there is no polycrisis just an accumulation of fears


“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.”

Craig Johnson


“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

Joseph Campbell


Polycrisis in now the word of the moment. But here’s the thing. I would argue polycrisis is not a reflection of the present, but rather a culmination of compounding fears over the past decade. Let’s call it the price demanded by our continual fear. Just think back on every year since about 2014 and it has been a ‘year of fear.’ And with that reflection it is not difficult to sit back and think “that much fear mongering is just not sustainable.”  Its not. And it shapes how one views the present in some incredibly unhealthy ways as in “we are in a poloycrisis.”

Its nuts (but understandable after years of fear).

By any objective measure the current US administration is one of the most boringly competent administrations in US history. Yet, in certain media ecosystems one could feel like the US is simply careening from one crisis to another. And one, in that case, would rightfully feel buffeted by anger and fear and accept the polycrisis narrative. That said. We have had our mental etch-a-sketches shaken so often we have lost the plot. Terrorist attacks become potential wars, Ebola made millions of people work themselves into a panic over a disease that has claimed the lives of fewer Americans that year than some random exploding air bag, a bank failing because of poor management becomes potential financial crisis (there is not one), higher inflation gets conflated with a failing economy (the economy is in really good shape), Isis (which really was the JV team) was never an existential threat to not only the US but no one ever really envisioned an ISIS flag over a country let alone embassies around the world, China is taking over the world one Tiktok video at a time (they aren’t), and every conspiracy has moved from possible to probable. The United States has lost its collective mind with fear of shadows. I am not suggesting some things do not deserve concern and some attention, but we seem to be addicted to fearing something if not anything.

This fear is exacerbated by the perceived unpredictability of things (which are actually a small minority of things but the fearmongers liked to heighten the “exogenous” events as indications of typical and not exceptions). To be clear. Exogenous events are events impossible to predict. That said. Most events are unpredictable and, yet, there is no lack of people predicting shit.

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.

The people who claim to predict Armageddon are asshats who thrive on feeding the perceptions of polycrisis. The truth is the world is strewn with exogenous events which are simply an emergent property of a dynamic system, i.e., they will naturally pop up on occasion. But 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. And, as a consequence, the world is strewn with everyday people fearing what is predicted as well as what is not predicted. Yeah. We are in polycrisis mindset now.

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 everyone knows 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.

Which leads me to what someone wrote somewhere about news:

…. 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.

But we, the people, jump into this game almost happily. It is a weird continuous doom loop of predictable behavior fueled by dubious ‘unpredictable’ events, or, less-than-consequential random events that the system naturally spits out on occasion. This culminates into a confluence of stagnancy, despite the fact it feels like things working at the speed of light, within a perception of increased complex world (its not really any more than before), perception of lack of control (control has always been a fallacy) and a perception of, well, polycrisis.

In this doom-loop reality we are trapped in a fear-driven world of inertia convinced things are moving too fast. That said. It seems like the news network’s, and politician’s, purpose is to let you know that things are moving too fast to manage and something is on fire (some event) and that we need to burn someone at the stake for starting the fire (but there was no arsonist, it was just lightning, i.e., the system just creates these things on occasion). Pick your ‘crisis du jour,’ immigration, crime, gun violence, domestic terrorism, moral decay, sharia law, urban issues of crime/homelessness/lack of safety, China/Russia/Iran/North Korea/some socialist country, the list is almost endless and is certainly recyclable. What I mean by ‘recyclable’ is that it is a constant churn of choices simply to make stomachs churn with constant fear of something. And it is within that constant churn that polycrisis thrives. None of these things are really a crisis, just concerns that need appropriate attention, but they create a perception of ongoing polycrisis.

I would like to blame media. I would like to blame politicians. But. It is us: the people.

Sure.  The media and politicians are surely bound to have a role in exaggerating common misperceptions, but we can’t lay the blame entirely with the media; 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.

a Commenter on online 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 with their own eyes because they filter what they see through what they think. For example, immigration is not out of control and they actually don’t trust images that support that only the images that their “eyes see”.

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 any 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.

Let’s go back into the way back machine as an 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 gained a foothold in January the world wasn’t interested until they beheaded an American journalist in August. All the while ISIS went ahead killing other Muslims.

Ultimately this is about personalized “micro” fear which leads to a sense of macro crisis. Because in our fear we want to assess blame or seek to have someone destroy what we do not understand. And here we are in 2023 with a laundry list of fears, crisis and things to destroy. In other words, a polycrisis.

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. And, yet, we are hounded by a sense of fear and polycrisis.

Which leads me to when can we get out of this doom loop.

I believe we are getting closer to a time of reckoning. We are getting exhausted and getting a bit closer to recognizing the 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 and ideological tribes.

I am not suggesting it will happen easily because sticking to your personal attitudes & beliefs is better than uncertainty and compromise. And It certainly 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>.

And, yes, we are fairly simple as people in what we want and like:

  • want to feel a sense of certainty on 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. When overwhelmed in a ‘polycrisis world’ we naturally tap into emotions and emotional responses 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 nearing us.

In the time of reckoning I believe a lot of people will just shut out the loud asshats as we seek out rational explanations and rational narratives and rational solutions for the future.

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 the present 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 a 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 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 a decade we have constantly been told to fear something. We have been convinced the world is just an onslaught of crises and we are stuck in a polycrisis world. Shake the fucking etch a sketch. Snip the doom loop. Let’s get some shit done. I believe if we share some rational thinking in an engaging way, I am willing to bet a lot of money a lot of people are in the market for something other than fear. And, for god’s sake, can we stop talking about a polycrisis.


Written by Bruce