Friday, October 07, 2011

The Only Things We Have to Fear Are Fearmongers Themselves

Of course there are real problems and real dangers.  Nonetheless, most Americans are happy with their own lives.  This reflects the fact that there are many, many things right with our society.  Moreover, we solve problems all the time.  We have a strong tradition of improving, which is as active at this moment as it ever has been.

It is a psychological quirk of human beings that we pay more attention to threats than to blessings.  This makes us think that a large proportion of our life conditions are dangerous.  Yet a calm inventory of each of the people and institutions that we rely on each day would clearly show that most of what we depend on is actually working.

In my judgment, the people who spread fear are a greater danger to the happiness of society than are the people and circumstances they are afraid of.

5 comments:

Kerri said...

amen! (I can say this from experience--everyone is afraid of Mexico, but I am much safer here than in my neighborhood in Louisville).

Brendan said...

This is the principle I keep in mind when people start babbling about how the less-educated or more-religious sectors of society are "breeding faster." Panic over social decline, as Randall Munroe says, has done far more damage than the imagined decline itself.

gruntled said...

I am a big xkcd fan. Did Munroe say that in the strip? Do you have the link?

Brendan said...

Now that you made me look it up, I misquoted a bit, but yes, it's in strip 603.

gruntled said...

Thanks - I may post that one. I will certainly use it in class. And the punchline in the rollover is true. I think his pessimistic conclusion about climate change will prove false as well.