Fear is arguably the most powerful emotion wired into every last one of us. In essence, the feeling of fear instills an urgency and uneasiness that must be eliminated. Functioning as a survival instinct, fear is perceived by most as a restricting mechanism. Fear prevents us from doing many things. From public speaking to unattainable dreams, fear serves as a restraint, allowing even some of the strongest desires to be held back. Often overlooked, many fail to recognize the power that fear has to initiate actions. We understand how fear holds us back, but how and what actions does it promote?
To figure out complicated questions or controversies a commonly used method is comparing and putting things into perspective. The famous theory of relativity hypothesized by the great Albert Einstein is based on perspective. A human living in the twenty first century would look at their car speedometer and say,”Wow, I’m moving at ninety miles per hour!” But are they really moving along at 90 miles per hour? They are moving ninety miles per hour relative to the earth’s surface, which is spinning at a high rate. But earth is orbiting the sun, and the sun along with our solar system is orbiting around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Our galaxy is moving at an incredible rate through the universe. Who knows if or how fast the universe is moving? So what speed are we really moving at? What is our absolute speed? These may have been some of the questions physicists like Albert Einstein asked to come across an amazing breakthrough in science. Instead of trying to figure out how to calculate absolute velocity–speed independent of all other objects–Einstein decided to measure speeds relative to other bodies of objects. According to Einstein, a human driving his car would be moving at a speed of ninety miles per hour relative to earth’s surface. He would be moving even faster relative to the earth’s core. More importantly, this simple shift in perspective allowed Einstein to discover astonishing breakthroughs like spacetime and the speed of light. The point of this science example is to not to educate you on one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time, but to show how effectively change of perspective and comparison can shed light on an idea.
To help answer the fundamental question of what actions fear creates, one must compare American society in the twentieth century to ancient humans living around ten thousand years ago. The Mesolithic age is the last time in history where tame behavior as we know it did not exist. Humans were hunters and gathers focused on the task of surviving. When faced with a threat from dangerous animals, a fear induced response was natural to eliminate the threat. This response consisted of violence. Whether it be beating, stabbing, or wounding to kill, ancient humans were highly exposed to violent interactions because that was their lifestyle. They lived a life of fear–threatened by starvation and predators–which kept them aware and focused on the task of survival. Consumed by the feeling of fear or an imminent threat, violence was a logical course of action to feel relief.
Compared to ancient humans, the behavior of people living in the United States has changed completely. Today, we do not need to worry about things like water, food or predators and we have an absolutely ridiculous level of convenience. From fast food, to cars and electricity, we can get almost anything in a matter of minutes. Because the concern of survival is not present in our indulged lives, we put our efforts towards things we consider important. Some of these things include wealth, entertainment, and pleasure. Because our primal needs are taken care of by modern technology, we are not constantly faced with life threatening situations. As a result, Americans are sensitive to fear, threats, and anxiety that can be brought about many things. Some examples of modern fear include the fear of not being accepted by others, threat of your favorite team losing, or the very possible chance of a worker being replaced. Also known as social anxiety, sports fans, and factory workers, all have a tendency to exhibit or cause “unnecessary” forms of violence. In Columbine by Dave Cullen, through years of research he expresses the active role social anxiety in the two students’ decisions to shoot up Columbine. In Eating Animals, Foer expresses how mindless and replaceable violent factory farm jobs can be. Through extensive research in Critical Thinking and Writing II, I found out devoted sports fans’ close association with their favorite teams can instill fear in some circumstances. All of these three examples share the same common denominator of fear. Because today’s convenient society does not allow a mindset constantly focused on survival, we have become extremely susceptible to minor threats and feelings of uneasiness. As a result, people channel these fears in the goal of eliminating them through the form of violence.
Human beings during the Mesolithic age were living to survive. Today, people live to live. Purpose of life has shifted from survival to a mystery many modern philosophers have tried to answer. This change in purpose has made us extremely affected by minor threats such as the fear of rejection by others, fear of meaning, and even fear of the unknown. We have a strong reaction to many of these due to our sensitivity to fear. Have we become weak?
During my time in Critical Thinking and Writing we discussed controversial topics like “where does the violence come from” in factory farms or school shootings. Along with a tremendous amount of writing, it has taught me how to think critically. A large part of critical thinking is shifting one’s perspective to obtain and analyze more data. With this data you can compare and come to conclusions. Like all controversial topics that are debatable, no “correct” conclusion can be made. Although my theory of violence may be incorrect and lack evidence and credibility, how can one prove where violence truly comes from?
Evolution of Man. Digital image. Mail Chimp Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. (Feature Image)
Neanderthal Scene. Digital image. Natural History Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. (First Image)
Price, T. Douglas. Europe’s First Farmers. New York: Cambridge UP, 2000. Print.
Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.