“It’s not what you actually do in life that you regret just the opportunities that pass you by. It’s even in what you choose to do the opportunities you do not let pass by. In those moments it is sometimes only that you are not courageous or brave but rather you have simply exchanged one fear for another. Afraid for what we were about to do and how you will do versus the fear of what we might not do.”
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
It recently occurred to me that at the end of 2014 someone had asked me to explain that year and I said “it was the year of fear.” It matters here in 2019 because I think its reckoning time. Why? If 2014 was a year of fear so was 2015, 2016 (one candidate ran almost solely on stoking fear), 2017, 2018 and, frankly, 2019. It is not difficult to imagine, if one sits back, to think “that much fear mongering is just not sustainable.”
Let me remind you a bit about 2014 just so you can see what I think was the point where fear became a ‘thing.’
Now. It would have been easy to suggest it was a year of anger or intense negativity or a seemingly relentless crisis and end up all the way to an overall anger at society.
I could have begun with beheadings, disease, terror attacks, missing airliners, police brutality, and the threat of world war spanning Russia or North Korea or the Middle East or … well … within America itself.
I could have listed the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine or even the emergence of the Isis.
Instead, I think of how we, the people, responded to all these ‘things’ <events>. All you had to do is look around America and, well, see fear and anxiety <mixed in with what could appear like anger, but it truly is only fear & anxiety>.
Let me highlight the response to the Ebola outbreak. Millions of people worked themselves into a panic over a disease that has claimed the lives of fewer Americans that year than some random exploding air bag.
Why did it seem so bad? One word: “exogenous.” Exogenous events are events impossible to predict.
Let me be clear. Most events are unpredictable and, yet, there is no lack of people predicting shit. There are a shitload of ‘experts’ who espouse their brilliance on ‘I predicted’ or ‘how could we not have seen the consequences when we did <or didn’t do> this??!!??”
Its bullshit. Everyone who ‘predicted’ either:
<a> has a resume filled with predictions that never came to fruition therefore their one successful prediction is an anomaly, or
<b> their ‘prediction’ or hindsight brilliance has some other prediction attached to it <a consequence> which is false.
- Those who predicted ‘the rise of ISIS because <insert whatever brilliant criticism of Obama here>” usually also attached ‘terrorism coming to the United States!’ <when ISIS is mostly dedicated to killing other Muslims>. The net? Domestic white nationalism terrorism is actually the larger issue in the US.
- Those who predicted “Russia invading Ukraine/Crimea as a reflection of weak America” also predict World War 3. The net? No world war.
Suffice it to say that predictions are shit. And people who claim predictive events are shit holes.
The world is strewn with exogenous events … events impossible to predict.
And the world is also strewn with assholes with access to media <who loves to put these assholes onscreen> who love to treat exogenous events as rational predictable events <and therefore someone can be blamed>. And the world is strewn with everyday schmucks <people> who love to believe exogenous events are anything but exogenous.
Regardless. All that really matters is that things that are impossible to predict create fear among normal everyday people.
We like to think the world is predictable <despite the fact they know that their own lives include a strong thread of unpredictability> and get absurdly indignant when uncovering rational reasons <something to blame> for seemingly irrational events.
Trump doesn’t help.
News media doesn’t help.
Someone wrote somewhere that news today is like a:
… group of kids playing soccer: there is no strategy, just a raw, run, get it response. All running after all of those balls, irrespective of origin, and just trying to shoot. Plays happen in bursts, with no resolution.
It seems like the news network’s purpose is to let you know that something is on fire and that we need to burn someone at the stake for starting the fire <but there was no arsonist … it was just lightning>.
I say that … but … we cannot blame media. Shit. I cannot even blame Trump. It is us … the people.
Sure. The media are surely bound to have a role in exaggerating common misperceptions and Trump has massive role in stoking fear thru absurd lies, but, here is the deal … the fact that this happens everywhere shows we can’t lay the blame entirely with the media/Trump; it’s a much broader, attitudinal ‘people’ global issue.
The issue is us, the people, and how we remember information, how vivid demonstrations/metaphors are retained in our heads, regardless of whether they are describing something that is an exception rather than the rule.
