: Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, Edinburgh University Press, 2004.

[4] Excerpt: Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White masks, London: Pluto Press, 1986, (111-112)