Friday, October 14, 2005
Let's talk fear.
Bowel-loosening, insomniac fear. In this longish but meaty piece in Spiked, Frank Furedi writes:
Fear is fast becoming a caricature of itself. It is no longer simply an emotion or a response to the perception of threat. It has become a cultural idiom through which we signal a sense of unease about our place in the world.
He goes on to discuss some of the ways through politics and the media that our unceasing doom-mongering has become a twisted version of the healthful fears that keep us alert and safer.
There is seldom a teaser for local news stories that doesn't hinge on impending catastrophe: for your children (the drum most often beat), for your health, for your job, for your salad bar. There is seemingly no topic that can merely intrigue or interest once passed through the Jabba-like script-excreter of TV news. "How.... can ruin your life- details at 11. "
I've always wondered why, if they're so urgently concerned for my fate as a viewer, why not just cut to the answer and concrete warning in the promo? "To save lives in the 3 hours before our broadcast, we must inform you this instant that climbing rickety water towers or eating sandwiches without cleaning your hands could kill you." Thanks, I'll keep it in mind. And on with life, which is by the way a dangerous enterprise from the first squirm and will finally pin you and me both in some tangle of wrassle-hold we can't escape.
I normally enjoy Charles Krauthammer as a writer and opiner, but when reading this story about the recreation of the Spanish flu, "an agent of near-biblical destruction," even the cool and clear-eyed may feel a little wobbly. As Furedi pointed out, it's good to go wobbly over some things, but I'd say especially those I can control like jumping out of the path of a speeding bus.
However, as we now genuinely live in times with capacities described previously in science fiction, and (re)creating monstrous biological horrors with "a risk 'verging on inevitability' of accidental release" is nigh, may I please ask everybody to COOL DOWN THE RHETORIC OF FRIGHT?
Humans can't survive any of these threats and/or innovate brilliant solutions to deal with them if we've all gone crazy as shithouse rats, afraid to drink the water, go outside, or breathe due to the exponential compounding of every possible splinter of risk into soul-crushing anxiety.
I feel myself developing panic fatigue from the peaking and troughing of my own fear response. If I let it, it will exhaust me to the brittleness of an old rubber band that can't snap back anymore and just plain snaps. Of course, my current disinclination toward and disaffection with the "ain't it awfuls" leads people to caution me that I'll subsequently become blase' in the face of REAL peril. But as I see it, every day Existence is balanced on the edge of a sheer cliff, and every day so far, has only wiggled its toes and laughed. So, I'm choosing to be informed if and when possible, to do what I can without having to make a tin hat, and trying to relax and crack a smile once in a while. Keep the Buddhas giggling for Crikey's sake!
Al Neuman image with interesting discussion of origin here. Ryan Gilbey 70's cinema book with better cover than current Amazon listing is reviewed here. I originally found the Gilbey reference at the blog Ushering in Banality , neglected since '03. The photos are great here, and if you read German, I bet you'll like it, too. Sadly, another webtique.
Update: Much after finishing this spasm of angst, I was rocked like Krakatoa to discover I was listed on Samantha Burns' random blogroll. Extra Fantastico, since her blog's cool and funny and more than several people actually read it. Although you, my loyal pal(s?) and reader(s?) will always be first in my affections, I wish for you the joys of increased compatriotism. Thanks, Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns! Now I'm going to have to add a blogroll.