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I know a few people who are so scared of pretty much everything, that it takes an intense act of fortitude to even leave the house. They worry about muggings, terrorism, the weather, disease (which often, weirdly and irrationally, goes hand in hand with fear of vaccinations), children getting hung up in drop rail cribs, “sudden acceleration syndrome” in their cars, meteor strikes… You name it, and they’re afraid of it.

And it’s just so pointless, not to mention out of step with what’s actually going on in the world, that I’m not sure whether to pity them, laugh at their ignorance, or rage against those who have a vested interest in perpetuating it.

I can’t possibly list all the things people fear, and some of them pretty much warrant their own posts (fear of G.M. foods, fear of Nuke Power, I’m eyeballing you, you groundless, media stoked, irrational paranoias), but I think maybe I can tackle a couple of them.  Hey, maybe one person out there will actually pay attention and fall under a sudden grip of rationalism.  Don’t laugh! It could happen!

We’ll start with one of my favourites, the fear of terrorism.

And right there, my mind almost froze contemplating the irrationality of it.  Do you have any idea how vanishingly small the odds are of being caught in act of terrorism? Or that terrorism peaked globally in the late 80s – early 90s, and in spite of rising, ever so slightly since 9-11 (source), are roughly half now what they were at 88-91 peak? Here’s some fun numbers:

  • Lifetime risk of being killed in a car accident, 1 in 83.
  • Lifetime odds of being killed crossing the street (for crying out loud), 1 in 625
  • Lifetime odds of drowning, 1 in 1100
  • If the global Jihad suddenly got it’s act together and was able to pull off a 9-11 scale attack at least once a year (on top of the normal background noise of terrorism that mostly happens in the Middle East), 1 in 1300
  • (source)

That’s right, even given a worst case scenario of terrorism, you’re more than twice as likely to be killed crossing the street as you are to be killed by a terrorist, and fifteen times as likely to die in a car accident.  Don’t believe me?  How many people have you known who have been killed in a car wreck?  How many people have you known who’ve been killed by a terrorist?  For most people outside of New York, the answer to the first question will probably be at least one or two.  To the other question, none.

So here’s a thought: Ditch the full body scanners at the airport, and instead stop yakking on your cel phone while you’re walking/driving around downtown.

Now I know why they called it the dirty thirties
Now I know why they called it the dirty thirties.

Next up: Fear of crime.  I don’t have any good statistics for my country, so let’s take our most beloved wretched hive of scum and villainy (the United States) as a good baseline. In the past twenty years, violent crime in the US has dropped by half, property crime is down by 40%,  but our perception of crime is at an all time high (source).  How the heck could that be?

A big part of it is the 24 hour news cycle.  There’s an old adage in journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.”  Violence, and violent crimes, are good for ratings.  So the news networks go out of their way to seek out crime stories, splash them on the screen, and milk the crap out of it until the ratings start to slide, then go find something else.  And this plays against our very basic instincts to be afraid of that movement in the shadows.

Also, “getting tough on crime” and a good “war on terrorism”, are really good platforms for getting politicians elected.  Much more effective than the “Elect me, because things are pretty good right now, so I don’t plan on doing anything” election campaign.

And I could go into all the other fears you might have, but really, it would just be an exercise in throwing statistics at the wall.  Really, the only statistic that matters is that, on average, you will live longer now than at any point in recorded history.

So you might as well get out there and enjoy it, because you’re going to be around a lot longer than you might think.

One Response to “Stop living in fear! You’re safer now than ever.”

    So true. The media has a lot to answer for. Some people even here in Calgary have this crazy idea that the city is some dengerous big city. Mind you some of these people do come from small town ect. Calgary isn’t even really that big a city, there is only a million people here! I would say compared to other places I have visited and lived in, it is pretty damn safe. Oh but the 6pm news says that there is murder, rape, gang activitiy going on all around town… It’s like you said about terrorism, I bet the crime rate in general is going down, but the amount of crimes being reported on the new is probably 200x higher.

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