• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Terror management theory

Terror management theory

At the World Economic Forum (WEF), it was an item which was not listed on the official agenda which dominated discussions. It was none other than TERROR and how to manage it. Unknown to Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF, a significant number of delegates are adherents of Terror Management Theory (TMT) which Jeff Greenberg and his colleagues Sheldom Solomon and Tom Pyszcrynski have championed with commendable scholarship – to wit: In social psychology, terror management theory proposes a basic psychological conflict that results from having a desire to live but realizing that death is inevitable. This conflict produces terror and is believed to be unique to human beings.

While CNN’s irrepressible Richard Quest was preoccupied with interviewing the usual crop of presidents, prime ministers, president of the World Bank, secretary-general of the United Nations, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, finance ministers as well as captains of industry and commerce, venture capitalists, bankers, chartered accountants, hedge fund tycoons (and demanding to know what books they had been reading), it was Stephen Cave who held sway with his stunning hypothesis: “Imagine intervention or an elixir slipped into the water supply, death is banished. Life goes on and on: all of us are free from fear that our loved ones will be plucked from us and each of us rich in the most precious resource of all: time. Wouldn’t it be awful? Materially, we could cope with the arrival of the elixir. But psychologically, immortality would be the end of us.”

Guests of Richard Quest Africa Betrayed – by George Ayittey

Here are some snippets from the internet to support terror management theory. Three experiments were conducted to test the hypothesis, derived from Terror Management Theory, that reminding people of their mortality increases attraction to those who consensually validate their beliefs and decreases attraction to those who threaten or bolster the cultural worldview.

In Study 1, subjects with a Christian religious background were asked to form impression of Christian and Jewish target persons. Before doing so, mortality was made salient to half of the subjects. In support of predictions, mortality salience led to more positive evaluations of the in-group member (the Christian) and more negative evaluations of the out-group member (the Jew).

In Study 2, mortality salience led to especially negative evaluations of an attitudinally dissimilar other, but only among subjects high in authoritarianism.

In Study 3, mortality salience led to especially positive reactions to someone who directly praised subjects’ cultural worldviews and especially negative reactions to someone who criticized them.

Read also: Red Card, Green Card: Notes towards the management of hysteria by Wole Soyinka

Throughout the past few thousand years, historical accounts, philosophical treaties, and works of fiction and poetry have often depicted humans as having a need to perceive themselves as good, and their actions as moral and justified.  Within the last hundred years, a number of important figures in the development of modern psychology have also embraced this notion that people need self-esteem (e.g., Adler, 1930; Allport, 1937; Homey, 1937; James, 1890; Maslow, 1970; Murphy, 1947; Rank, 1959; Rogers, 1959; Sullivan, 1953). Of these, Karen Homey most thoroughly discussed the ways people try to attain and maintain a favourable self-image. The clinical writings of Homey, and other psychotherapists as well, document the ways in which people attempt to defend and enhance self-esteem; they also suggest that difficulty maintaining self-esteem, and maladaptive efforts to do so, may be central to a variety of mental health problems.

Some measure of relief from these esoteric contemplations was delivered by CNN’s and SKYTV’s “Breaking News” headline: “Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, hints rates to stay frozen longer as inflation hits 15-year low.”

Tumbling oil prices pushed Britain’s inflation rate to its lowest level since 2000 and with further falls inevitable in the coming months, the Bank of England hinted heavily it is in no mood to contemplate raising interest rates in the near future.

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne could not resist being triumphal: “The low inflation we see in Britain – driven as it is almost entirely by external factors such as the oil price – is much more welcome than in the Eurozone where inflation has been very low for some time and is now negative. We should not confuse this welcome news for households as a result of falling prices with the threat of damaging deflation that we see in the Eurozone.”

In sharp contrast, Jacob Frankel, the chairman of JP Morgan, told newsmen (and women) on the eve of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland that the bank would assess Nigeria’s suitability to remain in its key emerging currency bond index because of lack of liquidity in the country’s forex and bond markets. Richard Quest went to considerable lengths to explain that JP Morgan runs the most commonly used emerging debt indexes and had placed Nigeria on a negative index watch. It planned to assess Nigeria’s place on the Government Bond Index (GBI-EM) over the next three to five months.

This was sufficient to provoke the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to deliver his counter punch to the threat of terror. He told Richard Quest firmly and bluntly: “There is no truth in the assertion by the index team that they do not see the liquidity. There is no reason to begin to take a look at the naira’s (Nigerian currency) value after the Central Bank devalued the currency in November 2014. We are very surprised at this action by the chairman of JP Morgan and the index team. We want to stay in the index and we are doing everything to make sure we do.”

It was left to Richard Quest to remind us that JP Morgan added Nigeria to the widely followed index in 2012, when liquidity was improving, making it only the second African country after South Africa to be included. It added Nigeria’s 2014; 2022; and 2024 bonds.

Further enlightenment was provided by C. Nweze: “Removal from the index would force funds tracking it to sell Nigerian bonds from their portfolios, potentially resulting in significant capital outflows. This in turn would raise borrowing costs for the Nigerian economy, although most analysts do not expect JP Morgan to apply the guillotine.”

Back to the subject of terror, we were provided with a refreshing cause for hope via CNN’s “Breaking News” with the camera on a return visit to Paris. The focus was on Lassana Bathily, a Moslem from Mali who saved the lives of several Jews by hiding them in the cold store following the terrorist attack by Amedy Coulabily on Hyper Casher, the Kosher supermarket, which eliminated four Jews. The hero was the epitome of humility, sincerity and compassion as he delivered his verdict to Ben Widderman: “I didn’t know or care if they were Jews, Christians or Moslems!”

Matters took a somewhat different direction when attention shifted to the screen photograph of John Itumo from Zimboda. Headline from the front page of Daily Sun of January 8, 2015: “Mercy Killing! Son From Hell Kills Father”.

J.K Randle