As I think back on all of the political and cultural phenomena that have come and gone during my lifetime, many have had a good bit of fear attached to them. It is, after all, a natural human response to a threatening situation. We have the impulse for ‘fight or flight’.
Going back to WWII, there was the threat of the Axis powers taking over the world. With the advent of nuclear weapons, we lived with that horrendous possibility. Then Vietnam, Watergate, rising crime levels, 9/11, the war on terror, the national debt and climate change have all given us cause to worry. We watch our children closely, lock our doors securely and fill our closets with guns. Goodness knows, if we believed all that we heard during campaign season, we would all be convinced that the world was going to heck in a hand basket. But is it?
How often do you think about the good things we enjoy, things that have made our world better and safer. Crime rates over the past 20 years have dropped dramatically in every category. Tax rates for all classes of wage earners and investors are way down from their historic highs. The number of nuclear weapons is a fraction of what it used be. Technology has generally made life easier. The threat of cancer or heart disease is lower. Death and injury rates on the highways are much lower than they used to be. We have much less exposure to mercury, PCBs, ozone, smog, DDT, CFCs, acid rain and a host of other environmental pollutants. Every occupation has seen improved job site safety. There is an economic safety net for virtually everyone. The elderly have at least a fair quality of life. And yet we persist in being afraid.
Fear is a motivator. It causes us to buy certain products and vote in certain ways. Lots of voices are telling us that we really should be afraid. We are the ones who choose to accept that fear is part of our way of life. But we can choose not to be afraid. Caution is often a good thing. But fear … how often is it really helpful?
Just a thought … DonC