I am scared of spiders. I don't mean they bother me, and I'd rather, you know, not share space and time with them because they're lousy dinner guests, or mess the carpet. I mean that I am absolutely petrified of spiders. And wasps too, but only because I'm deathly allergic to being stung. Yes, yes, I know that where I live no one has been killed by a spider in over a hundred years, but still. I'm scared of them. No spider has so much looked at me cross-eyed or insulted my mother or anything. But I am still scared of them.
Why? As it happens I'm a primate. I'm an evolved creature who has certain dispositions built into me as artifacts of what was useful for my ancestors to survive long enough to reproduce. Apparently, spiders used to be real assholes to my people. And my biology knows how to hold a grudge. No doubt, those who had a natural aversion to the creepy crawlies in general were able to better avoid spiders through some kind of reluctance to be where spider supremacy meetings were being held. >8< Spider power! Not happening upon a big spider rally reduced the chances of being captured and eaten by them in some Super Secret Spider Rituals. On the converse of that we have those who were less hesitant about popping in and trying to broker peace between spiders and the rest of us. They got eaten a lot more often and so had less opportunity to reproduce.
Selection favored having some weariness of spiders as it increased one's chances for passing on one's genes to the next generation of spider-cowards, like me. So, what happens if I meet a descendant of spider supremacists walking down the middle of my wall? First I have a quick moment of shock and a bit of an adrenaline rush. That's a good way to wake up in the morning, huh? But then I remember a little something: oh, I'm rational. I have no reason to be afraid of that spider across the way. But it still scares me shitless.
Now, there are several ways I could react, and I'm beginning to think that I've gone about it the wrong way. My personal reaction is not to scream and run out of the room, arms a'flailing. I don't jump up on tables crying out the spider attack to alert my tribe. I don't even go for higher ground to hide, waiting on a more rational person to walk by and win the war with a well-placed shoe attack. I leave the little shit alone, or trap and release it. These have seemed to be perfectly reasonable responses despite my perfectly unreasonable emotional response.
But this past weekend, I learned that my emotions actually do provide me with a certain kind of power. Instead of long-reflecting on why it is that I have an irrational, purely emotional fear of spiders, to find out what it is about me that isn't working right, I should start blaming the spiders for scaring me. It's irrelevant if that particular spider is a vegetarian and thus I wouldn't qualify as food for it. It's immaterial that a given spider I might happen upon is the nicest spider you could ever meet. It might even make for good conversation over coffee, say. This spider might even be a generous spider, donating time and money to his neighbor Rebecistan, who has her arms full raising like 850 kids.
No matter what it is this spider has done in its life, it's the spider's fault that I'm afraid of it. So, instead of resolving my own irrationality, dealing with my own fears, checking my own emotions to make sure they're congruent with reality, I can wave all of that as a bygone; I simply blame the spider and then take measures to prevent this very model of a sophisticated, socially adept and non-judgmental spider from eating me. Even though this particular spider wouldn't; pacifistic though this spider is, he must bear the shame of his forebears. And all the while I can claim that anyone who doesn't agree with me is just a spider apologist, a species of creatures descended from the spiderarchy of yesteryear. Undoubtedly, these spider apologists actually used to sell my ancestors to the spiders for ritualistic purposes best left imagined rather than said.
Thanks for reading, and please remember to always blame the spider. To suggest taking responsibility for one's emotions and actions attendant thereto is to dismiss the completely legitimate fear of spiders our evolutionary past built into us. Demanding that we exploit our other evolutionary heritage of intellect, self-control, and rationality is simply to support the spiderarchy, and is therefore completely fucking stupid. QED