Fear makes the world go round
[Translation of El miedo hace girar el mundo (Fear makes the world go around) by Gabriel Laguna published in Tradición Clásica on 4-Sept-2006.]
The number of things that human being do as a result of fear are innumerable. I don't believe Freud, when he says that the single motivation for the human species is the sexual drive. Neither am I convinced that mankind is driven by a dual motivation as proposed by Arcipreste de Hita: subsistence (the preservation of the individual) and procreation (preservation of the species).
Como dise Aristóteles,
cosa es verdadera,
As Aristotle said, One thing
No, the universal motivating factor, the ubiquitous engine that drives the world, is fear.
The baby at the breast calls out for food and devotion from its mother with its cries, because it is afraid: of dying from starvation, or being trodden on or being beaten by an older sibling. The kids at school bully the weakest because they themselves fear that they will become the victims of others: they promote fear because they themselves are afraid. Because we fear of loneliness and social exclusion, we forge friendships with others. This same fear leads us to form groups (it is said that, “In union there is strength”) as in associations, clubs, political parties and trade unions (trade unions: almost mafia-like societies for mutual protection that armour its members against everything outside). We study and develop professional careers because we are afraid of “being nothing” in the human jungle and so of not being capable of providing our nourishment, medical attention and protection against hostile forces during our lives. When we are in love, we engage in the worst sorts of indignities and abasements out of fear of being rejected or abandoned by our lover. People become partners and marry the wrong person for fear of isolation. We have children because we are scared of imagining ourselves alone in our old age or because we try to overcome the fear of no one will remember us once we have died.
Many people are attracted to power and wealth (as we saw in Lucretius) because such qualities give us an apparent feeling of security and release us from fear. We intoxicate ourselves with drugs or alcohol make us forget because we are terrified of facing up to reality. We cling to life because we are afraid of death, like Hamlet:
that sleepe of death, what dreames may come,
Or, in contrast, those who are desperate opt for suicide: they seek death out of fear of life. The worst iniquities and injustices are perpetrated because of fear: people cheat, rob, kill, abuse others because they are afraid of being victims of such actions, and so they opt to do them to others first. Examiners at universities delay making decisions because of fear: they prefer to promote candidates who can be trusted, those who don't overshadow them or frighten them, and so they deny places to the most able because of fear. Tyrants behave more tyrannically the more they fear those around them. When the tyrant Kreon exiled Medea from Corinth, he said, “libera cives metu” (Deliver the citizens from fear: Seneca). To move on from the psychology of the individual to that of the group, nation and states undertake wars out of fear that the enemy will take that initiative.
I also believe that both the smile and depression arose out of fear. The smile was a contortion of the mouth with which the early weak primates communicated the message that they were not a threat to those who were dominant. It was the timid ones who smiled (those who were afraid, from the Latin verb timere). Depression, with the passive and timid attitude in the individual with which if is associated, serves to transmit an identical message of surrender and defencelessness to potential aggressors. In summary, fear is the driving force that stimulates human beings to interact with their environment and with others. I even believe that those who write blogs do so out of fear of being nothing, of being considered as no one on the Internet. Fear, always fear.
Javier Marías, in his novel Tu rostro mañana. 2. Baile y sueño (Madrid: Alfaguara, 2004. Your Face Tomorrow: Fever And Spear) describes how criminals defend themselves in the final judgement for their crimes and wrong-doings:
Y los acusados responderían siempre: “Fue necesario, defendía a mi Dios, a mi Rey, mi patria, mi cultura, mi raza; mi bandera, mi leyenda, mi lengua, mi clase, mi espacio; mi honor, a los míos, mi caja fuerte, mi monedero y mis calcetines. Y en resumen, tuve miedo”. (p. 162).
The accused would always reply, “It was necessary, I was defending my God, my King, my nation, my culture, my race, my flag, my legend, my language, my class, my space, my honour, my family, my strong box, my money and my socks. In short, I was afraid.”
Lucretius, the apostle of the epicurean philosophy in Rome, develops the theme that the reason why people commit all kinds of iniquities and crimes during their lives is due to the fear of death (De Rerum Natura 3.59-73):
avarities et honorum caeca cupido,
And greed, again, and the
blind lust of honours
[Translator's note: Possibly what the author of this piece has forgotten is than some people can overcome their fear in some circumstances. It is at that point that the greatest achievements of mankind have their origin.]
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