The Power of Fear

Photo by this person

The door flies open, bangs against the wall, Sarah tumbles to the floor. There’s blood everywhere. Oh shit. You perk up real fast. She was only supposed to run to the store to grab some milk, maybe a carton of ice cream if she had enough left. But none of these items are present. What happened? She’s writhing on the floor. She’s in intense pain. You are by her side. No clue what to do.

“What happened?” you ask.

She doesn’t respond initially, has to let out a few sobs first. You wait patiently stroking her shoulder all the while.


Here comes the answer.

“There was a guy…he…he tried to grab me.” She coughs. Blood and saliva wetten your shirt sleeve. “I hit him and then he…and then he…he…” She cannot continue. She’s weeping now. You’re raging now. Fists clenched.

“What guy?! Where is he?!”

“Don’t do anything honey. Please…stay with me…I need you.”

“Who was it? Who did this?” There is a mounting rage in your voice. She pleads with you to calm down. No use. You continue to demand answers. Her cries grow louder. You raise your voice to compensate.


The tone of her weeping changes. These cries are for you now. You feel some tears of your own brewing, but you quickly stamp them out. Have to stay strong. Must stay strong. Somebody has to pay for this. Don’t be weak. Don’t let her break you. What? Wait a…

No. Stop debating this. “What does he look like? Please, just tell me?”

She concedes, “You know him…well, not like that, but you’ve seen him. The guy who’s always on the corner.”

“What?” You rise along with the intonation in your voice. “I always knew he was up to no good. I knew it! I knew it!”

“Please!” she pleads. “Stay with me. Don’t go out there. Stay with me! I need you right now.”

You let out a deep sigh. You know something must be done…right now…but what? What do you do? Go after him or stay with her.

First, we must understand the power of or.


“Or” is the great nothing, but it is also the great “everything” as it is the point of the tilt. Its meaning is relative to the options it rests between. The nature of the options dictates the “size” of the or. The or in life or death and light or dark represent huge gaps. In other posts I described this space as the gray that creates the illusion of duality. Much like the space that separates you from the monitor or screen in which you are viewing this blog. Only through this space can you perceive distinctions and similarities. Distinctions and similarities that are aggressively relative. It is this relativity that exposes the fraudulent duality because without the gray the opposing forces do not exist. Yes, it’s an overlapping complicated mess.


The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year and during the equinoxes the length of day and night are approximately equal. Really, these are nothing but ratios between light and dark and since ratios expand a solstice is nothing more than an or. Its nature is determined by the days that precede it and follow it. Same holds true for the equinoxes. On their own their special, but their uniqueness is defined by the gray days. In other words an equinox or solstice is the point where the ratio tilts. Thing is these tilts are infinite. They’re all over the damn place. They’re in your freezer. That ice tray. When are those ice cubes indeed ice cubes? What if your refrigerator was capable of temperatures eight-billion degrees below what “we consider” zero? Would they become icier than ice? Go outside. Is it warm, hot or cold? What is warm? Why is warm to you, hot to someone else? What is the truth of the temperature? It’s all relative ratios folks. Truth is relative. Fear is relative…


(click ‘play’ at your own risk)

These movies are remarkable because they allow us to exorcise our demons. Nobody is hurt during their creation and we voluntarily go to the theater to view them. It’s fun to us. We love to be scared…well, only when we know we’re safe. What is extraordinary about scary movies is that we are in on the joke, but we still find them terrifying. Why does this same dynamic not work in the “real world?” Here, peep this scenario…

You are locked in a room with a strange person. They tell you they’re going to kill you. What do you do? Kill them before they kill you? Why do they want to kill you? Does it really matter why? Say you decide to return the threat…who acts first? You or them? What invisible force is driving this? Self-preservation perhaps. You’re both locked in this room, limited space, limited resources. One less body, more resources for the other.

See what’s going on here?

Fear seems to be a necessary mechanism of self-preservation. Without fear, our sensory receptor or body risks injury. Fear, a readily understandable emotion causes us to react in order to protect ourselves. But note the profound irony present…if I kill you to protect myself I tilt the evolutionary ratio in the favor of fear and what kind of effect will that have on the future of our species? How will this influence future adaptations? Evolution would have fits trying to figure out what to do with such a contradictory mess…

“Oh, they’re a greedy bunch of SOBs, eating up everything, using up everything and when they start to see the error of their ways they don’t change they just look elsewhere to pillage and plunder. Not only are they a burden to their own species, but others as well. What a painfully myopic bunch.”

