Funniest thing happened to me today: My son has a two foot tall rubber T-rex that I've been too lazy to bring in from the van.
Today I brought it out and put it into our room right in front of the door so that when it was opened he would see it and I could get a good reaction.
I forgot I put it there.
I opened the door and yelped like a little girl, my first thought being "What the hell is this cat doing in here!"
Then I laughed at my own stupidity. For like, two minutes.
Fear is not a primal part of our brain. Panic is. Panic is the fight or flight response to dangerous stimuli, and it is perfectly natural.
Panic is also part of our collective unconcious. I witnessed this a few weeks ago.
I was in a first aid course and during the explanation of the reactive processes of a choking person, it was described that when suffocating we all try to hide. Or remove ourselves from the situation. (A little aside here: I often try to remove all thoughts about modern technology and modern culture when I think about the actions people do today. Toddlers are great for this.)
Then I thought about how my two-year-old hides whenever he goes to the bathroom. I tried to think if there was something internally that connected these two actions, and a thought struck me:
These two seemingly different actions exhibit actions that are relatable. Disease. Coughing is a sign of disease, and feces carry disease. When we act diseased we isolate ourselves from the group as a way of protecting the group.
To give another example is when a cat hides to die or give birth. In both cases it is isolating itself from illness, either in contraction or dissemination. When choking or defecating part of our flight-or-fight gets activated and we hide. Panic is a natural protector in this situation.
When our panic is prolonged or held artificially we develop fear. When panic is induced in similar situations it evolves into fear, since the cause of the panic does not appear yet the fight-or-flight is engaged.
This is the curse of having memory and sentient thought. We can create circumstances that trigger these responses when none are actually present. Such as watching scary movies.
The desire to watch scary movies comes with it's own social implications as well. Why do we desire to be scared? Why do we force ourselves to watch the news where horrible things happen?
I think it's because we learn from it. Since our responses allowed us to live, and can be triggered as a warning device (that manifests itself in negative ways such as phobias or innaporpriate responses to environmental stimuli). We watch what others do in bad situations to leatn what not to do.
We've all watched the monster movie and yelled at the screen for the defenceless girl to “stay away from the door! The killer is there! I wouldn't go through there!”
When on the news we watch to see how others survive the disaster, creating elaborate scenarios where we do things different in order to survive.
Doing this creates fear. While learning from experiences is a great way to preserve ourselves and our species, when it is artificially induced it creates the synthetic emotion of fear.
Am I making sense or talking out of my ass?
Heard the bad news? Sure you have. It’s everywhere. You can't turn on the TV or read a newspaper (paper or electronic) without coming across THE BIG SCARE. It varies from week to week - global warming, bird flu, terrorism, world hunger, rapidly-depleting oil reserves, and what have you - but it's almost always guaranteed to ruin your day and make you consider stockpiling food and weapons in your basement.
Ever heard the phrase "culture of fear?" Probably. It's usually applied to politics, for example by claiming that the powers that be are deliberately trying to manipulate the citizens with a series of boogeymen. There's probably some truth in that, but the culture goes much deeper than mere political scaremongering. It's in the everyday conversation of the scared-shitless John Q. Public. It's in every online forum thread dedicated to the oil crisis, or some new disease, or the environment. It's in every locked car door in a crime-free suburb. It's in every parent with a vague uneasiness about the world their children are going off into.
People are genuinely scared, and fear loves company.
The media certainly have something to do with it - they're the ones who tell us about all the new things to be afraid of, anyway, to keep us glued to the screens in stark terror - but they won't admit it. That's why I started the Fear Blog. Here I share the bad news, collect the scary stories, and speculate on the coming apocalypse and various dubious conspiracy theories. No attempt will be made to hide the fact that I'm a completely paranoid pessimist. Scaremongering or no, all these dire predictions about the future have gotten to me. I'm worried about the environment. I'm worried about where our energy is going to come from. I'm worried about war, I'm worried about terrorism, I'm worried about disease. Hell, I'm even worried that the ravings of the crackpot conspiracy fringe might be true.
And that's the theme of this blog - dread and paranoia. It's not so much about scaring you, the reader, as it is about sharing my own layman's-eye-view of the fear culture. It's about my own nervous panic, and those dark thoughts that come up whenever I turn on the TV news. And I think some of you will probably share my concerns, because I'm one of you. I'm just a regular guy with a knot in my gut and a lump in my throat.
I'm as scared as you are, but I'm also fascinated by this neurotic culture. So come on, and explore it with me.