Thursday, October 13, 2016

America and Its Fears

What are we so afraid of, we Americans?  Everything it seems. Everything is too dangerous, nothing is nearly safe enough now that life is safer in America than it ever has been. We live longer than Americans ever have. We're less likely do be murdered, to die in a car accident or shot in a robbery. Sure, the progress isn't smooth and it affects us erratically, but the things certain to kill us are heart disease, Cancer, organ failure and complications of Diabetes. We're making progress on those things, but yet we have Americans terrified of  the very remote chance of  a pressure cooker bomb but who smoke, text while driving and are 150 pounds overweight.  We are now and always have been irrational creatures, reluctant and even afraid to base our actions and opinions on objectivity. On that fact are our political passions based.

A survey by Chapman University results in a list of what Americans fear most and by far, the largest concern is corrupt government officials. Nearly 61% tagged this as their biggest fear.  Is government so much more trustworthy than it was in my childhood when nearly everyone trusted the government?  Does it correlate to any actual increase in corruption over the days of Nixon and Agnew?  It's easy to dredge up lists of the worst presidents using Google, but basically any premise can be supported with Google searches and any president shown to be corrupt, but so much of it is motivated by political objectives.  Near the top of the list of the search I just did is titled Obama: The Most Corrupt and America-Hating President in US History  That's seriously untrue and there also seems to be an odd correlation between popularity and the reality of a president's term in office. What you blame them for or credit them with says more about your prejudices than their principles.

But next on the fear list is "terrorist attack," fear of which seems loosely linked to risk statistics. more than 40% of are afraid of swarthy invaders with bombs. Should I suspect that people a hundred years ago were just as afraid of Bolsheviks  and Wobblies and Anarchists with just as little reason? But of course nearly as many are afraid or very afraid of Obamacare. 38 1/2% are afraid of gun control. 37 1/2 % are very afraid of economic collapse.

Not all fears are unwarranted at all, more than a third of us are afraid of losing a loved one, of not having enough money in the future. These are real possibilities, but fear of irrecoverable economic collapse seems less so and our record of predicting such things seems laughable. We've had 8 years of panic about the imminent collapse and before that 8 years of denial of the probability and at present, we can't agree whether we're in a bull or bear market even if the Dow has gone from 7000 to over 18000 in 92 months of increase.

To fear is human and animal too, for that matter, and evolution has predisposed us to worry too much than too little, but so much of what we fear and the degree to which we fear it is the result of deliberate action and the actions of opinion makers and fear mongers; scam artists and profiteers. On the internet we find as much support for a flat earth, a 7 day creation and the fraud behind the Pythagorean Theorem as we do for   Obama: The Most Corrupt and America-Hating President in US History or for Hillary Clinton as liar, thief and murderer and like the cowards we are and are trained to be, we select the scariest, not the most plausible or the most supported by facts. We do the same with the promises of politicians.  Ask yourself whether you really believe your candidate can hope to do more than give lip service to the Utopian visions he describes or whether in fact anyone could given the complexities of government. Do you really?  Do you think your 4 door Nissan sedan is a race car like the commercial says it is or whether women will swoon over your "crossover?"  And if we elect politicians on such a basis and we look at or overlook their performance with the same selective eye, whose fault is it?


Dave Dubya said...

We are a frightened/ignorant nation under the disproportional influence of the far Right.

This article goes far in explaining why:

Study: Conservatives Have Larger 'Fear Centers' in Their Brains

If human evolution were allowed the chance to advance, this trait could be overcome. But that cannot happen in a culture so imbued with denial of evolution.

Capt. Fogg said...

The Swash Zone, where I also post, recently had a post on that study. There's also some connection between being prone to feelings of disgust and conservative leanings. But of course our so-called media have become expert in selling fear and outrage and disgust.