Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fear Among Societies

Imagine you're in your car, driving home from college one night. It's late and you partied with a few friends before heading home. You've done this many times before in India but this time you're in the US. You had a few drinks with your chicken pakoras but you are far from feeling too drunk to drive. The police officer who now has his lights on does not agree. Being unfamiliar with the US criminal justice system you pull over and get out of the car.All of a sudden there is a loaded gun in your face and a large man yelling at you. This is unlike anything you've ever encountered and you don't even understand the problem or what just happened. In shock it may take you a minute to realize what is being said and if there is a language barrier things could become even worse.

Now imagine you've always loved animals and now you've moved to India. There are dogs wandering the streets and cows and you innocently believe it's okay to pet the latest dog that has approached you. Suddenly another dog runs up and the two dogs begin to fight and the fight turns violent and your leg gets smacked in the chaos (the skin wasn't broken). You're pulled away by another bystander and they attempt to explain to you why dogs should be avoided.

Both situations, though very different, would have caused you to feel an intense sensation of fear. Fear can be good and in both cases it would likely save your life (and did for the person in my first example who was obviously much more threatened - yes those examples are both real). Had the person in the first example not felt fear they could have continued to approach the officer, maybe to offer a bribe which is the customary way to avoid police conflict in India, and possibly be shot. American law enforcement officers are trained to shoot if they feel their lives are threatened (which is being changed slowly from real bullets to rubber bullets etc, but I'm not writing about that topic here and now). They are not trained to shoot to kill unless it is necessary so death would have been unlikely but there would still be injury.

In the second situation with the dog there is a very real possibility the dog had rabies. The second dog could have also attacked the person and injured them as well. Even if neither of the dogs were sick in any way they could have perceived the person as a threat and they may have bit her. In this case as well death would have been unlikely but injury a very real possibility.

This is where the fears we are taught come in handy when we are in our own cultures. In the US it is very common for citizens, even law abiding citizens, to fear the police. Police officers there like to tell you that if you haven't done anything wrong you wouldn't fear the police but I have not seen that in reality. One example would be a time when I was at my mothers house and my step father had been out driving and had an altercation with another driver. It took the police a little while to catch up with him and he was unaware this woman had filed a report for aggressive passing. When they knocked on the door my mother and I both were startled, unnerved and had a fair amount of apprehension about even opening the door. Neither of has had done anything wrong nor were in any way wanted by the law lol.

Hubby is afraid of dogs. I'm finding the fear of animals is fairly common here. However there is this little dog that in my opinion is obviously owned by one of our neighbors. I say that because the dog is pretty clean all the time, has long healthy looking fur and is always at the same house and rarely even walks to the next house over. He's kept outside though which isn't that typical for the area we live in....unless he's being used as a scare tactic which I think is funny considering the size of this dog but I won't get into that either. We drive past this house frequently on the motorcycle and every time hubby says something about the dog and how he hates to go by there because he's scared the dog is going to bite him one day. The dog is very vocal but hubby can't see how little motivation this dog has to even get too close to us when we go by. I've even walked past the dog with the kids and they are scared as well and often hide behind me for protection. I have never feared this dog. (I really need to get a picture lol, The dog isn't even as tall as my knees and I think he weighs less than a standard airline carry on bag.)

These fears are taught to us and ingrained into our minds by the societies we live in. In both of my examples the respective expats had no fear at the start of the situation. They hadn't been taught these fears, or at least not on the same extreme levels. In both cases fear was also mostly unwarranted. The worst thing that was going to happen to the driver was to get his breath tested and if it was indeed too high he may have had to spend a night in jail and pay fines. The dog lover was also statistically unlikely to be attacked by the dog she was attempting to pet and the worst that would happen to her was picking up some type of virus from germs or bacteria the dog carried that her body was not immune to. When the second dog came along all she would have to do was move because the dogs weren't after her.

Why do you think fear is used by societies the way it is? What real benefit comes from teaching people to fear something or someone on such a large scale? When do you think it's good for societies to use fear as a teaching tool?

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