Sunday, December 27, 2009

You don't have to be afraid

Found over at The Newshoggers:
James Joyner notes that the American political and security system decision loop is screwed as the Detroit bombing attempt is prompting a massive wave of security theater that will do nothing besides increases fear without increasing security:
We’re simply going to make people miserable for no apparent reason.  There have been precisely three attempts over the last eight years to commit acts of terrorism aboard commercial aircraft.  All of them clownishly inept and easily thwarted by the passengers.   How many tens of thousands of flights have been incident free?  And, yet, we’re going to make hundreds of thousands of people endure transcontinental flights without reading materials or the ability to use the restroom?
If I remember correctly, three attempted attacks against US airlines or airliners with a US leg in their flight path in eight years is significantly below trend level of attacks since the start of the intercontinental jet age.  The air transit system is fairly robust and fairly secure against most threats that can be smuggled aboard.  At some point, security measures have reached a negative marginal utility as people tune out the good with the idiotic. 

And this is emblematic of our wider society wide decision loop.  At some point there has to be a recognition that all life is at some manageable and tolerable level of risk.  Instead we have CNN, Fox and MSNBC chasing the missing blonde intern of the month, people freaking out about crazed serial killers as they drive six hundred yards to the store in their SUVs and fear that groups that don't have nukes and seldom have battalion level weaponry are an existential threat to the United States. 

Something approaching perspective would be wonderful.
There is a song that comes from one of the kids' shows that my youngest daughter watches that really should be played for adults - especially those who practically crap their pants over any perceived "threat" that has been fed to us during the War on Terra. The show, Yo Gabba Gabba is not on my top ten list - though it does have its moments, and the elements of trip hop that characterize the music are sort of cool. Anyhoo, there's a song I simply know of as "Don't Be Afraid" that totally captures the essence of what I would want to communicate - "You don't have to be afraid. Don't be afraid. It's okay."

Obviously, I'm not suggesting complacency, but merely perspective. There are some powerful interests out there that profit either monetarily or politically (or both) by keeping you afraid of the supposed monsters under the bed. When I was young, those monsters included international communist conspiracies, illicit drug use, and killer bees. These days, the monsters have merely been renamed - think in terms of "Islamists" (a catch-all phrase used to characterize anyone who even remotely considers practitioners of Islam to be humans worthy of respect and dignity), dark skinned men from far-away lands, 2012, and I suppose illicit drugs are somewhere on the list. I'd offer that the monsters either don't exist, or are at bare minimum easily manageable once they are viewed in perspective. Seriously, I remember reading somewhere numerous years ago data that showed that you were far more likely to die from falling in the shower or from a work-related accident than from a terrorist incident. Somehow, I doubt we'll be outlawing basic hygiene or working (although with the unemployment rate as high as it is, there are times I wonder if work is being outlawed). Don't be afraid. It's okay.

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