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Unpacking Humanity’s Fear of the Unknown, From Heights to Refugees

Last updated on August 30, 2023

It was a social studies class. The lesson concerned tolerance, so students talked about different minority groups in Poland. The teacher asked them, “What do you think about people not from our country but still live here?”. The class went silent, until one girl answered, “Poland is for Polish people”. There were five Ukrainians in this class. That school was not for Polish people, but for students.

Everyone experiences or witnesses something like this. It is impossible to avoid instances in which others dislike someone’s appearance, opinion, nationality, or style. Oftentimes, it seems that humans are forced into the vision of others, labeled for those who pass by to discuss whether they like certain groups. But, people are not products in a store. They are not exhibits at the exhibition. They are alive, and they are human.

And society – it is so diverse, so colorful, so beautiful. Spaces cannot be reserved for certain groups. With all its imperfections, opinions, and differences, society can be kind. Understanding and acceptance cultivates kindness.

There are plenty of instances in which groups are killed for their differences. But all people equally deserve their lives and well being; society must address the hateful treatment of others. Attacks, based on skin color, religion, and beliefs, not an issue that was only significant in previous years — such crimes are still prevalent and tolerated. If people can accept and love persons with different eye colors without shouting hateful speech, is it not a problem to accept people with different skin colors? Sometimes it is improper to only associate people with their groups. They are people first.  

There is one film about a boy with Tourette’s syndrome – it is called “Front of the Class”. The protagonist, Brad Cohen, is ridiculed, and others around him are annoyed by the sounds he makes. They believe Brad is making these sounds on purpose. This demonstrates how, due to a lack of information, people can start to resort to their own conceptions. This is well said by Conan Doyle, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly, one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts”. 

It is wrong to avoid people just because they are different. It is wrong to condemn people, for instance, with mental disorders. Most often, people lock themselves in the world they are used to, letting nothing in. They let only a few stereotypes about the world with them dictate their actions. Following and accepting these stereotypes, people forget to look for the truth, to discover real information. Some do not consider it necessary to abandon the information they are used to and reconsider their knowledge.

People are afraid of what they don’t understand. In this respect, modern man is no different from the caveman. Well, the clothes are not the same, and even thunder and lightning are no longer so frightening. But the psychology remains the same. The same fear of the unknown and incomprehensible fetters man throughout the history of mankind.

If don’t understand, I’m afraid. I ban, I impose a taboo.

Thousands of years ago, ancient people did not understand how iron was obtained from a piece of stone. They considered it to be sorcery. Hence there was a taboo on the use of iron objects: for example, in ritual actions of antiquity, a stone knife was used. But times have changed. Now, there are plenty of steel and iron knives used all over the world. No matter how much people avoid something, it can eventually become familiar to them.

Some people fear planes because they cannot understand how it works: the invention is unbelievable. This shows how, even when someone tries to explain things, others might not be ready to accept it if it is out of their comfortable perception. People may not like to try something new or to make something new, because they do not want to make any changes in their life. Perhaps they are just afraid of consequences, or they do not want to be responsible for them. Sometimes, however, the world requires something new: inventions, changes, revolutions. The consequences of this hesitancy range across the globe. 

The person is afraid of change. They are afraid of it, expecting that the uncertainty of the future will bring them only grief and sadness. People are called to follow “tradition”. “Tradition” is following other people’s ideas, but if people want to live their own lives, they must be guided by new ideas. The more open to the world the person is, the more experience they can get. It can be a bad or good experience. Sometimes, it can help, guide, and give some useful lessons. It can be so uncomfortable that it can hurt people to their hearts. But away with fear. Give progress, take it. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. This unknown must be explored, known, and adopted for yourself. 

Misunderstanding does not mean denial. Misunderstanding is an attempt to accept. It is often said, “until you try – you will not know.” To combat phobias, people are advised to experience their fear, to try it. Fly by an airplane, sit in the dark, and get used to loud noises and public speaking. To feel their fears, these phenomenons, on themselves, to imitate it. When people are not afraid of change, they can create their own. They stand against the system, and sometimes even against themselves. To be ready to accept and open up means to become more courageous with each step. People show aggression in an attempt to defend themselves when they think that something can harm them. But, having tried, having been alone with fear, and overcoming it, a person will understand that their fear overestimated what would truly happen. There is so much in the world people do not have to be afraid of, if they would only open their eyes.

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