We also suffer from what psychologists call ‘emotional innumeracy.’ This is where we focus more on what is worrying us more than trying to get the right answers, i.e., concern leading to our misperceptions as much as our misperceptions creating our concern.
Commenter on Ignorance article:
We may be ignorant on proportions and statistics but we know and can trust what our eyes see
Example we don’t have to be told immigration is out of control and all the rest of it
This comment reflects how most people respond to facts & information and proves the point I am making. People cannot trust what they see in terms of statistics & experts because they filter what they see through what they think.
Look. There are two accepted approaches in the quest for knowledge – the deductive and the inductive.
The danger of inductive method is that we can be led to a false conclusion even if we begin with the correct assumptions. It actually makes more sense to deduce — challenge and modify and assumption repeatedly until you find truth. Unfortunately in everyday life most people do the opposite — develop a set of rules based on personal experience <and beliefs> and then apply them to other experiences.
In addition. We tend to view events, even global events in which we have no set of experiences nor have any dimensionalized real perspective, through rules of our own personal experience. Let’s add in an uncomfortable truth that most times we don’t care unless we believe it will affect us.
For example. In August 2014 ISIS became a household word striking fear into Americans that with their long reach global organization they would terrorize America.
Why? Despite the fact Isis took control of Raqqa that January the world wasn’t interested until they beheaded an American journalist in August. All the while ISIS went ahead killing other Muslims.
And our fear became spread over a variety of fronts mainly because while the corporate al-Qaeda had been confronted and squeezed, it had become a franchise <ISIS or al-Qaeda on the Arabian peninsula or al-Shabaab in Somalia> & more nimble, violent and capable of planning around local defenses. Even more importantly, it became unpredictable, yet, a number of very vocal people (mostly politicians) started predicting things.
Simply. The events and words forced everyone into a liminal space. Which means, simply, we fear what we do not understand.
We understood Bin Laden. We understood a Taliban stronghold <dedicated to US terrorism>. Once that went away we lost our basis of understanding <and the unknown created a disproportionate fear>.
But this isn’t about ISIS. This is about fear and how we people respond to fear.
Because in our fear we want to assess blame or seek to have someone destroy what we do not understand.
Another 2014 example? In March a civilian passenger plane disappears without trace when Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanishes. Yup. It happened. A big passenger plane with lots of people just disappeared … and then it stayed disappeared. Our fear resorted to blame <as if people sought to be incompetent and kill hundreds of people> all the way to absurd conspiracies and speculation.
In May polio made a global comeback. But America has a vaccine for polio <and I think it was impossible to tie it to a conspiracy or some incompetence of Barack Obama> so Americans didn’t care and we had no fear.
In July Israel and Palestine basically went to war <exchanging a shitload of rockets>. But because Israel has an army and Palestine does not … Israel won.
Well. We think they did because something else newsworthy appeared for TV and all of a sudden no one was talking about Gaza anymore.
So I imagine I should admit I have no clue how it ended.
And we had no fear in America other than some absurd fear that it had something to do with diminished American impact upon global affairs.
Then. In October we started screaming Ebola can kill you and is going to kill you. By November we realized Ebola wasn’t going to kill you and didn’t <and maybe the CDC really knew what they were doing>.
I recap some stories to point out how fear dictated our view of the world in 2014. And you know what? I could have recapped almost the exact same things, with different storylines, for each year since. And here we are in 2019 with a President shouting at the top of his lungs that fear has a home within the borders of the USA and that actually we should be fearful.
Let’s be clear.
While USA has issues, 99% of the 340million people wake up, are relatively healthy, a shitload of them go to work , are productive, interact with people around them in a courteous way, go home a little tired but to a home they are relatively happy with, talk with some friends and, in general, have not much to fear.
So there you have it:
You can make a lot of something from nothing. Even the search for nothing or the threat of nothing, if the people allow fear to play a role.
2014 was hardly reason to be blanketed in fear, and yet, we were. The same for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
In general every year we constantly made something from nothing.
