“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.” So says that grandmaster of horror, HP Lovecraft, who gave us the elder god Cthulhu. A writer who understood fear enough to plant in us that insidious idea that mankind is nothing more than a speck of dust, in the greater scheme of things. Humbling, isn’t it?
Fear…that innate response to change, to loss, to deprivation, hurt, threat and God knows what else. Fear, perhaps as important as love but less recognised because of its negative connotations, has been there through the ages and has been as crucial a marker of civilisations, I believe.
If there was no fear, the Great Wall of China would never have been built. Imagine all those peasants and soldiers who were involved in building the behemoth that was the only man made structure visible from the moon. If they did not fear, the wall would not exist. Neither would the Berlin Wall actually.
Without fear, I believe Man wouldn’t have landed on the moon. Imagine the fear of the Americans when the “Red” USSR launched their space programme. Oh…”they conquered space”. That fear in the collective American psyche led to the Space Race that eventually led to Neil Armstrong and gang’s moonwalk. This is the great American Kiasu-ness. (Fear of losing face).
Without Fear, these people would not have been assasinated. Indira Gandhi, Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, John F.Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Benigno Aquino and Rajiv Gandhi. All these murders have a common denominator, if you look deeply enough. It’s the fear of losing status quo.
Fear has also made the fortunes of numerous horror mongers from the likes of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, James Herbert, Clive Barker and Anne Rice (though I must say the last two spice their books with sex as well, to be a safe bet for NYT Bestseller List).
These are the bestseller types of course. I can’t however, write of fear and not mention some of these masters who have preyed into head, found my imagination and played merry hell with it.
Montague Rhodes James. (MR James) Any self respecting horror litetrature fan should have read him, or not call himself a horror fan. I had trouble sleeping after reading Canon Alberic’s Scrap Book.
Henry James. Primarily for Turn of The Screw. It is a debilitatingly helpless feeling you know, the way how unease first creeps in, then it changes to to trepidation and a growing nameless dread, building momentum with every page until you are stuck at that impossible choice of moving on and confronting that terror that has so far reduced you to a sweaty wreck, or just shutting the book. I always moved on, and paid for it. Until today, the creak of an opening door brings me back to Salem’s Lot
Movies like Dark Water is an excellent example of fear of losing status quo. Yoshimi and Ikuko Matsubara had this unspeakable horror come into their very sanctum santorum, the home. Think of the humdrum, safe, boring, comfortable place that is home. Think of something lurking there. Something vaguely menacing….is that dripping I hear?
Fear is also, IMHO, a very necessary reaction and natural emotion to threat. But consider this, without FEAR, I’m afraid there is no COURAGE. For courage is not about being fearless. It is about rising above that fear. Just ask Frodo Baggins
This article will be continued…..with some spicy Malaysian examples of fear. Heh Heh Heh!