Modernity, by definition, may not be as modern as one may expect considering that it features all modes of social organization that emerged from the seventeenth century onwards. This means that modernity is basically anything that would have been considered as new and different from the set norms before the 1600s. In order to understand the contexts of modernity in the 21st century and beyond, one may have to look at the past and the present with respect to the consequences and consciousness. Consciousness in this case refers to the innate mental constructions with which one perceives the world. This consciousness may be unconscious in some cases in the sense that the person with the constructions does not even know that they have them. While modernity has created opportunities for a secure human existence, as it is now, fear remains the most outstanding consequence of modernity that should be confronted to provoke a higher level of human agency.
Fear as A Consequence of Modernity
With modernity came the notion of a larger society where people are different and unpredictable, each with a different set of personal interests that could be harmful to those around them. Giddens argues that modernity is an embodiment individualism, with the sense that the individual will do whatever they have to do to suit their interests without necessarily considering the interests of those around them. This however is only one of the roots of fear in modernity. The capacity for people to harm others seems rather too large, with most people having become victims as witnessed in the crime rates. One would argue that modernity has directly or indirectly generated a pretext for fear within the social contexts and this kind of fear has played a big role in eroding the trust that humanity once had. The escalating crime reports indicate that people can no longer be trusted, and thus when they cannot be avoided they are best feared. Other causes of fear within modernity would be historical narratives on the curve of life, the ability of nature to destroy irreparably and the observation that the world seems to get worse with every attempt at getting better. When one cure is found for a killer disease, another killer disease comes up and the world has to suffer for a few decades before the cure can be found. As demonstrated in the movie, “Metropolis”, human beings generally draw conclusions that border the assumption that there always is some kind of danger in the horizon. This justifies the persistent fear that the society faces in light of modernity, with the religious factions attributing these to the Supreme Being and the end of times prophecies that they subscribe to. The fear is in most cases used as a basis for exploitation, as is seen with insurance companies and most religious factions.
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Fear and Consciousness
Underlying fear can affect one’s thinking significantly whether they know they are afraid or not. For example, when people take up insurance policies for their vehicles it is because they fear losing the vehicle to a road accident or even car theft. The insurance policies are presently popular because most people lost their cars in the past and thus even when one buys a car today they are likely to be afraid of anything happening that would make them lose the car. This explains why almost every car on the road is insured. The fear in this case is evident. Another way in which fear works is in the case of marriages where the spouses sign a pre-nuptial agreement. These individuals get into the union with the fear that it may not work. The problem here is that the marriage is meant to be a lifetime commitment but the spouses have an underlying fear that makes it easier for them to commit if they know they will be safe even in the event that things do not work out. Fear generally determines the direction that one takes in life. Those that are dominated by their fear are often paralyzed in that they cannot really do anything significant. Others find a way to live with their fear, applying things like insurance policies and pre-nuptial agreements as mitigation measures.
Significance of A Confrontation
Currently, fear is being used in a capitalist context to benefit a number of corporations including financial institutions, religious institutions and lawyers among others. As Rabbat alludes in his paper, a perception has been created in many countries that western bureaucracies are needed to modernize the state. This however is not the greatest effect of the fear in modernity. While some people may take a leap of faith and get married provided they get to sign a pre-nuptial agreement, others prefer to completely stay away from the union. This leaves the society with loveless people and many children being raised by single parents. In another context, the fear decapitates economies with many people opting not to get into business because they are afraid they will lose their hard earned incomes thus they remain in the middle or low class categories where they do not have to take risks but they are willing to work for others who take those risks. Without confronting fear, it is likely that the society would always be divided based on those who live with their fear and those who are crippled by it. Currently, those who are crippled are the majority while those willing to take the risks remain very few. It is thus important for the society to find a way to confront the fear so that people can liv up to their full potential without too much stressing or worrying. It matters that some of the leading killer diseases are even associated with worrying and living with stress.
Fear and Human Agency
Currently, most choices that people make are based on fear. People choose to pursue certain careers that they do not like for fear of not finding employment if they pursue their dreams thus unhappy employees. Others choose to live in certain countries because they fear they will not have a future if they stay at home, thus immigration. If fear is removed from the narrative of humanity, the choices that people make will be a better reflection of what they actually want and not just something they prefer as they run away from their fears. Human agency will take on a very different discourse if the decisions made are based on other factors rather than just fear in the unknown or even the known that cannot be controlled. In this case, fear remains one of the greatest hindrances for human development within the contexts of modernity.
At some point in the past, people feared electricity, motor vehicles and airplanes. The fact that they no longer do however does not mean that there is no more fear. Currently, people still fear that we are living in the end of times and others spend their fortunes trying to appease the religious factions that they subscribe to among other things. Others steer clear of marriages for fear of being disappointed and others would simply rather spend their lives living from hand to mouth than investing where they could lose their money. If all these fears were confronted and dispelled, one would argue that people would be able to make better and more justifiable decisions with brighter futures in their field of choice. This means that while fear is simply a consequence of modernity and consequences must in this case be accepted, humanity needs to confront the fear in order to prosper beyond the mental cage that they are living in at the moment.
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