Ebola. Wow. Now a second nurse in that same Texas hospital has contracted the virus—and she got on a plane! “We’re terrified,” said another nurse at another hospital, prompted, maybe, to say something very much along those lines. On TV news shows, experts are gravely concerned.
ISIS. Beheadings on video. Jay. Now we’re bombing the crap out of these people. Got to. They’ve showed they stop at nothing, and once they take over Iraq and Syria, then what? So good. Bombs away. All I’m saying is, just don’t forget about the ones pouring into the U.S. across the Mexican border. (And while we’re not forgetting, let’s not forget that the leader of a Mexican drug cartel will behead you as quick as look at you.)
Europe is teetering on the brink of a post-recession recession, and U.S. markets are suddenly tanking. How’s your retirement, by the way? Not going to be a burden on your children, are you?
And how about Ferguson? Nobody ever went broke by reminding us that we are a deeply racist society and that our cities could explode at any moment and that your store might be the next one to be looted.
Do you ever wonder why we’re encouraged to be so afraid? It’s not a new question. I expect books have been written on our “culture of fear,” and if you’ve read those books you’re way ahead of me.
I do have a couple of thoughts, though, if you’ll permit a couple of generalizations. It seems to me that fearful people would be inclined to hunker down, hold what they got, and resist change, right? And wouldn’t that work to the advantage of the powerful? Remember “death panels.” Right out of the VIP (vested interests playbook). You might have no insurance to cover your battle against a life-threatening disease, but at least your fate isn’t going to be decided by some faceless, godless OBAMACARE DEATH PANEL!!! Okay, okay. It’s fine. Don’t change it.
I’m also hazarding the generalization that fearful people make great consumers. Lots of products out there to make us feel safer—from houses in gated communities, to security systems, to private schools, to gazillions of guns. Then there’s the whole other ocean of products that address an even deeper fear—that is, the fear that we’re not sexy enough. Not just the plastic surgery, diet plans, gym memberships, deodorants, shampoos, and white teeth. No. We who fear we’re not sexy enough want everything the sexy people on TV have—the Lamborghinis, the Lear Jets, Caribbean islands all our own. Now we’re talking high-end. Now we’re talking consumption. Point being, consumption has built an opulent palace for the powerful, and they seem to like it there.
Important distinction: Fearful people are not desperate people. Desperate people are among the things that fearful people fear most, and in fact (as we see on news TV 24 hours a day) desperate people are used by powerful people to keep fearful people fearful.I hate to give the impression that the powerful people have us fearful people by the short hair, but I’m afraid they do.