“If I am not mistaken, there are three main classes of fear: we fear want, we fear sickness, and we fear the troubles which arise from the violence of the stronger.” – Seneca
Human beings are brutal creatures capable of despicable things. We – collectively – have done some of the most atrocious and heinous things to each other, things most of us wouldn’t even be able to imagine.
And we tend to only do those things to the people we can consider as ‘others’ or not within our group. Or sometimes, when we are really horrible, we do them to the people we are supposed to love the most.
Focusing on the things we do to the ‘other’ groups of people, it’s no wonder that when we live together in large heterogeneous societies we tend to have friction. That friction can lead to a fear of each other, because we don’t understand the way each of us thinks and therefore we struggle to anticipate each others’ responses to external stimuli.
Se we place each other into groups and we ultimately place ourselves into groups as well. It helps us understand our world and make sense of our daily interactions. Even if our groups are flawed, even if they are downright wrong, they help us navigate our world so they are useful to us, in a way.
They also are the way in which ordinary people like ourselves can be made to do the horrific things our species is capable of. Little by little, one tiny compromise after another we can be pushed into making the groups about ‘them’ and ‘us.’ It can start off innocuous enough, disagreements about politics, thinking one side of the equation wants to get in the way of our current way of life. Then they become a threat to our way of life, then they become the enemy. Then easily enough, they become a threat to our families and ourselves.
Once someone is a threat to our very being, well then we are capable of doing just about anything to protect the things we love.
Even if they don’t actually need protecting.
virtus fortis vocat