2010-11-04 / Sam Bari

What are we welcoming with open wallets?

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

This past week was interesting. In observance of Halloween, TV stations and movie theaters ran horror film marathons designed to scare us senseless.

Then we had the mid-term elections. That scared us even more. I am sure, however, that was not the original intent.

According to a recent blog I read about the subject of fearsome films, Hollywood has built an industry out of the horror genre. Filmmakers apparently know a lot about how to terrify us.

We must like being frightened, because we have been paying good money to allow them to scare us out of our wits for decades.

Although film fright started with boogeymen and monsters like “Dracula,” starring Lon Chaney Jr., and “Frankenstein,” with Boris Karloff, it did not take long for the movie moguls to discover techniques that were more sophisticated to instill maximum fear.

In the heyday of Chaney and Karloff, special effects that would be laughable by today’s standards chilled the blood that ran through the veins of their avid fans.

Over the years, Hollywood has managed to produce a film for just about every phobia known to mankind. As a result, the American moviegoer is “phobiaphobic,” if there could be such a thing.

Some of the more memorable examples include coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, in movies such as “It,” a Stephen King film starring Tim Curry. Then there was dentophobia, the fear of dentists, as in “Marathon Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Roy Scheider.

When discussing phobic films, it would be criminal not to mention the most fearsome phobia of all, selachophobia, which is the fear of sharks, as in “Jaws.” The classic Steven Spielberg film again starred Scheider, along with Richard Dreyfuss.

Some of the phobias that are lesser known such as ephebiphobia, or fear of youth and adolescents, still played an important role in Hollywood’s quest for true horror. “Children of the Corn,” “The Omen” and “The Exorcist” filled the bill quite nicely.

I would think that life itself would be enough to give many parents ephebiphobia, especially if the term includes teenagers.

If we want to go to the extreme, we must also mention paraskavedekatriaphobia, which is the fear of Friday the 13th. I did not make that up; it is a real term. “Jason” fans will attest to it.

I cannot help but wonder why there is not a phobia for fear of politicians. That could be a blockbuster. People who fear charismatic self-promoters that can mesmerize millions at a time with empty, outlandish promises would make formidable audiences.

However, when I stop and think about the subject seriously, people do not fear politicians – they like them. They should fear them, but for the most part, they embrace them.

Most people enjoy the fear that these individuals bring into their lives. Vote a good politician into office and it won’t be long before you’ll have real fear to consider.

The country fears unemployment, lack of health care, lack of retirement funds, and loss of homes. That’s first-class fear. For some unknown reason, we like to wallow in it.

We must, because we keep voting the same kind of people into office. An inspired politician learns about the sensitive issues, and then makes promises to put those at the top of the agenda if elected into office. If the candidate is reasonably attractive, and has a magnetic personality, that person is elected.

Whether candidates have so much as a modicum of expertise in government matters is of little consequence. They only have to be popular and make people believe that there is hope if they are elected.

Even that is not the most diffi cult thing to understand. People do not realize they like living in fear or they would not elect the unqualified.

Nonetheless, if we are to believe statistics, 61 percent of the American work force hates their job. Yet, unemployment is at the top of the list of things most feared.

Granted, we have to work to make a living. Whether we like our jobs is another matter. But let’s face it; Americans love to complain. If unemployment is high, we can complain. If we are employed, we can complain about our jobs.

I believe that most Americans fear they won’t have anything to complain about. When we compare our standard of living with the rest of the world, we have no right to complain.

Perhaps fear of embracing happiness plays a larger part than we realize in this system we can’t understand.

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