With a few exceptions, our students are really worried about Ebola. I mean really, really worried. I tried to interest my tutor group in the issue of the rise of UKIP last week, we got some discussion but it was the fear of dying of Ebola that engaged them most. One young lady told me that if it wasn't for Ebola, she wouldn't be worried about anything, or as she put it, "Like not worried about anything AT ALL, ever." I got asked if I wasn't worried and, tongue in cheek, I replied that at my age there's a lot of things that can get you. They seemed to think this was completely reasonable, and after all should anyone in their forties really worry about dying, we are half dead anyhow...
Of course, Ebola is a very serious concern and so perhaps I shouldn't laugh, it did make me reflect though on how much humans are driven by fear- and selfishness. I was listening today to a report on the race to find a vaccine alongside Margaret Chan's comments that there are no vaccines because the disease has been hitherto confined to poor African countries, or as she said, "the rich stay rich, the poor are left to die." Now we are threatened, even though this is to a much lesser extent, our fears impel us to find the will to act.
The rise of UKIP, I believe, is also fuelled by fear, our impulse to protect ourselves from that which we think threatens and contaminates us and our willingness to disregard the interests of others. Given the economic situation, the rise of parties such as UKIP was surely only expected, but has undoubtedly been fuelled by the lack of vision of the other parties, their reliance on bland and risk free politics, possibly by their fearfulness and lack of courage.
One of the messages repeated again and again in the bible is not to fear. I tried to encourage the worried students not to be too afraid, to have concerns but to see the bigger picture and to remember that, if our greatest fear, whatever that is, turned out to be groundless, we would very soon find something else to be worried about.