When Fear Is All Around You

Kevin Drum has a new article up at Mother Jones that is, in my opinion, worth reading. Actually, I’m not 100% sure it’s worth reading because I was too lazy to do anything but skim through it, but I got the general idea. Basically, the National Park Service wants to bring a higher level of security to the Washington Monument and Bruce Schneier thinks we should just shut it down.

Kevin Drum, like me, could really care less what happens to the Washington Monument. I didn’t even know people visited it. Like most Americans, I just see it in movies and I think, “Oh… the Washington Monument.” That sums up my opinion on the whole thing. But Drum sums up my opinion on something else very clearly: the intellectual laziness of Bruce’s attitude.

Maybe we should just shut it down. But that particular issue aside, I think Bruce’s attitude needs some major pushback.

There’s a certain class of people to whom his prescription sounds great. Refuse to be terrorized! Stop being such babies! I’m a member of that class. I would happily accept a slightly increased risk of terrorist attack in return for a less intrusive security regime. I think we’re way too willing to let fear rule our culture. On a purely personal level, this stuff infuriates me.

But those of us who feel that way really have an obligation to understand just how out of the mainstream we are. I’m willing to bet that most of us are a bit nerdy, sort of hyperanalytical, maybe even slightly Aspergers-ish. We’re comfortable — too comfortable, probably — viewing the ebb and flow of human lives as an accounting exercise. We’re also very sure of ourselves, generally pretty verbal, and we have soapboxes to shout from.

And, at a guess, we represent maybe 10% of the population. At most.

I have a friend who does not represent this 10% of the population. Like most people my age, she pretends to be non conformist and unique… but really isn’t. At least on this particular issue, her non conformism is purely commercial. If I go out in the middle of the night to take a walk or stop by the 24 hour drug store to grab some eggs, I get a tut and a shake of the head from her. “Oh… that’s smart. You’ll get raped and killed.”

Neither of us have spent much of our lives in particularly bad neighborhoods. We have been comfortably safe in suburbia and have never had our lives threatened in any way. But like most Americans we watch the nightly news and stories about murder and general destruction are plastered across the screen. Yes, I do run the risk of danger if I go out at night. I try to let this frighten me or deter me but… it just doesn’t. I don’t care.

Maybe I’m just a reckless young person who believes in her own invincibility. My answer to that is: well, I’ve been reckless for a while now and I’m still here, right? Or maybe I’m just an idiot. Actually, I’m probably just an idiot, but I think I’m losing my point here.

The point is, I have a certain attitude about the things I do, and it’s a simple one: I do what I want. I run the risk of dying when I get in a car to drive. Hell, I could drop dead or be struck down at any moment. My attitude is the exact opposite of reckless belief in my own invincibility. I know the grim reaper could pay a visit at any time, unannounced, and I wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing about it. That’s why I don’t care about death. It’s inevitable. I accept her dark embrace. And I’m not going to sit around and be so worried about death that I forget to live. As far as I’m concerned, she can call me anytime, because frankly I would rather die young knowing I stood up for something than die old and realize I threw my life away.

Our modern society is deathly afraid of death. Go figure. And violence. And since I was a child, terrorism was thrown into the mix. When you can’t even go through a scanner at the airport without having your private business groped, you have to stop and take a look  around you and wonder, “why?”

I am growing up in an age of fear and it is getting old fast.

We’re afraid of Cancer. “Watermelons cause Cancer!” a Woman’s Health article screams at at us when we’re in the Grocery Line. Jesus Christ. EVERYTHING causes Cancer! Who cares??? Eat a god damned watermelon! They’re friggin’ delicious!

We’re afraid of teen pregnancy and sexual activity. Oh my goodness. It’s not that hard. Teenagers want to have sex because they’re HORNY. Just teach them about sex education, give them some condoms and birth control pills and send them on there way. Everyone gets sex and everyone wins. Simple.

But then, what about morals? Our culture of sex and drugs is degrading our preciously valued beliefs and traditions! The sky is falling! No, it’s not. Who cares about morals? Morals are boring. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else do what you want. I have low moral fiber and I am proud of it.

But… Terrorism kills people! Yeah, it does. But Terrorism isn’t just about violence. It’s about using violence… to make people SCARED. I’m sorry, but groping my hoo ha when I’m at an airport is not the way to fight Terrorism. Closing the Washington Monument would just tell our enemies just how afraid of them we really are. I’d rather we stood up to them.

And most importantly, people are scared for America. Or of America. Which one? I don’t know, probably both. China is gaining influence, the media tells us ominously. And we are declining. Our standard of living is declining, our government is imploding from the inside out. The economy is down and won’t get back up for a while, if ever. What are we going to do? We won’t be the world’s biggest superpower anymore! By 2040 white people will be a minority! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

It’s all mass hysteria and it’s all silly. Stop giving into fear. That’s what you do. Don’t sit there and complain and let it happen. Don’t say, “America is doomed” and then go to Wal Mart to buy cups.  Do something. Vote. Get your shit together and get yourself organized. Protest. Raise Hell. It’s what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. They cared a lot more about that than “Family Values” and “American Security.”

And most importantly, stop being afraid for America. Fight for her if you love her. Don’t just let her go.

 

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5 Responses

  1. Why do you need eggs at midnight?

    Powerlessness and lack of knowledge lead to fear. That’s one reason unseen, poorly understood things like microbes and energy waves create so much fear. When microwave ovens first came out, people were panicked by their “radiation.”

  2. Remember Y2K? People were scared senseless. My parents got giant water bottles. Pathetic.

  3. All young people are reckless and convinced of their invincibility. You have been lucky so far. You’ll need to develop risk-assessment skills if you want to continue gloating in future.

    Y2K was a classic example of ignorance-based fear.

    The irrational fear in America generated by the school attack in Belsan was critical in helping Shrub win a second turn.

    There is an inverse phenomenon, found in people living below dams. As you move closer to the dam, people’s fear about it breaking increases. Then, very close to the dam, residents express no fear whatsoever. They are too close to possible escape were the dam to break, so their minds shut off their fear. I think this explains a lot of GW denial.

    The proper way to assess risk is by multiplying probability of occurrence X damage. Many horsemen know don’t wear helmets, because only 15% of all riding injuries are head injuries. But 80% of all severely crippling riding injuries are head injuries. Risk-takers focus on low odds only, fear-mongers obsess on high damage. Balanced, safe people over the age of 21 assess both.

  4. Like I said, I’m probably just an idiot ;p

  5. You know I think most women are more afraid of being raped than murdered and no I am not saying being murdered is no big deal.

    But you know the saying rape is like the murder of the soul and how rape activist say that unlike murder victims who no longer suffers after he/she is dead, the rape victim will suffer for the rest of her life.

    So I think women are more afraid of rape than murder which is why they avoid going out late at night.

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