Short story about fear

‘Fear is at its most fearsome when it is diffused, scattered, unclear, unattached, unanchored, free floating, with no clear address or cause; when it haunts us with no visible rhyme or reason, when the menace we should be afraid of can be glimpsed everywhere but is nowhere to be seen. ‘Fear’ is the name we give to our uncertainty: to our ignorance of the threat and what is to be done to stop it in its tracks’ . (Zygmunt Bauman)


Modern life, modern love, modern fears and modern liquidity, the concept that binds all of them together, and which defines through, the characteristics of a liquid substance, the core of the nowadays world: mobility, their particles are not fixed and rigid and can move freely past each other, lack of shape, and the power to erode. Old institutions turned into new ones, old concepts were exchanged for new values, old forms of power reinvented themselves and became the power of constant fear. It was shown throughout history that with fear comes caution and obedience, but fear always had a form, be it Gods, a tyrannic dictator, or a horde of possible invaders. It had a face or a name. But today it’s the feeling itself that cripples the human kind and is embedded in the functioning mechanism of a capitalist and globalised society. The constant fear, the constant feeling that something’s always there, waiting to happen, and not in the dark, but in the broad daylight.

The Western world is continually haunted by the fears of those living the nightmare on the other side of the globe. The western fear has no tangible object. Of course, governments give us terrorists, new diseases or maybe a meteorite that might hit the Earth at some point, but a new president or prime minister will surely save us from that too. If it’s not Al Quida, then it’s Isis, if it’s not Isis then it just might be Goldstein, any name is a good enough reason for war. Because war isn’t it, became, just as George Orwell predicted in his political novel, 1984, not a way of conquering new territories or protecting the borders, but the most profitable and prompt ally of power. The war in Vietnam, Iraq or Afganistan was not for territory, the war in Siria is not to maintain our borders safe, is to maintain the western power over the western world, and the ones who rule over the western world, rule over the whole world. If there’s a war then there’s a reason for our most beloved governments to keep us safe, to assure us a propitious ground for us to attain and live a good life, and it also gives something to distract us from the true great fear of the 21st century, The Fear of Failure, and from the rotten inside of the juicy red apple that the western society is so eager to hide. The only thing that is asked of the western individual is to live a good life, in a world that provides everything that is needed for living a good life… or does it? So, if our life is not good enough, doesn’t fit the standards, is our own fault, we failed.

It’s the pressure of the good life that suffocates the western world, just like hunger and war destroy its counterpart. War might never get to us, but it’s the war within ourselves that erode our souls. The war between what is expected, of what we have been taught to expect from ourselves and our futures: a degree, a job, a career, a house with a beautiful garden, a lovely family, a fairytale love story, happiness, and what we really want. If you don’t get a degree, you’re not smart enough, and why aren’t you smart enough when society had provided you such a great education? If you have a degree, but no job, then it’s your own fault for not being able to harness the seeds that society gave you in the form of your diploma. If you have a job, but no friends, is your own inability of bonding with people, as your company surely organised at least twice a year some sort of team building activity. And if you have no friends how would you expect to have a lover, but if you have friends, then how comes you don’t have a partner when all you’re friends are getting married or waiting for their firstborn? Yes, something is wrong with you, but don’t worry there is therapy for that, and online dating, and ordering a bride over the mail, so even though you don’t meet the standards, society still comes to your rescue. If you have a job, and a partner and no house, then the moment to make a huge loan to buy one, was yesterday. If you have all of these and still are unhappy, then you’re depressed so take a pill, or two. And if you have all of these, then you’re terrified at the thought of losing them because they are all you’ve dreamed all your life, and you can’t live your dream, because just one tiny mistake might cost you your job, and with no job, you won’t be able to pay the house mortgage. Of course, mistakes are human, you’re allowed to make them, that’s what all the media says, what it doesn’t say is that you are allowed to make them, but in another life maybe. But what if the mistake that might ruin your good life is not even yours but your partner’s or your boss’? Oh, the worries never end, the fear is just increasing with every single thing you add to improve your life, and this fear is the fear of the unknown, of failure, of everything and of nothing, is the curse of cruel optimism.

The world is full of lovers. We don’t need anymore

“Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.”

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

You know that film… Revolutionary Road, with the unhappy American white, blonde couple, living the American dream, the good life, big house, beautiful garden, happy energetic children, corporatist husband getting a promotion? Nothing could go wrong, but then it does. The American dream not realised, but almost. All goes terribly wrong. Well, that’s what would have happened if Jack would not have died on the Titanic, but luckily he did, and then Rose had a nice romantic love story to tell. Marriage, house with a garden, kids, Lassy, grandkids, a few romantic trips to Paris, or Venice or Verona, they’re quite near to each other anyway, and actually who exactly cares? Both Italian cities starting with a V; a few sunsets on the beach and the annual kiss under the mistletoe, oh, love!

