1. Introduction. The new fears of contemporary society
Human beings have an instinctive reaction, an innate fear, which is a constitutive part of our biological being and which since the beginning of humanity has served to protect us. This is not the fear that we will deal with here, but we will refer to:
The fear that, we learn, the one that allows society to keep me at bay, to place me in a place, a role, the fear that separates me from others, the one that does not let me assume my own sexuality or gender choice, the fear of being in the place of the different, what Eric Fromm calls «the fear of freedom»; a fear learned and conditioned by each culture (Barei, 2020, p. 46).
We begin this reflection on fear in contemporary society with the paradox posed by Bauman (2007): the people who live in the richest and most modernized part of the world are the ones who feel most threatened, insecure and frightened, more inclined to panic and more passionate about everything related to security and protection. Objectively, we are dealing with the people who could be considered the safest in the history of humanity, for whom the dangers that threaten their lives are fewer and more isolated than those that threatened human life in the past and those that currently threaten it in the least developed on the planet.
Bauman points out that these people have «exceptionally ingenious and effective means of anticipating, preventing, and combating some of the dangers that could nonetheless kill us at a younger age or make us sick.» It is that there is evidence of an apparently unstoppable rise in the degree of protection possessed by those who inhabit that portion of the planet that we call the developed world, protection on the three fronts on which life is defended: «against the superior forces of nature, against the innate weak points of our bodies and against the dangers that emanate from the aggression of other people» (Bauman, 2007, p. 167).
Now, fear, Barei maintains, is also necessary to society. Both for survival and for the silencing of people, «fear is a cultural instrument» (Barei, 2020, p. 54).
Although fears have always coexisted with humanity, their magnitude and nature are very different today. Farré Coma maintains that:
The circle of fear, thanks to the work of the media and popular culture, has become the frame from which we evoke the processes of victimization of others in secularized societies where the fear of God no longer leads us to salvation (Farré Coma, 2005, p. 113).
Fear, therefore, is an emotion, and both Boria and Barei (2020) and Farré Coma (2005) agree that it is a dimension that links apparently separate areas of social life. It is a general orientation of where the danger is imminent and the only response is to avoid the source of the fear or attack the object that causes it.