In human beings, fear is the feeling that is induced by the perception of danger or threat. Fear is a fascinating emotional response as it is not a feeling that we try actually to avoid. In fact, most of us thrive on being afraid and seek it out the feeling of fear. We love feeling fear so much we have built entire amusement parks, adorned with various rides and attractions that will simulate perceived risk and thus invoke fear within us. Additionally, we have been making horror movies to frighten and scare people since the introduction of motion picture technology.
Now, it isn’t that we love being afraid. The perception of danger which induces fear stimulates a flight or fight response within our natural biochemistry. The flight or fight response is an evolutionary attribute that protects human beings and ensures human survival. However, the experience of fight or flight is not inherently a pleasant experience. So is not the feeling of fear that people are addicted too. Rather, it is the emotion of overcoming or surviving fear that is what we desire so deeply.
The craving to experience an overcoming of fear is one of the most significant motivators in human behavior. This is also when fear can become irrational and take over logic. Fear can then become a projection of another stressor, and therefore we end up irrationally projecting fear onto something that isn’t rational.
In large part, our natural evolutionary history has provided a biological make-up that desires to get us out of danger and protect us from frightening environments. When Homo Sapiens experienced the last significant neurological development with the pre-frontal cortex 32,000 years ago, the world was a much different place that it was today. The environments of the time presented danger all over the place. Therefore our bodies were very active to keep us safe. However, the modern world is not one in which we have to worry about how we walk down the road because we could be mauled by a wildlife predator. However, the biological systems that kept us safe tens of thousands of years ago are still present. Unfortunately, for many of us our natural “safety systems” are relatively bored in the contemporary world.
To alleviate themselves these natural systems end up creating adverse responses to situations that are not inherently dangerous. The danger of life or death may not be as prevalent as it was for our ancestors. However, the stress that human’s face in modern life is equally as significant as it was on the savannas of Africa thousands and thousands of years ago. The stress is the same; it is only the threats that are different. Instead of fear of a successful next hunt so the family can eat, or from being attacked by a saber-tooth tiger, the modern person has stress over finances, employment, personal relationships, or poor health care. Now, technically any of these stressors can kill us. However, it is not nearly as immediate as the concerns of primordial humans. Therefore, often for people to mitigate their stress, they need something to be afraid of. In essence, people need an enemy.
It is this desire or need for an enemy, that is the foundation to every single prejudice that humans can engage in. Our stress is projected on a perceived “bad guy” for us to go through our daily lives with some sense of survival of danger. To some, every day they weren’t attacked by a Black man, Illegal Mexican, or Jihadist Terrorist is another successful day in the books. In reality, the statistical likelihood of any of these things occurring to us on any given day is not statistically significant what-so-ever. However, we still feel stress. Therefore, we need a villain to blame it on.
Our personal perceived “enemies” can be unique to each of us individually, and they also can be necessary for us collectively as a society. Therefore, this creates a multitier layer of “enemies” both as an organization and unique to us as individuals. For example, if I live close to the border of Mexico, I can be afraid of illegal Mexicans personally. However, I can also be scared of Jihadist Terrorist nationally.
The most important thing about irrational projected fear is that it almost always must be associated with something that is not a real threat. See we don’t want to be scared, rather it is the feeling of powerfulness in overcoming our threats that we seek. We will justify our fears by logical fallacies. In the same example, of Black men, illegal immigrants, and Islamic terrorist, which is a general theme for White America that encompasses the majority populous, the reality is that each of those groups harms others within their particular ethnicity far more than they harm others outside of it. However, we justify our fears by the actions those groups commit amongst themselves as being rational for why it could happen to us.
Collectively, we always need an enemy as well. This is the central tenant that a majority populous will rally around and unite to use this enemy as their projected fear. Throughout the history of White America, it has gone from Native Americans to African Americas, to Communist, and now to radical Islamist. Ultimately, these groups are only focal points of our inner stresses that have absolutely nothing to do with these groups. This is where the selfishness of our inability to look at ourselves as being the cause of our stress not only damages us, but it hurts the groups we are using as the source of our fears.
To relieve our stress, which we now perceive as being caused by our chosen target group, we do things like commit genocide and subjugate the Native Americans. Or we oppress and try to prevent African Americans from having the same rights as us. We enter a Cold War with Communist Russia (or they enter a Cold War with Democratic West), or now we go to war with the Muslim word and demonize the religion as one of war and hate. However, again the most important thing that determines what group we are going to us as our symbolic enemy, is that the actual threat posed by them is negligible.
Let take illegal immigrants or radical Islamic Jihadist for example. Now, clearly one can find examples in which either of these groups has indeed committed an act that is frightening or violent. However, the facts are that the average American is 99.9998% more likely to be killed by an American citizen than they are an illegal immigrant or radical Muslim terrorist. In light of this fact, before you board up the windows and walk around terrified of your fellow countrymen, the average American is also 66.98% more likely to commit suicide than be murdered.
Now, I can see some people right now saying, “But what about September 11th or any of the other terrorist acts that have occurred by the hands of Islamic Jihadist!” Well, as much as we in America would sometimes like to assume we are the center of the universe, the fact is the same projection of stress and mitigation of fears that are used by us, are used by other cultures and societies as well. Only, in this instance, it is American’s who are the terrorist and the focal point of one’s stress. That’s right. We too can fill that void of being someone else’s irrational enemy.
In the end, the requirement that is necessary for something to be what we project our stress and fears on must be something that isn’t a real threat or it isn’t that significant in our lives. Again, because if the threat were real, it wouldn’t alleviate our other stressors, rather it would be a stressor. Additionally, if it were something significant to us, we would ignore the threat and make it not scary at all.
In the end, in 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Only thing we have to fear is fear itself” he was partially correct. In reality, the truth is that the thing we fear the most is often not the thing we are most afraid of. The genuine feeling of awesome powerfulness does exist from overcoming our fears, but we must ensure we are engaging what is the real source of our stress or concerns and not merely the “relief valve” we are trying to use as our excuse. For one thing, the ones we project our fears onto, always face solemn and ill-fated existences whenever we are using them as our relief. Additionally, we ultimately always end up hurting ourselves, because we never actually overcome our genuine fears.
There is power in fearlessness, so be bold and righteous in attacking your inner fears. Because in the end, fearlessness is virtuousness and the path to inner peace.