Monday, December 15, 2014

Nothing to Fear

So, I was doing some thinking and a particularly juicy question popped into mind: "What can Hollywood show us about our fears as a society?" After some thinking, I narrowed it down (for those more versed in older movies, please help me out if I miss some).

In many older movies, the Great Enemy was either aliens or the Nazis/Russians (pick your era). Today, the antagonist varies between science (ranging from climate change to robots, to genetic modification), terrorists, a captor, and society gone mad/anarchic.

For the most part, it's fairly easy to break down what we fear: we fear weakness, and helplessness. We fear being subject to another individual or group with more or better power than we have. We also fearthe unknown - different ideologies, abilities, worldviews. As far as science goes, the trend seen is the destruction caused by our own foolishness or as the tool of a mad person.

What I find most interesting, however, isn't the similarities arcing through the decades, but rather one significant difference. You see, the locus of the fear, the identityof the antagonist has shifted. In the past, the enemy was an alien or foreign power. Today, that role is filled by single individuals. Those individuals could be the everyday man, an intellectual, a leader, it a small group or cell.

The fears, now, haven't changed. So, what about society has changed to provoke such a locus shift?

Well, some of it is political. We no longer fear the Nazis or Soviets and instead fear terrorists, because they are the dominant political threat. What I would argue, though, is that a great deal of this shift is due to a change in society's ideology.

In the last century, America has shifted from an axiomatic, society-first ideology to a more anarchic, self-first society. In D&D terms, we've gone from lawful good/lawful neutral to chaotic neutral. What this means is that, subconsciously, we have realised that we cannot trust our peers. After all, if everyone determines what is right by their own opinion, there is nothing preventing them from doing whatever is necessary to further their goals. In light of this, we have no time to bother with fearing an alien power; we're too busy fearing that the familiar might not actually be so.

What does this mean, then?

Well, I think society craves order. Now, I'm not calling for top-down, governmental order. Citizens will chafe at that and ultimately seek its downfall. Instead, what needs to change is the ideology of the masses. Until there is a sense of order coming from the ground up, society will never feel completely at peace.