[T]he underlying terror of death is what drives most of the human endeavor. — Moore & Williamson
Knowing that, take a look at THIS VIDEO of a family of tourists as they thoroughly enjoy themselves while a lion tries its best to eat their baby (courtesy of WhoIsIoz, one of my favorites). At least one of them wonders aloud whether laughing at the specter of death was “right”. Find yourself thinking there was something inherently problematic with a family caterwauling like jackals in the face of death? I certainly did.
If we reach back to political theorist and all-around curmudgeon Thomas Hobbes and accept his work as fact (ugh), fear of death was the organizing principle that had us leave the state of nature to form civil society. It’s important to note that Hobbes’ lifetime and career were contemporaneous with the English Civil War (1642-1651) and much of his work was informed by the violence, death, and destruction endemic to those times.
Fear, according to Hobbes, suffuses and shapes human life. It pervades the state of nature, of whose many miseries the “worst of all [is] continual fear,and the danger of violent death.” ‘It is both the sole origin of civil society (“the original of all great and lasting societies consisted not in the mutual goodwill men had towards each other, but in the mutual fear they had of each other”) and the only reliable means of its preservation (“during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, as is of everyman, against everyman.”) At once the principal cause of war and the principal means to peace, fear is the basis both of man’s most urgent plight and of his only possible escape.Hobbesian Fear, Jan H. Blits, Political Theory , Vol. 17, No. 3 (Aug., 1989), pp. 417-431