I believe we are at our time of reckoning. I believe we are at the point where, well, we are exhausted and almost everyone realizes that all those fears we have had over all these years, well, never came to anything. I believe it’s actually the moment where more people stop acting like ignorant scaredy cats and focus more on rational thinking than emotional thinking.
Sure. In the minds of most people <everywhere> the idea that certainty & predictability, and sticking to your personal attitudes & beliefs, is better than uncertainty and compromise.
Yes. It has become easier and easier for a person to find some media outlet <television, radio, or Internet> they agree with. And it is a natural human tendency to find ‘your people’ <people who share the same philosophical view>.
To be clear … we are fairly simple as people in what we want and like:
- want to know for sure whether something’s right or wrong, and
- tend to follow or bond with those who agree with our ideas, and
- through confirmation bias, ignore or attack things that contradict our personal beliefs <or experiences>.
These are normal human reactions. We all do it.
In addition. We naturally tap into emotions and emotional responses are much faster than intellectual ones. And traditionally once we let emotions take total control we lose the ability to think rationally. But I think in a time of reckoning, even in the face of loudmouthed predictors of fear & doom, people are so emotionally exhausted that the ‘time of rational’ is upon us.
Look. In any ideology there are ‘fundamentalists’ on both extremes with the majority of people spread about on a continuum. The many in the middle <who tend to view multiple aspects of a single idea> mostly calmly discuss different points of view. All the while extreme point-of-views <and the ‘partial truth’ advocates> are LOUDLY INSISTING THEY ARE CORRECT.
In the time of reckoning I believe a lot of people will just shut out the loud asshats seeking rational explanations and rational narratives for the future.
Some people may associate this with authenticity or ‘being genuine.’ I do not. I think this is about elevating rational in the discourse. Period.
I believe it is Rational’s moment in time because most people are tired of all aspects of fear:
- Fear of wanting some reason <and not finding simplicity in a complex world>.
- Fear of the unpredictable.
- Fear of the exception being the ‘rule.’
- Fear that it is bad & getting worse.
Which leads me to my finishing thought and my message to people:
“Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems.”
- Nothing is ever as good as it seems.
This may sound pessimistic and while there are certainly lots of good things in life & in the world it’s important to remember that if something seems too good to be true; it usually is.
This is the insidious side of fear. Fear that it will not stay ‘good.’ and constantly seeking out things & people to blame for it ‘not being as good as it used to be.’
Stop. Just fucking stop it.
It most likely wasn’t as good as you thought it was <particularly because when we look at things in the rear view mirror they always seem to look better than they really were>. We shouldn’t be dictated by a fear of ‘losing good.’ Just be careful and maintain some perspective.
- Nothing is ever as bad as it seems
When it seems bad it is incredibly easy to exaggerate the severity of the situation <in our own perceptions as well as by asshats trying to influence our thinking>. Most times it is not as bad as it seems and it will not become as bad as you imagine. Sure. There are ‘we are in deep shit’ moments and events. But most of the time it is just not as serious as we think. And most times it will not have as serious repercussions as you imagine.
Both of these are about perspective. Fear makes us lose perspective. Lose the fear … gain perspective.
Look. 2014 thru 2019 was not as bad as we feared. In fact. Most of what we feared never happened.
What a waste of energy.
And who is to blame?
Us. The people. No one else.
Not the government. Not the media. Not the president. Not some incompetent greedy business leader.
Not anyone but us. The people.
Fear can only happen if we allow it to happen.
I believe it is our time of reckoning where we get tired of fear and, well, I’m hoping the outcome is we create a string of years of unfear.
I believe it is a time for rational words, thinking and thoughts stepped to the forefront. I know a shitload of people will shove this up my ass – “rational doesn’t get people excited” or “emotional engages.” You know what? Context matters. For 5 years we have constantly been told to fear something. Shake the fucking etch a sketch. Share some rational thinking in an engaging way and, well, I am willing to bet a lot of money a lot of people are in the market for something other than fear.
Regardless of whether you agree with my solutions I think most people agree we are at a moment of reckoning. If you do, well, then rethink my solution because the moment is important.