People are motivated by a variety of factors and emotions. Greed, love, financial security, envy, guilt, a sense of obligation… Take your pick.
I believe that fear is the most powerful motivator of all because it triggers our innate survival instinct, causing an adrenaline-fueled gut reaction. This is why fear is such a formidable weapon. The reason for heinous acts like the Boston Marathon bombing is because terrorists want us to live in fear for our physical safety.
FDR was certainly correct when he said:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
But if we let fear control us, that one thing is more than enough.
Many marketers and lobbyists also use fear as a tactic of persuasion; albeit a much less visceral fear than the “fight or flight” response. For example, ad campaigns frequently play on the fear of being socially outcast or missing out on all the fun. Logic and reason are completely discounted in these imaginary social crises.
Likewise, the Senate’s failure to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment this week appears to stem from fear of something — loss of campaign funds, perhaps, or backlash from a vocal minority. Reason doesn’t even enter into the argument against the amendment; opponents said that it wouldn’t stop all gun crime. By that “logic” one could extrapolate that we don’t need traffic laws because they don’t prevent all traffic accidents.