Taphophobia Unites Humanity


The great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung noted that certain elements of dreams, what he called “archetypes,” are common among the indigenous people of Australia and the Arctic. These people have never interacted culturally, yet their dreams form around these same archetypes. The same is true for the bond-trading bro in Manhattan and the nomadic man in Mongolia. There appears to be these common threads in the human psyche, which I believe are rooted in what is called “junk DNA” (never mind why).

Something else all humans seem to share is an ancient fear of being buried alive (called taphophobia), which explains why there was such a massive, transnational response to the recent discovery and rescue of the soccer team in a cave in Thailand. Every day, a vastly larger number of children are starved, bombed, poisoned and shot to death around the world, to the shrugs of most other humans. But if they are trapped in a cave, that’s different because of taphophobia. (This is not to say that the boys and their coach did not deserve their heroic rescue.)

This common fear also seems to apply to animals. All around the world, hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are wandering around lost and disconnected from the human support many need to survive, and again, shrugs from most human quarters. But if a dog or cat or horse or elephant or leopard is trapped in a well, as often happens, the transpolitical or trans-social response is intense. (Search “animal trapped in well” on Google.)

Imagine the difference if all the migrant children taken from their families were trapped in a cave instead of put in baby jails (7/14: numerous editorial cartoons from past week make this same point).

© 2018 Joseph Galligan

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