In the words of Edmund Burke, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear”. Shakespeare enthuses, “His flight was madness; when our actions do not, and our fears do make us traitors”. Sophocles concludes, “To him who is in fear everything rustles”. The philosophy of Voltaire as it relates to fear cannot be avoided here hence it shall consequently assist us make our point in this article. He says, “Fear follows crime, and is its punishment”. The brave and the wise fear nothing except FEAR itself.
Now the world fear connotes being shocked, feeling of insecurity, being startled. Its Greek form ‘phobos’ as kittle G. (1974) observes, “Is used for sudden and violent fear, fright, panic’. In its verbal form, it carries reasonable senses: ‘to put to flight”, “to terrify”, “to be frightened,” “to be apprehensive”.
It is interesting to note here that in ancient Greek mythology, fear was depicted as a real and powerful deity. In order of hierarchy, it was placed after Zeus and before all other gods and goddesses. In ancient Sparta, a temple was built in honour of the god-fear. Unlike the ancient, the contemporary age sees fear as one of the depraved emotions which can be stirred up and controlled. In Paul’s theology, fear is a spirit thus he talked of “Spirit of fear” as is evident in II Tim 1:17. For Dominian, there is no definition of fear rather he chose to describe fear as a “phobic state”. Irwin sees fear as a “phobic anxiety state”. Fredric Neumann defined phobia as “an excessive or unreasonable fear that leads a person to avoid a particular object or situation”. For Comer Ronald J. “A phobia is a persistent and unreasonable fear of a particular object, activity or situation”.
It is obvious here that fear is an emotion that leads a subject to aversion from the object, activity or situation that is perceived or imagined as dangerous. Without going into detailed analysis of fear and its kind, it is imperative to state here that environment can condition perception and imagination. Parental upbringing, school influence and peer group do influence perception and imagination.
Many people usually complain of being afraid, of being haunted in the spirit, of being depressed. The feeling of depression in several instances has led to attempted suicide. A young man recently committed suicide just because he was unable to pay his 3000 naira debt. Many students live in and with fears. Fear of unfriendly teachers, fear of shylock lecturers, fears of cultists etc. cultist themselves live in double edged fear. Fear from school authorities who are ever ready to rusticate them; fear of fellow cultists who are ready to kill a cultist who is not their member. There is even fear on the part of school authorities because they could be killed by cultists. I remember an occasion at Abia State University that a particular student approached me after the lecture of the day and said to me (after showing me a pistol on his waist) “sir, I must not fail your course ooooooo…”
The police live in fear of kidnappers and criminals. The kidnappers and criminals also live in fear of being caught by the police. The trader is afraid of loss, the buyer is afraid of being cheated by the trader or even buying adulterated products. In fact, we all live in fear! Without doubt, unauthorized possession of guns and destructive chemicals by youngsters who are not ready to be in school and those in schools too, make fear very ubiquitous. The availability of arms makes theft a sweet trade for youngsters. To them it is the fastest way of making money. Our young men seem not to have learnt anything from history, a situation that made Karl Max to infer, “History does nothing, it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles. It is men, real, living, who do all these”.
In many streets of this nation, there are always strong shootouts between thieves and street members. In many places where thieves are not challenged, the inmates suffer untold psychological breakdown. Today, the situation is quite alarming that one cannot but conclude that government is a failure in the duty of security of lives and properties. International business travels are punctuated because of fear of bandits and kidnappers. All trust is dashed. Fear of the other partner has stolen the soul of business ethics: trust.
I recently asked my friend in Abuja to come home for the Christmas, hear his response, “You people in Imo state are joking and have no value for life. The government is folding hands in the midst of high increase of arm robbery and kidnapping, I will not be home until something is done…” My friend did not lie at all because insecurity on ground speaks column. I am sure Okorocha is also afraid.
Possession of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism pose serious problems not only to world peace but also to the dreams of building a fear-free-world. Is it morally right for some nations who are not members of world security council to possess weapons of mass destruction? This is the crux of the matter! The religious dimension of terrorism makes the whole issue very complicated. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “A nation’s culture resides in the heart and in the soul of its people”. Is terrorism in the heart and soul of Islamic religion? It is true that any effort at eradicating terrorism may likely end in the attack of a Muslim nation? This is not the case, any way; we must note that terrorism is the worst sources of fear in our world today.
Crime in our society today has taken a mysterious dimension. This mystery consists in illusion of comprehensibility, which the intellect suffers when faced with the level of crime in our society. Its mysteriousness is the confirmation of the mystery of sin. Sin begets sin. Kidnapping for ritual murder, kidnapping for ransom, kidnapping for sale of human parts cast a shadow of doubt over the reality of the fact that such perpetrators are fully humans. This horrific crime has reduced the level of domestic economic activities. Pregnant women can no longer walk freely through farmland path ways. Women cannot go alone to farm. Nursing mothers are not spared. Babies and even children are already victims. All these make us live in total fear.
Killing for political reasons leave politicians and non politicians at the mercy of fear. During any political era, each politician claims to have all the answers to world’s problems. Often they make lofty speeches about their proposals without working consciously to vindicate themselves and retain some bit of credibility. The effect is that the worst corruption is the corruption of the head. With this reality, a moral ideal of empty speech without a matching action is poured out to youth s a model of action. In a way, politicians add to the problem of fear in the world instead of vanquishing it. The whole altitude of clinging to power as if it is the value that counts even above life sets bad precedence. Some politicians may prefer to die on seat rather than bow out honourably. Thus, the scheming on how to retain power propels many to apply Machiavellian political principles irrespective of the consequences’
At the level of interpersonal relationship fear poses lots of problems. Every encounter between two people is a battleground. The battle is all about preservation and assertion of personal pride and dignity. The blinking of the eyes, clearing of throat, shaping of mouth before talking, looking or not looking into eyes of the other person are expressions of on-going battle of who controls this relationship.
Within the context of marriage, fear poses a problem. What we know as commitment phobic is the child of fear. Many young people are afraid to get married. There is more to this form of fears. Couples no longer trust themselves. After all, young and older women are living in fear of one deadly disease or the other. Where shall we run to?