Halloween is on the horizon and though these days it’s a good excuse to spend money on revealing costumes better used in the bedroom, it originally used to be quite scary. It’s origins, the Pegan festival of “Samhain” originated in Celtic culture some 2000 years ago. The Celts believed that the dead could walk among the living at this time. Or rather, during Samhain, the living could visit with the dead. It sounds both miraculous and unnatural to be reunited with the spirit of a departed love one. Of course, if the situation were to end up like it almost always does in various horror stories that date back before Samhain, the spirits would inevitably turn on the living and disaster would follow in some form.
So what? Well… that’s scary. The one thing Samhain and the modern day commercialism that is Halloween have in common is that they both scare you in some form. (And actually Pegans were known for nude rituals.. so perhaps the lack of clothing is also a common element… but I digress…) Where rituals of the old world were far more occult and legitimately scared some, now it’s the rush, the momentary fear that causes people to enjoy things like modern haunted houses and horror movies. Heart rate increases, adrenaline surges and hyper-awareness sets in. Studies have shown that it can even be addictive. Fortunately haunted houses and horror movies are safe, fun and temporary. The fear subsides and leaves you feeling giddy and happy. Such is the positive aspect of fear, if one even exists.
But let me tell you about the other, far more real side of fear: The most useful tool in existence to control people.
“I sense much fear in him… Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering…” -Jedi Grandmaster Yoda
I’ve mentioned previously that I’m a manipulator. I realized after disliking myself for a while that it’s not good or bad, it’s just a way of being. I developed it as a means of social defense and survival when I was young and combined it with a knack for convincing, on the fly, compulsive lying. I was a very good liar, and an arguably better manipulator. Combining those two things with a “me against the world” mentality, negative attitude and general selfishness made me a pretty shitty person who got away with way too much. As a lot of you know, I ultimately paid for being that person and became (arguably) better because of it. If nothing else, I’m honest anyway and I’m pretty good at spotting lies and manipulation when I see them.
Manipulation takes many forms. In it’s most positive incarnation it’s true leadership. You are being manipulated, but of your own free will with concepts that are transparent and straightforward. Because of the lack of deception, you are able to make a choice as to whether to follow the message given to you or not, but the manipulation aspect makes you want to. This is called motivation. (And yes, you can, in fact, manipulate yourself in the same manner.)
Unfortunately somewhere very early in the history of humanity, manipulators discovered the very effective power of fear. As a primal instinct hard-wired into almost every human on the planet, very few things can affect and motivate a large amount of people better than fear can. Ivan the Terrible, Benito Mussolini, Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar, Joseph Stalin and of course (perhaps the most famous) Count Vlad Dracula all used fear as a potent weapon of control. From working millions to death with an iron fist, to causing entire armies to flee from a forest of impaled corpses, these people became so terrifying that fighting them became unthinkable.
Fortunately over time, most of the world wised up, realized the destructive power of these madmen (and women) and overcame their fear in order to defeat and remove them. But it didn’t end there, the modern ages are filled with fear in both similarly overt ways and arguably much more dangerous underlying ways. In the spotlight we have obvious terrorists like the Taliban or the currently prominent ISIS who use publicized beheadings in order to virally increase their notoriety and also to attempt to scare people into taking them seriously. Fortunately in most cases the civilized world does not respond to this sort of manipulation, and instead becomes motivated to destroy the source of such atrocities.
Unfortunately the new perpetuators and amplifiers of this fear are actually much closer to home: us. “Fear of loss” is the term used for a well-known sales technique ranging from dating to buying a brand new car. The concept is simple, they make you want something, or even feel as if it’s yours, and then make you take action by making you scared you will lose what you want. When you go to a car dealership, find the perfect car, and then decide to you want to “think about it” or “sleep on it” before you purchase, they will do whatever they can to keep you from leaving. The majority of the time you’ll probably hear something like “Well we’ve got two other test drives scheduled, I can’t promise we can hold this one.” That’s dirty for sure (and often completely untrue) but it makes you hesitate to leave it and some people still fall for it. As bad as that is though, the media takes it one step further.
Though founded on the basis of providing the public with information, the truth about any newscast is that they need to make ratings. Since their ratings (and in turn revenue) require as many viewers as possible, they have to manipulate you into thinking you have to watch them or you will lose something important: Information. But to take it one step further, they have to convince you that you need them or the information you miss might just kill you. It sounds silly, but if you listen to questions in interviews with very carefully selected “experts” you’ll hear pre-scripted questions like: “So do you believe that a terrorist attack in the US will happen again?” or “What are the chances that Ebola will turn into an epidemic?” The questions aren’t necessarily dishonest, and (sometimes anyway) the answers aren’t either. But it doesn’t matter, because as soon as they introduce that idea as a feasible possibility into your mind, you get scared. When you get scared, you have to keep tuning in, so you have information, so you are ready, so you don’t die.
In the modern age we have an arguably scarier medium by which fear and falsities are transmitted: Social Media. The internet allows for the passage of information without any sort of boundaries, filters, guidelines or truth to it. Though many on the internet are savvy and intelligent enough to be aware of obviously false information, there’s still a large chunk (possibly even the majority these days,) that are easy prey for fear manipulation. Even scarier are those who intentionally spread fear and panic through such false information, all for the sake additional clicks, addition traffic, advertising revenue, some sort of agenda or simply because it makes them feel powerful to control people. Those on the internet, even on such mainstream sites such as Facebook are constantly bombarded with posts designed to get you to react without thinking and be scared, angry, outraged, sad or whatever it takes for them to act. They promote bigotry, racism, sexism, religious persecution and general hate all through the power of instinctive fear.
Some with a more rational mind will take the time to look up figures, dig up real facts, and realize that all this fear mongering has become irrational and stupid. But a large majority will still be afraid, still be controlled and even go so far as to berate the rational people by telling them how sorry they’ll be when the shit hits the fan and we’re not ready. We are fortunate that rational people are the ones that have defeated fear throughout the ages. My only fear is that eventually there won’t be enough rational people to stop the manipulated masses from taking over and destroying us all.
Ebola will kill some people. Terrorists will kill some people. God (depending on what you believe) will kill some people. Cats will kill some people. Televisions will kill some people. Chocolate will kill some people. Love.. just might kill some people. But fear… fear could end up killing everyone… the entire human race. So be one of the rational thinkers and when something you read on the internet or hear on the news makes you afraid, realize that you are being manipulated, question it, and then do your research and understand the reality (YOUR reality) of what you’re afraid of. You’ll find that the more you understand, the less you fear.