I think the effect is that we become more fearful. We may think we are more intelligent than our ancestors, because we meticulously dissect that which we fear, but we are nowhere near as wise. Just scroll up a bit, look at that picture of Stonehenge. Just think—WE built that. WE engineered that. Not to say we weren’t fearful then, but as we evolved and became more and more self-aware of the ill-effects of fear some of the more fearful amongst us (those whose fear drove them to seek power) used fear to govern the masses. As the Italian semiologist Umberto Eco said: “Nothing gives a fearful man more courage than another’s fear.”

Why do you think socialism is so routinely lampooned by those in power? It is perceived as a threat to their surplus wealth which is their insurance policy of sorts. While the masses live day-to-day those in power have the means to live age-to-age. Absolute power is sought by the fearful (fearful that the masses are unruly and may harm them or fearful that the masses re too ignorant to be left to their own devices) and in order to sustain this power they use fear against those who may become skeptical of the reason for their positions and governance. Limiting access to education and information are used to combat this skepticism. If the masses start to question authority too much then well, just raise the threat level to orange or something like that.


Look at the clever hand evolution dealt fear with the internet. Everything—from the sublime, to the horrific—it’s all there. And yes, when you check out Yahoo’s trends they’re dominated by celebrity gossip and whatever story du jour has us rapt in awe for the moment. This phenomenon may speak to another ratio. The ratio of brilliance to ignorance and like all ratios there is nothing “dual” about what lies on each side of or. You may be a dolt when it comes to math, but an absolute virtuoso on the piano. Ignorance and brilliance are both subjective to relativity like everything else. In regards to pop culture and its overwhelmingly narrow focus. This is attributed to its cynical and almost desperate need to please all of the people all of the time. This broad appeal is effective. But one wonders if its efficacy is due to the fact that it’s the only game in town. We eat what we’re fed. If the media conglomerates switched over to 24/7 Shakespeare we may tune it off, but what about younger generations being born into this Bard Zeitgeist? They wouldn’t know any better. Imagine the effect this would have on their development. I would never advocate homogenized media or culture, but isn’t that kind of what is happening now? Yeah, the faces may be different colors, the beats of slower and faster paces, but when you really look at it it’s all processed, tested and then packaged for our consumption. These media outlets are incredibly fearful. They can’t afford to take risks. It’s all about self-preservation. Thank God for cable TV. I’m sorry, it’s not TV, it’s…well, you know…and actually that is a cliché in and of itself. The more network TV pushes the envelope the more cable TV pushes the envelope. Both possess false boundaries that exist in accordance with the social mores of the time.

Hey, I have a bone to pick with you about the story at the top of this post. Anyone would go after that a-hole who beat that woman. There is nothing fearful about kicking a little ass, especially when it’s deserved. How dare you insinuate that staying with her is somehow taking the moral high road?! That dude needed his face stomped in.


Because of what he did to that woman. You’re telling me you wouldn’t have kicked his ass if he did that to someone you love?

That’s a place I don’t want to be and to be one-hundred percent the personal me would have a hard time suppressing the urge to kick a little ass, but the impersonal me understands that it is imperative that we stop answering fear with fear. Rage is unaddressed pain. Earlier I mentioned the idea of fearful evolutions. The man who attacks the woman wasn’t born that way. He evolved to become that way. When we respond in kind we risk becoming that way too. That’s why the only thing the winner of a war receives is the opportunity to fight again and damn it if they don’t do just that.

Dude, you must mention that lame little line in every other post.

Well no one reads this stuff so it’s new to the unfortunate soul who is reading this one. Furthermore, when we celebrate violent ratios like the outcome of war (we killed more of you than you did of us, let’s have a parade) we lose because the war justifies the very thing that we were supposedly fighting to stop. Yeah, it’s hard as hell to turn the other cheek. I know this very very very well. But we must if we want to move our species past this bullshit. Sorry, just tired of mincing words, but fear is bullshit. War exposes the irrationality of our fears and insecurities. Gotta blacken someone’s eyes so we don’t have to face the truth behind our own. Fear literally and figuratively cripples us, but it’s just an illusion. The only consequence is death. I know that sounds silly. Down playing death and all. But just think of some of the people we idolize today who down-played that fear. Actually, that is a poor choice of words. They rose above it. Here’s a contemporary figure we should all recognize…

Also, no wonder why suicide bomb attacks confuse us so much. We so eagerly want to return the blow, but when our attackers die in order to deliver it we’re left with all this rage (pain) and no one to fight (instead of cry). But luckily we found someone to fight and well, we’re still fighting. The attack happened suddenly like a right cross to the face. Now we’re swinging wildly at absolutely nothing. This absurdity may be a blessing in disguise. Time to WAKE UP!

