Editorial Comment

Living in Fear

    We humans have so much to be fearful about it seems, nowadays. It would be foolish to think that a society that lives in fear doesn’t show some fraying at the seams. We see it in headlines constantly, the results of that fear. People are going violently crazy, lashing out at a society they blame for their unhappiness. That’s because we all know fear leads to hate and hate in a heart is a dangerous thing. It is fear that fuels the hatred of racists, fear of, “the other.” It is only when we meet, “the other” and come to know them that we lose our fear and thus, our hatred. 
    We see the results of our personal grab-bag of fears in our own lives. People fearing sexual predators keep their kids indoors, making them nice, safe and obese. “Stranger danger” messages only increase the fear factor for both parents and their kids. Also, children today only ever get structured play under the watchful eyes of parents. They’re never allowed to build the kids’ only worlds of “kick the can” or sandlot baseball that my generation had the freedom to create, so critical for maturity, learning personal responsibility. Without this critical learning phase, when a young person inevitably starts to encounter situations with no parental involvement, they are ill prepared to know how to behave. Who wouldn’t be afraid? 
    Sure, there are many irrational fears out there, the tinfoil-hat brigade creates new ones daily, but we know, too, that not all fears are silly. Knowing which are overblown and which are ones we have to pay attention to, is difficult. Do we have to worry about terrorism, for example, while we are safely tucked away in sleepy, secure central Alberta? What are they going to do; blow up a cow? True, there are petroleum-related industries in our neck of the woods, but surely there are far more tempting targets for would-be evil-doers. 
    But that doesn’t stop us from worrying about them. When we get inundated with images of terrorist attacks in the media, in the back of mind is the idea that it could happen to anyone, anywhere. The United States was outraged, and rightly so, over the Boston bombing. It made the nation angry to have, again, suffered a terrorist attack, at the much venerated Boston Marathon, no less. Who is safe? Certainly not we Canadians when we read there was a thwarted bombing at Canada Day festivities in Victoria. 
    Yet bomb incidents the size of the Boston outrage and the failed attempt in our country would have barely made the news in Iraq. They have much larger bombings almost daily. What is the fear level like for the average Iraqi citizen? This is concerning, knowing how fear leads to hate.  
    We have other fears, too. Asteroids and meteors whiz by our planet with astonishing regularity. They are starting to cause damage, too. Last February, the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded over Russia injuring 1500 people. Recently, there was a much smaller, but similar incident over Canada they attribute to a sofa-sized meteorite. The most popular phrase uttered by astronomers after each near-miss is, “We didn’t see that one coming,”  It’s about as valuable a service as yesterday’s weather forecast. Even if they could spot these surprise visitors far enough away to give warning, it is uncertain we have the technology to change its course. It becomes yet another shard of fear in our already lacerated psyches.
    We are all rightly concerned, too, of our seemingly fragile financial structure. Since 2008 our faith in the international banking system has been eroded to the point we don’t just worry for our own jobs, but everyone’s. Even if we are scrupulous in paying our own debts, we are well aware of the debt our cities, regions and countries owe. The amounts are staggeringly high and once they reach the “illions” it’s almost impossible for us to truly grasp. When your own financial security is being jeopardized by forces beyond your control, more fear and it’s constant companion hate, is the obvious result.
    We also are afraid for our environment. Whatever jibber-jabber the “experts” on global warming say, we all know the weather is weirder and more extreme, everywhere. They can disagree on causes and policies and conclusions all they like, but the people know something is up. We don’t need experts telling us that. In that knowledge, however, is also yet another reality that is adding to our stockpile of fear. What can we do if the planet gets mad at us? We seem to be looking for another as fast as we can, just in case, but will we run out of time before we invent our way to safety?
    We even fear our food. We have been told so many things will kill us it’s a wonder any food is deemed safe. Nobody heard of gluten until a few years ago. Now we wonder if it’s killing us. As kids, we took peanut butter sandwiches to school regularly. Who could afford deli meat every day? Now, peanut butter is a sandwich non grata in schools due to the prevalence of nut allergies in kids. Where did that come from? Or were kids dying of peanut contact in yesteryears, but it wasn’t being discovered or reported?
    Then there is the debate over genetically modified foods. Do they kill us, too? Would the government let us eat them if they weren’t sure? Have they ever been mistaken before in their approvals safety protocols? Oh yeah. 
    There are things we can do to deal with our fears and getting informed on the real probabilities of each concern is an important part. Knowledge is power over fear and hatred. It is imperative we reduce our fear level as a society before hatred rules us all.

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