The omnipresent view that the world is filled with danger

Or what popular media will have you believe about your neighbor

Every story needs an antagonist, right? It makes for good plot structure and it’s almost essential in storytelling (at least in those popular flavors that the masses seem to favor). In our modern culture most people don’t go out and have adventures by ourselves, we don’t really get to experience directly certain aspects of the world. Instead, we rely on what we see: media, movies, books, etc. This happens to such an extent that, subconsciously, we start to think that the media we consume is a mirror that more or less reflects the basic elements of the human experience.

In movies (and other media) the hero is very frequently either by themselves (i.e. the lone wolf) or accompanied by a very few number of trusted friends. Isn’t it one of Hollywood’s favorite tropes “don’t trust anyone”? Examples abound where the protagonist is pitched against the world as a whole, where the struggle is as much against the system as it is against other characters.

white and black wolf in tilt shift lens Photo by Milo Weiler on Unsplash

What I want to discuss in this post is the fact that we, as consumers, have come to think of this as a natural way to see the world. We (naturally) perceive ourselves to be the heroes of our own story. We think we can only trust in a few number of people that are close to us and everybody else is out to get us. Now, here I’m speaking of what I feel is going on in my mind (how could I do otherwise), so forgive me if you don’t agree.

I would argue that this feeling that danger is everywhere has been unnecessarily exaggerated through a feedback loop mechanism: we see media that reflects this idea, and in turn we become less trustful, and we then continue producing media that reflects this idea.

It’s probably unnecessary for me to mention it, but this of course hurts how we perceive and how we treat each other. This tends to make us incorrectly perceive there is something wrong with letting ourselves trust another person. The effect is subtle, but I think it does shape some major part of our western culture: an egocentric point of view, individual vs society, and in general a promotion of what I call douchebag values. Moreover, these trust issues make it more likely for people to have trouble connecting with one another, increasing their feelings of being alone or isolated.

person looking out through window Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

However, the truth is that everybody just wants to be happy. We all want to survive, we all want to find love, nobody wants to suffer. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t help one another on the way, instead of always trying to get one up on everyone else; instead of seeing life as a competition between you and your peers.

Of course, I’m not saying you should blindly trust everyone. There are some bad people out there, but I think they’re much rarer than one would originally believe. In your day-to-day interactions, people are as untrustful of you as you are of them, and this is just an unnecessary preconceived bias.

I saw a tweet the other day which shows Phylicia Rashad talking about a set of aphorisms that she was taught by her mother.

The universe bears no ill to me, I bear no ill to it.

I think this is beautiful. The concept that both you and the universe are not really enemies and there’s no reason to perceive it as hostile. Of course, there’s danger, but the universe itself does not bear any ill intent towards you. This is strongly related to what we’re talking about here, and it’s something that we tend to forget. I guess our interactions would be richer if we all mentally recited this phrase every morning before starting our day.

PS: after writing this post I stumbled by chance (if chance you call it) on this other post by The Commonplace substack.

In this post, the author talks about a different issue from what point out in this post, specifically how gratuitous violence is commonplace in popular media. However, I wanted to quote this sentence which, I think, can also be used to describe how media tends to impart this view that we’re always in danger:

… There is, as far as I can see, no lesson or truth imparted besides the idea that evil is lurking and omnipresent and that any one of us could be a victim.

See also

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