There’s nothing more beautiful than young love, isn’t it? Prince Charming arriving in his blue chevy nova, the young, innocent, Marylin Monroe wannabe, with her blonde wavy hair, red lips, and white dress sneaking out in the middle of the night. His dark eyes, her mysterious shy smile just in the corner of her lips, such a wonderful life awaits them. A great love never grows old, not even when there’s a pile of laundry above it, a house mortgage, dirty dishes, and an unemployed partner, a kid to be supported through college, old ill parents, no, love never dies, and guess what saves it? Yes, that cheesy Valentine dinner, and that pink heart-shaped Valentine card with a random quote about love “I love my life because it gave me you, and I love you because you are my life” – or something like that.

What would one do without the little love gifts? How would love survive when confronted with the ordinary little miseries of life? But does love make life better, or it just piles, even more, insecurity, fear and in the end misery on top of the house mortgage, student loans, stress and just daily worries?

I might sound like a cynic, but don’t worry, even cynics get struck by love at some point, sooner or later, because nobody can escape it. No one can escape the attraction, the desire, the crave, the lust, the disappointment, the suffering, the insecurity, and jealousy, the fear, because love is as Eva Illouz describes it her article Why We Don’t Celebrate Friendship With the Same Fervor as Lovedemocratic – good and bad people can feel it (almost everyone has felt love in their lives). And it’s the non-discriminatory feature of love that makes it universal, and its inevitability that makes it profitable, makes it commercial. Our whole lives are polarised around the notion of love. I need to get a degree, have a good job, find a man, fall in love, marry, have kids and be happy. Our whole world revolves around the things, situations, people that we want and hope to have in our lives, and once we have it (whatever that it might be), we are too afraid of letting it go even if it harms us, it suffocates us, it makes us deny our own freedom, our own soul.

And here my photographs come into the picture. Taken 3 years ago in the Little Paris, as Bucharest was called before the communist era, I considered them perfectly fitted to represent the cruelty of optimism, the cruelty of love, by the juxtaposition of the word love (followed by a whole palette of meaning) with something as trivial as a garbage bin. It is almost ironical how Paris is the city of love, and then Bucharest, its smaller sibling, after a “short” encounter with communism, and of course with its family values and abortion banning, decided to throw love into the garbage bin. And the second one… is just the outcome of a love that ended differently than how it was supposed to end. It’s the American dream gone wrong, the Prince Charming who went to work, had an affair with the secretary, the unhappy Marylin Monroe trapped in a dreadful marriage, but too comfortable, and too afraid to leave. It’s the norms, the rules, the “you must”-s and “you have”-s in a relationship failing, the Valentines cards and fancy dinners that won’t play their magic anymore. It’s the optimism of a happy ending, of the dream of the good life, meeting reality, it’s the ugly side of love. And this ugly side of love only appears when love is made the highest expectation, and not love in general but a certain kind of love, the monogamous, heterosexual, based on a sexual relationship kind of love. We idealise love so much, and at the same time advertise it so much, that it became one of the most common and trivial feelings. It is a must, but then it is an ideal too. The perfect lover, the soulmate, the other half is hard to fine, but then, why are you single? You should never let the loved one go, you should fight for it, but then, that loved one might at some point be the exact reason that you’re suffering. Love has been turned into a paradox and the “love” and the garbage bin is the image of this ironically and sad charade.

Why Love Hurts, Eva Illouz

Introduction: The Misery of Love

  • If anything, our contemporary sense of appropriateness would command us to follow the dictates of our heart, not of our social milieu.
  • Second, a battery of experts would now be likely to come to the rescue of a hesitant Catherine (Wuthering Heights) and of Emma’s (Madame Bovary) passionless marriage: psychological counseling, couple therapy, divorce lawyers, mediation specialists, would massively appropriate and adjudicate over the private dilemmas of prospective or bored wives. In the absence of (or in conjunction with) experts’ help, their modern counterparts would have shared the secret of their love with others, most likely female friends, or, at the very least, occasional anonymous friends found on the Internet, thus considerably diminishing the solitude of their passion. Between their desire and their despair, there would have been a thick flow of words, self-analysis, and friendly or expert advice

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Cruel Optimism

Cruel Optimism, Lauren Berlant 

  • object of desire = cluster of promises -> a person, a thing, a situation, a norm, an institution, a text
  • all attachments are optimistic -> not all feel optimistic: one might dread returning to a scene of hunger or longing or the slapstick reiteration of a lover or parent’s typical misrecognition – the surrender to the return to the scene where the object hovers in its potentialities is the operation of optimism as an affective form.
  • “cruel optimism”= a relation of attachment to compromised conditions of possibility
  • cruel – the subjects who have x in their lives might not well endure the loss of their object or scene of desire, even though it’s presence threatens their well-being, because whatever the content of the attachment, the continuity of the form of it provides something of the continuity of the subject’s sense of what it means to keep on living on and look forward to being in the world.

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