Monday, January 25, 2010

How to boost your anxiety level and live in fear.

I keep no weapon in my house. Never have; never will. Okay, so there’s the chef’s knife in the kitchen drawer, but that doesn’t’ count.

I didn’t even arm myself during the media-hyped “crime wave” of the early seventies when our Euromerican oligarchs decided to neutralize the gains made by the civil rights movement by siphoning as many Afromericans in to jail as they possibly could.

There was one time, though, when I saw an ad for a commando knife and wondered if it might not be a good idea to keep one in my nightstand “just in case.” As soon as that thought crossed my mind, a funny thing happened: my anxiety level rose. That was because just the thought of arming myself brought to mind all of the “possible” situations that might require its use.

And that’s the problem—sweating possibilities instead of probabilities. Anything is possible. Yes, it is “possible” some evil characters may break into my house in the dead of night and murder my wife and me. It’s possible, but not probable, which is why I don’t worry about it unless I start obsessing on the possible. (Probability means having some hard data to work with. It is probably I could be wacked in an automobile accident, but it is highly improbable I’ll ever be murdered in my sleep.)

That was the problem with the knife. As soon as I thought about getting a weapon for security, my anxiety level rose because just having the weapon on the premises shifted my focus from the probable to the possible.

It’s a closed feedback loop. I consider the possible, feel threatened by it and buy a weapon to alleviate the anxiety it creates. Yet, the very possession of the weapon increases my anxiety and prompts me to think about buying a deadlier weapon. Had I purchased the knife it would have been a matter of time before I became so anxious that the knife wouldn’t have been enough. In the end I would have ended up with an assault rifle tucked under the bed.

And this explains how America became a security state. The possibility of Communists, criminals, terrorists or (fill in the blank) worries us, so our leaders churn out weapons and start wars to make us feel secure. But they don’t because we began to obsess on the “possible.” This results in a gaggle of security bureaucrats sitting around table saying “What if…? What if….? What if…”

What if the terrorists develop an effective shoe bomb? (Have airline passengers take off their shoes.) What if an explosive can be poured into a shampoo bottle? (Limit the amount of shampoo that can be carried onto an airliner.) What if the terrorists develop a workable underwear bomb? (Use your imagination on that one.)

And, of course, the more secure we try to become, the more anxious we become, which suits are oligarchs because an anxious people are more willing to surrender their freedoms in exchange for a false sense of security and, as Ben Franklin noted, they end up with neither.

As for me, I think I will remain unarmed; it keeps the anxiety level down. And while I’m at it, I think I’ll hold on to my freedoms. Somewhere it is written that they are inalienable. So, no matter what the government does or what the courts decide, I remain a free citizen of a free country.


Ivan Hentschel said...

"Fine, upstanding citizens", like Sen. Joe McCarthy ("Communism will get us all"), George W. Bush (The "Shock Doctrine": see Naomi Klein), the Tea Baggers, Newt Gingrich ("Liberals will carry us all to hell"), Mitch McConnel, Jim De Mint,("Big government and tax and spend will steal our country"), religious righters and homophobes ("If you don't subscribe to oddly interpreted Biblical doctrines you will roast in hell"), Nazi Skin heads and Fascist disctators ("if you don't let us [me] direct and restrict your lives, someone else will take them from you")and a host of others, all have made and will make their political (and financial) fortunes by prodding us to dwell on the "possibilities" that something dreadful will surely happen if we do not "knee-jerk" our way into another war, another restrictive law or regulation, the right to bear automatic weapons under our beds and in our pickup trucks, murder abortion doctors, engage in a war in Viet Nam or Iraq, censor free speech or find some other way to shoot ourselves in our own philsophocal and cultural feet.

The human race, by and large, seems to have been and remain happier being unhappy and fearing the worst of unliklihoods, that making any effort to embrace the much more pleasant "probablility" that a little less knee-jerking and a little more cautious and thoughtful objectivity (the hard work part of life) might yield a more pleasing result.

So , in our times, we fund Homeland Security and the TSA, elect those who prey on our fears ("Government funded health care is bad"; "Socialism kills"), bail out the big banks ("If we don't, there will be a depression": duh...look around?) and watch the Superbowl.

It would seem that the harder we work at protecting and saving ourselves from the imagined-maybe- might-be possibilities of awfulness, the less energy and capacity we have to look ahead, generate optimism or do good.

Being always afraid is a paralytic:we will die miserable and stunted. Sounds like a real "possibility" to me.

David Myers said...

A good one. It reminds me of a Studs Terkle story where he is sitting in his apartment in the dark and a thief breaks-in thinking no one's home. When he finally sees Studs, Studs hands him all the money he has in his wallet. When the thief goes to leave, Studs tells the thief he is leaving him without any money. The thief turns and gives Studs some money back and then leaves. The thief seems to have had compassion for Studs's situation and perhaps that's what his situation was. I think what might have happen if Studs had a weapon. People think you can reduce crime by keeping a weapons in their homes. Thieves don't know if you have one or not. All a gun does is acerbate a bad situation. The best way to reduce crime is to support social justice and economic oppertunity. I know I'm preaching to the choir.

Unknown said...

Typical rationalization by folks who themselves or their families have not been victimized by home invation or nighttime burglars. Without a burglar alarm system and/or a reliable handgun, a man, his wife and children are at the mercy of an increasing number of predators in Amerika.

Case Wagenvoord said...


For the record, I've been held up and broken into. Considering that that's two incidents in 24,820 days of living, the probability of it happening again is so miniscule as to render it a "possibility" Besides, had I been armed either time, I'd probably be dead by now because the criminal has one thing the victim doesn's, the element of surprise.

David Myers said...

Although Marvin might not see this being a day late I just wanted to point out a few things. Promoting the idea that people (average Jane/Joe can protect themselves)is just plain irresponsible. First: of all a person must be trained to use, maintain and regularly practice with a weapon. Second: A weapon must be handy and loaded. It will be to late to get it and load it. If children are living in the house they are at risk if the weapon is readily aqvailable. Third: you must be willing to take another persons life while their in the room and looking you in the eye. This is the hardest part and this were the promoting of weapons in the home becomes irresposible. When you pull a gun you have to also pull the trigger. Chances are the average person will hesitate and will wind-up dead. I have been there myself. Perhaps Marvin you are one of those red blooded american heros i've heard about and can do this. I could not and I don't think the average person can.

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