Now here’s a crazy possibility…what if we don’t have much time to figure this out and what if that’s the only way we will figure it out? Yeah, I know, sounds kind of messed up. Kind of like discovering you have a terminal illness mere months before it kills you. That’s exactly what fear is—a terminal illness. Imagine if we treated cancer with the same rationale that leads us to war. But really, we’ve been talking about this fear business for quite some time. One of the most popular manifestations is this cat…

We blame him for evil and the world’s ills and here’s where the great earth-shattering irony lies—many of us are confused what is evil and what isn’t. We actually spend quite a bit of time debating this very issue. The ironic bit is that some of the things we think are evil are things we fear, things we fear because we don’t understand them. Why don’t we understand them? Well, because they are relatively rare. Gays, dark-skinned people, pagans, Jews, et cetera—these groups get lumped in the evil category because in relation to the broader population they are few. This alone makes them different. That is the first distinction. Another ratio! When we examine these groups a bit more we notice other distinctions…the more distinctions we notice the more unlikely we are to embrace them. At that point we either have to find a way to justify their existence (slavery anyone?) or attempt to wipe them out completely. Ironically, we do “evil” things to them simply because we don’t understand their reason for existing.

Tension or better put—friction—happens when the ruling class becomes fragmented over how they should treat the minorities. Some see them as fellow humans whose differences actually paint a broader picture of the human condition while others see them as inferiors who must be “dealt with.” As a result we get ratios within the ruling class and things tilt back and forth just like a buoy floating in the sea…and the same phenomenon occurs within the minorities—it’s all just a mess of relatively diverse ratios. Hell, you are nothing but a mess of relatively diverse ratios. You may appear on the surface to be white, brown or black, but really your DNA is nothing but genetic ratios. You truly have no idea who you really are because who you really are is not much different than me! The surface is a mere illusion. A beautiful illusion, but it’s quite absurd how we put so much onus on that alone. We even use it to define us.

When your mother’s genetic bits mixed with your father’s genetic bits it was kind of like the dynamic of a party after all of the guests arrive. At that point anything’s possible, but as the night progresses the nature of the party begins to solidify and once it’s all over and you’re chatting with your coworkers the next day and one of them asks you, “Hey, how was Phil’s party last night?” Well, that answer is you. The party’s ratios are the result of friction. Tina got drunk, that pissed off Greg. Lisa found the whole thing hilarious, even recorded it, uploaded it to her Facebook page. A similar friction occurs when diverse DNA co-mingles. Who knows how you’ll come out? Will you look more like your mother or father or a distant distant distant relative. The possibilities are endless because who knows what kind of genetic information gets invited to the party. Most of it is ancient. Just look at yourself and look at Cleopatra. You both got that two eyes, two ears, a mouth and a nose thing going for you. On the flip-side, look at a bird and you find vestiges of dinosaurs. DNA is a sublimely wondrous thing. When you view it through the filter of science it becomes clinical, but remember, it existed long before lab coats and beakers and it evolves along with our understanding of it. It literally is running away from us, yet it is within us. That’s why when we look for answers we look within and that drives us to act without. Fear within leads to fear without.

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.
-United Nations Educational, Scientific, And Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Constitution, 1945.


6 Responses to “The Power of Fear”

  1. 1 troy June 25, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Fear sucks. And you’re right about our ‘misunderstanding’ (or lack thereof) to be a cause. On a somewhat related note, here’s a neat article I came across about dehumanization, something the author feels is an underlying cause of much of our violence …stemming of course, from fear.

    Hope this html link works… (click)

  1. 1 What’s Really Going On? « Tricky Relativity Trackback on July 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm
  2. 2 God’s Nature « Tricky Relativity Trackback on August 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm
  3. 3 Existential Angst or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Liberal Conservative « Tricky Relativity Trackback on September 4, 2010 at 4:57 am
  4. 4 Peace One Day | Meditations Trackback on September 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

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