Obama: America Going Through ‘Spasm of Fear’

President Barack Obama addresses the International Chiefs of Police (IACP) annual conference at McCormick Place on October 27, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The event is the largest gathering of law enforcement leaders in the world.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Obama says the world is going through a period of fear as a result of dramatic change that has occurred during his presidency.

“We’re going through a spasm of fear.” Obama says, referring to the emergence of “far-right parties” in Europe and America. Obama made his remarks in a conversation with writer Marilynne Robinson published by the New York Review of Books.

“I think that it’s a moment of great change, and the change happens fast. And there have been periods in our history where change happened fast like this, and people just are trying to find firm footing,” he explained. “When you’re looking for firm footing, one of the easiest places to go is, somebody else is to blame.”

He pointed out that it was inherent in man’s nature to be dissatisfied with the way things were, but cautioned Americans against becoming pessimistic.

“We have a dissatisfaction gene that can be healthy if harnessed,” he said. “If it tips into rage and paranoia, then it can be debilitating and just be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because we end up blocking progress in serious ways.”

Obama detailed his thinking that the rapid pace of a global economy had led the “workers and ordinary people” in the world to be frustrated about holding down the American dream.

“[P]eople feel less confident about that because workers have less leverage, and capital is mobile and labor is not,” he said. “And we haven’t adapted our systems to take into account how fast this is moving.”

Obama said he was frustrated by the growing paranoia and fear in the country, asserting that government could easily fix the problem.

“What’s frustrating to me is just that it wouldn’t take that much for us to make the system work for ordinary people again,” he said.