Tuesday, April 20, 2010

(Ir)rational Fears

Put this as pet peeve #423 of mine (on second thought, maybe I should actually count these and give them real numbers.... not just made up high numbers) - anyways - pet peeve = irrational fears, or more specifically, the culture of fear.

Everyone has fears, fear is entirely natural. Its evolutionary purpose is to protect us - keep us from doing things that may hurt us and keep us on our toes in dangerous situations. Heights, spiders, snakes, tightly closed spaces - these common fears today are all things that would have supposed a risk to an early primitive human. We are wired to be afraid of certain things. At some point, these fears become irrational and prevent us from living rather than protecting us from dying.

In present day, we are unindated constantly with things we should be afraid of. Industries take advantage of this evolutionary trait to make profit - in money and power- for themselves. The biggest culprits: politics (of course), the home security industry, the gun industry. They have us thinking that the terrorists are coming tomorrow, the economy will never recover if the opposite party wins, house guests return after leaving to smash in windows, and we are safer if we have a gun. Ignore the fact that the probability of ANY of these things happening is less likely than the probability of tripping over my own feet and knocking my front teeth out (OK, this probability might be slightly higher for me than many).

This post was meant to be much more eloquent when I was planning it in my head, but an angry rant will have to do.

Announcement to the world!!

There will be terrorist attacks or acts of war in the future no matter what we do. That is just the way of the world. Barring the downfall of the entire world order, the American economy will recover. Having the other party in power for a while is not the ruin of the country, even if it feels like that when you are all worked up. The probability of you being a victim of a violent crime is miniscule, and having a gun around does not really change this probability - might even increase it depending on what statistics you read. Having a home security system is irrational and a waste of money - both yours and tax payers when cops show up for false alarms. Strangers will not sneak into your garage when your husband pulls his car out to come up and attack you. The chances of your kid being kidnapped by a stranger are so ridiculously small, they are more likely to die by you crashing your car or a household accident.

So, be rational, argue your political points without panic, own a gun for sport if you want, but not protection, put your energy and money and efforts into having a safe car and a safe house and maintaining a healthy lifestyle rather than worrying about what random strangers are going to do. If you are afraid of strangers, establish relationships in all your realms - your neighborhood, the area you work in, these people will be a much better security system for you than any electronic gadget. Most importantly, STOP being scared of everything!

Of course I have irrational fears too, we all do. I am terrified that a tornado will kill me. But, there is nothing I can do about it, so I try not to freak out and just pay more attention when there is a storm warning. Most the time when I get on a plane I am convinced we will crash, but I know that its irrational to feel that its no more dangerous than a car, so I fly anyways. I think that if I ride in a car without a seatbelt I will die in a preventable way. I think if I ride a bike without a helmet I will die in a preventable way (thanks mom and dad for these particular fears...). I am convinced everyone who rides a motorcycle sooner or later crashes and dies (also thanks Mom I think). I guess everyone has fears. I just wish people would stop wasting energy and money, stop giving power to crazies, just because they are told to be afraid.

Uh.. Rant over. LOL.


Allison said...

For the sake of argument...

When there's a tornado warning, do you go to the basement or seek somewhere safe to be? Even though the probability that your house will be struck by a tornado, you (or maybe not you, I suppose, but *people*) do it. Having a security system is like that--even though the probability of having someone break in is small, it reduces the probability of them actually hurting me or my family if they do try to break in while we're there.

No, going to your basement doesn't cost anyone else anything, like you're claiming a security system does (although we've never had a false alarm and most people I know haven't either), but otherwise it's the same sort of thing. Something you do to make yourself relax.

Just a thought :) I pretty much agree with most of your other points.

Manday said...

I only go into the basement if there is a tornado warning for my immediate area, and it is therefore an immediate threat. I would not say this is comparable to a home security system. Having a home security system paid for monthly would be like I spent all of my free time in the basement "just in case", or to be less dramatic, perhaps just when it was raining.

Though, by comparing the security system to going into the basement during a tornado warning you do reveal the psychology of it - you believe that a burglary or home invasion is an imminent threat to your safety, as imminent as if a people trained in crime detection put out on TV that someone would be breaking into houses in your area in mass numbers EVERY night (as you always have the home security sytem), and that is exactly the kind of fear I am talking about as being more hindrance than help.

Manday said...

I also wanted to add, I have done some data-gathering on cost of false alarms in the past, and I would love to be able to pull the numbers for you, but I do not have them anymore and google is not cooperating (plus I am at work). I know the most impressive stat I had involved the monetary cost and percentage of police calls that were false alarms in LA in a year, it was astronomical.

Manday said...

Just to tack on one more thing -

I understand that security systems are a cost-benefit decision, people get them because they decide the "peace of mind" is worth the average $650/yr cost (this is based on $30/month and $300 of maintenance). My point is - this calculation they are making is based on faulty information, based on ideas and images that security companies and the media put into our heads with ridiculous commercials showing home invasions and news storys emphasizing the rare crime.

Laurelyn said...


Allison said...

I suppose I can see your point. My perception of the threat of home invasion/general home crime in my neighborhood with the neighbor boy who has, on multiple occasions, brought the cops to the neighborhood and been seen doing plenty of drug deals on our corner, is that it very well could be imminent. So I guess it's a case-by-case thing. My perception is not based upon that stupid commercial of the guy coming back to the house after being there for a party, but rather on the real things going on outside my window.

But you have hit on a fear of mine, irrational or rational. But if I can do something to possibly prevent it, I will. I also put my child in a carseat every time we get in the car, lock my house doors, even when we're inside, have a smoke alarm, and look both ways before crossing the street. If I can take steps to prevent something from happening to my family, I do it. None of these things is making a major impact on my life--they're just steps I take to keep us safe and I don't avoid crossing the street ever because a car might hit us; I don't stay inside the house because someone might break in if I leave. I feel like a security system is a simple, easy step you can take to stay safer, so we did it.