Finalist, 2006 Kids Philosophy Slam
Mindy Lu, age 17
Hershey, Pennsylvania

Fear is a more powerful environment, emotion, and motivation than hope. Many significant world events have been borne of fear. Great empires have been built upon controlling its people through fear and warfare. Dictators use fear as a primary weapon, imprisoning and killing political prisoners, enforcing strict codes of conduct. Dictators use environments of fear to control people, to keep people from revolting. Terrorists create atmospheres of fear to accomplish political agendas and undermine political leaders, eventually causing the break down in their society.

Fear, as an emotion can trigger biological responses in humans and other animals that save lives. Hope is fleeting; Emily Dickinson called it “the thing with feathers that perches the soul.” Humans are said to be born with but two fears: that of falling and of loud noises. Hope cannot save lives; it may actually kill—the hope a chronically ill person may have may only put off treatment that could cure the person. Unlike hope, fear inspires action. Fear’s most important power is that it can improve society because fear is universal. Fear of a nuclear holocaust between the U.S. and Russia is what kept the world from becoming a massive mushroom cloud. Fear of disease and epidemics leads to action—typhoid fever was eradicated in the U.S, through the improvement of sanitation in the sprawling urban slums. Fear is innate, the instinct of survival, not of procrastination.

Fear motivates people every day. Whether abnormal fear hinders people from fulfilling their potential, or healthy fear protects people and motivates them to make prudent decisions, fear can be the motivation of ones lifetime (namely the fear of Hell). After one has a near-death-experience, one reevaluates their lives and changes it, calls their loved ones and tells them they are loved, pursues their neglected passions and talents. A close friend of mine’s entire outlook on life and his future changed after he was involved in a major accident that almost killed him. He realized—as people do in general after such events that maybe they were taking for granted someone or some aspect of their lives that they should truly cherish. Hope on the other hand, does the opposite; it breeds complacency, causing people to revel in wistfulness for the someday when things will be better. The novel Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk illustrates this point. Raymond Hessel, gas station cashier, is held by gunpoint and told, “…Go back to school. If you wake up tomorrow morning, you find a way to get back into school… I know who you are. I know where you live… In three months and then in six months, if you aren’t back in school on your way to being a veterinarian, you will be dead.” After the protagonist releases him, he tells him, “Raymond K. Hessel, your dinner is going to taste better than any meal you’ve ever eaten, and tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of your entire life”. Fear pushes people to overcome circumstances and truly live. Isn’t life more valuable to people after it is threatened, after they realize what it is worth? Fear can make people feel alive, improves lives, controls and liberates, and that is much more powerful than the loftiness of hope.

Kids Philosophy Slam Home Page