Father Eugene Hemrick

Are we facing a mental pandemic because of the latest age of anxiety? Is this why we might be experiencing unparalleled fanaticism?

“Fanaticism” means being unreasonable and fostering unquestioned radical enthusiasm. But should fanaticism go unquestioned given today’s outlandish behavior of extremists?

Fanatics are people who ignore anyone who thinks differently from them. Only their opinion is valid. Ironically, their opinion is not really theirs, but is owned by outside parties.

The crux of fanaticism is fear. We live in age of “what ifs” that is constantly stoking panic.

What if airlines become undependable, our mortgage goes up, we are late for work, our political party loses, the stock market tanks, we get old and useless, I get COVID or diseases I never knew existed?

The list of “what ifs” is unending, upending a hoped-for peaceful life. As the pressures mount, so too do radical solutions arise, and blame abounds.

Fanaticism is crystalizing into enthusiastic slogans producing a chain reaction. Slogans often signify “my rights,” “my justified opinions and cause.” Fine, if those who take these positions have rightfully justified them and are not eccentric.

What is distressing about fanaticism is its imprudence. An essential quality of prudence is circumspection. French poet Paul Claudel tells us prudence is “the intellectual prow of our nature which steers through the multiplicity of the finite world toward perfection.”

To avoid fanaticism, prudence exhorts us to carefully consider all sides of an issue and to identify what exactly is influencing our judgment.

Prudence implores us to seek what is true and the evidence for saying this. Why is there such enthusiasm for this idea?

Living in an age of anxiety and extremism is nothing new. However, we live in a postmodern unimagined age in which fanatics are employing the media’s powers of matter over mind.

This is especially true of playing on fears and vulnerabilities to pursue bizarre outcomes.

It is an age of the war over the power and domination of minds, and what is needed is a new era of prudent minds and heightened enthusiasm for the truth.