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It’s interesting how people are so scared of spiders. The reason? One might cite the poisonous species, such as the black widow spider. Often, people are uncomfortable with the possibility of being touched by them, that they might bite, or it’s just the way they move. But fundamentally, it’s because they look ugly. To people who aren’t biologists or bug enthusiasts or anyone else who would take interest in these fascinating creatures, they defy expectations of how a living being should look or act.

Still, most spiders are totally harmless. In fact, they kill worse insects such as mosquitoes, so they’re actually on our side. Heck, even the infamous black widow rarely bites, and when it does, it’s rarely dangerous. Seriously, out of more than 1800 bites reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2013, no one died. In fact, no one in the US has died from a black widow in over 10 years. And that really makes sense when you think about it.

Imagine what the spider thinks of you. You’re this hulking, fleshy colossus with your shadow ominously looming over them. In an instant, you could crush them into a flat paste, and not just with your body, but with any giant object around you. Not only are you incredibly strong, you’re also unpredictable and can improvise well beyond its mental capacity. So provoking that giant monster would be suicidal. The only reason they’d have to bite you is if they had no other option, a last ditch attempt to stay alive.

So what do you have to fear from something so much weaker than you? Compared to the other way around, at best, the’re a mild inconvenience to you in the vast majority of cases. And the few serious cases? Well, those are what is known as “black swans”, things that are so improbable, yet have such a large impact on people’s minds that they seem worse than they actually are. It’s a prime result of how irrational fear is; even though moose are deadlier than bears, it’s the latter that scare the public more, simply because they seem more aggressive.

I will confess that I too am not exempt from fear. I’m used to spiders, but centipedes are a different story. What freaks me out about them is how amazingly fast they move, and my brain instinctively believes they could ambush me. Something that has almost no chance of happening, because again, that would be suicidal. In fact, the one centipede was dashing because it was terrified of me. I know this, and when I’m calmer, I can appreciate how cool the centipede is. Yet, my mind keeps trying to override this assessment.

But in the end, between human and bug, it’s a hugely unbalanced power dynamic, one which overwhelmingly favours the human. In fact, that’s the case with most animals, because even without size, we have adaptability, and uncertainty is the root cause of fear. And yet, we want to kill something that poses not much of a threat to us? I’m not saying animals can’t be dangerous, but again, black swans. Most of the time, they just want to be left alone, and it’s the human that threatened them first.

Say, isn’t this similar to how humans treat other humans? I know, it’s dicey territory to be comparing humans to other animals, so I’ll try to tread carefully. But still, the power structures are often similar. Say, the men who think catcalling women is no big deal, yet freak out at the prospect of gay guys doing the same to them. The gun nuts who utterly insist they need to stockpile those deadly toys to protect themselves from some vague governmental or outsider threat, no matter how many American lives are sacrificed to guns. The wealthy folk who can bribe virtually anyone to do their bidding, yet constantly feel persecuted by the outside world. Makes one wonder what the point of acquiring power is if it doesn’t even make one feel safer, but merely feeds a positive feedback loop of paranoia.

Still, if uncertainty causes fear, then knowledge and critical thinking are the cures. Often, it’s good to step out of the situation, take things easy, and assess the situation. And often, you’ll realize things are not as bad as you thought. Perhaps you’ll even have a new appreciation for said things, and that’s better than pointless fear, isn’t it?

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