Scared of the Fear

May 6, 2011

“You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth.
I don’t like words that hide the truth.
I don’t like words that conceal reality.
I don’t like euphemisms or euphemistic language.
And American English is loaded with euphemisms.
Because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality.
Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it.
And it gets worse with every generation.
For some reason it just keeps getting worse.
George Carlin

Fear is a real-funny word, quoting George again: “I don’t have a fear of heights. I do, however, have a fear of falling from heights.”
Nowadays, it seems, US peoples are living on a kind of extremely-ironic fear, seemingly adjusting to all kinds of scary stuff, with the biggest fright coming from shit that don’t exist.

Although there’s more than enough of reality to be feared, US peoples love their fantasy-fright to be attached to something to be touched.

In the last decade, Osama bin Laden and his cohorts have created a fear of fear itself, a terror of being caught up in terror.
Even though this fear is way down on the to-be-frightened scale — a Cato report of unlikely fear: In almost all years, the total number of people worldwide who die at the hands of international terrorists anywhere in the world is not much more than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States.
Yet when anyone says “Nine-eleven” the fear factor goes off the charts and emotional bullshit fills the airwaves and brain waves, creating a beyond-fear-based lie.
And US peoples are mega gullible when it comes to terror coming from terrorists.

Paul Woodward puts US fear nicely in context via War in Context:

You can’t talk like a five-year old without ending up thinking like a five-year old, yet this is the mentality many Americans bring to bear when they look at the world through the prism of 9/11.
America is at war with “bad guys” and on Monday morning “we got him” — the baddest guy of all.
To the non-American ear there is something at turns amusing then disturbing about the fact that full-grown adults, including literate and less literate presidents, can, without any sense of irony, use this kind of comic-book language.
Yet beneath these simplistic expressions is a sense of innocence that Americans cling to, born from the notion that this is a nation that can do no wrong; that at worst America can be misguided but its errors will ultimately never obscure its intrinsic virtue.
What 9/11 and its aftermath did was to widen the gap between the way America sees itself and the way it is seen by the world.
If some of us might have hoped that this nation had grown up a bit over the last decade, there has been little evidence of that over the last few days.

The American story is a story of power and virtue we keep telling ourselves as though it would quickly be forgotten or disbelieved if not reinforced through constant repetition.
Yet what might be conceived as a form of self- and national affirmation serves no good if it refuses to accommodate reality.
If our self-image is not informed and modified by the perceptions of others, it is no more than a conceit — a picture we can only believe in by refusing to see ourselves through the eyes of others.

The real fear is what is real.
Climate change is real — but, oops, it’s just not scary enough yet, though, US peoples in the southeast, and now on the flood plains of the midwest, would think different.
Peak oil is real, yet no one is ready to give up his SUV.
Both of those fears are fears based on some real-bad reality, but no where as frightful are Osama and his boys.

And the economy — be afraid, be really, really scared as shit.
Paul Krugman in his New York Times column this morning looks at invisible monsters.
Some nuggets:

From G.D.P. to private-sector payrolls, from business surveys to new claims for unemployment insurance, key economic indicators suggest that the recovery may be sputtering.

It’s not as if our political class is feeling complacent.
On the contrary, D.C. economic discourse is saturated with fear: fear of a debt crisis, of runaway inflation, of a disastrous plunge in the dollar.
Scare stories are very much on politicians’ minds.
Yet none of these scare stories reflect anything that is actually happening, or is likely to happen.
And while the threats are imaginary, fear of these imaginary threats has real consequences: an absence of any action to deal with the real crisis, the suffering now being experienced by millions of jobless Americans and their families.

Which brings me back to the destructive effect of focusing on invisible monsters.
For the clear and present danger to the American economy isn’t what some people imagine might happen one of these days, it’s what is actually happening now.
Unemployment isn’t just blighting the lives of millions, it’s undermining America’s future.
The longer this goes on, the more workers will find it impossible ever to return to employment, the more young people will find their prospects destroyed because they can’t find a decent starting job.
It may not create excited chatter on cable TV, but the unemployment crisis is real, and it’s eating away at our society.
Yet any action to help the unemployed is vetoed by the fear-mongers.
Should we spend modest sums on job creation?
No way, say the deficit hawks, who threaten us with the purely hypothetical wrath of financial markets, and, in fact, demand that we slash spending now now now — which might well send us back into recession. Should the Federal Reserve do more to promote expansion?
No, say the inflation and dollar hawks, who have been wrong again and again but insist that this time their dire warnings about runaway prices and a plunging dollar really will be vindicated.

Don’t be scared, just take off those rose-colored glasses and you’ll be fine.

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