Fear This

11 04 2020

Fear.

It is the one motivator that easily crosses culture, race, even species. It’s not easy to change the way people think and behave. Except by fear.

Fear is the greatest human emotion and is nearly instantaneous, life altering, and enduring. It has been used by conquering armies, tyrants, and governments across the globe for millennia. It can keep us from success, or drive us to it.

Fear also comes in handy for preserving ones own personal safety, and avoiding that other behavior controlling mechanism, pain. This can be good, and when experienced at a certain intensity, pain can evoke respect for certain situations. I personally have learned, although slowly, that respect for animals that outweigh me 8-10 to 1, can hurt me. Smaller animals with long teeth can also inflict pain, and tiny insects that fly can inflict massive pain.

These experiences have taught me respect for these sources of discomfort; even at times, still evoking enough short lived fear to overcome my waning athletic abilities, in order to avoid broken bones, stitches and assorted contusions.

But I have learned to overcome that initial fear, and practice respect. Fear would dictate that repeated (or even one) encounters with four legged mammals (who, though they may not eat humans, may/have/can still do massive damage to ones earthly abode) could even kill you.

I have also learned that fear will result in one of three responses in both animals and humans:

Fight, Flight, or Freeze (more prevalent in humans than animals). All three may be the correct reaction to preserve ones own safety in a given situation, but all three can also result in injury or death. Paralysis can keep you from being detected by an enemy or predator, but if not controlled (psychological discipline) can more often result in bad outcomes.

I have experienced all three. I have struck out in fear, ran in fear, and frozen in fear.  Paralytic fear that most people experience is social. Stage fright, for instance.  Fear of public humiliation trumps fear of death for many. They would rather be the one in the casket than the one giving the eulogy.

But Fear is not healthy if allowed to govern your life. I’ve been hurt by enough livestock that I could be afraid enough of them to find another career path (or maybe I’m just sadistic, or dim witted). On the other hand, I love what I do; not all cows have tried to kill me. Not all horses have snuck up behind me and grabbed me in his teeth by the shoulder, kicked, stomped, bucked me off, or gotten me hung in a stirrup fighting for my life to get free. Not all bobcats have looked me in the eye and advanced on my position, while standing in full view of him.

How is it then, that I continue in a dangerous career? How is it the fighter pilot continues in a dangerous career? The soldier? The logger? The Law enforcement officer? The Firefighter?  The answer for all is to understand the situation and determine if the risk is worth the potential outcome.

Situational awareness.

Placing ones self in a situation of risk is common, and done by every person every day. Every time you get into any machine for transportation, you are knowingly and willingly placing yourself in a situation that could end your life. Is it necessary? Sometimes, yes, if we want to continue to keep our families economic status viable by going to work to earn a paycheck. Sometimes, no, it’s simply a pleasure, or “non-essential” (to us) trip that will probably result in spending money that will help another person provide economic stability for their own family. (See where I’m going with this?)

Risk assessment.

Is the risk greater than the potential gain? Is the risk of riding a horse, with no prior history of causing injury, getting tangled in brambles and falling, slamming you into the ground resulting in concussion, worth taking? It happened to me. Yes, it’s worth getting back on and riding for another 25 years (and counting).

Is it worth the risk of being bitten by a poisonous snake while hunting morel mushrooms in the woods? You better believe it!

Is it worth the risk of death by crashing from 5 miles high, to get inside an aluminum tube with wings with 100 other people and travel to a vacation paradise?

Is it worth having children at the risk of losing one to SIDS, or some other tragedy? I can’t tell you how much it is worth that risk!

Fear of CV19 is now driving people to do some strange and even dangerous things. I have personally seen people driving, alone, in their car with the windows rolled up, with masks on. In grocery stores folks are hesitant to go down an aisle if someone else is there. Yes, those are small things and I’m not judging; just illustrating how fear is altering behavior.

The Governor of Michigan ordered that residents can leave the state, but can not travel to a second residence within the state.  The fine, $1000.  Also, since you are stuck at home, you can’t go to the store and get gardening supplies in order to plant that garden that will not only help you maintain some sanity and serve as a distraction, but will also feed your family next winter!  Michigan is not alone, as other governors in other states are using draconian and yes, unconstitutional methods of controlling peoples movements, mostly due to fear.

Then there are cases where neighbors are calling authorities on people who are out walking or playing in their own yards. A dad is handcuffed for playing ball in a park with his daughter. Dad and son lifting weights out on the front lawn visited by police after a neighbor called them for “breaking shelter in place”.    I saw a news story this morning about police using drones to monitor people’s outside activities.  It’s getting crazy. People are becoming paranoid.  Ever hear of Gestapo? This kind of fear breaks down trust in a society.

One strength (and, arguably, one weakness) of American society is that we are the most trusting people on the planet. I was told by an Arab once, “You Americans, you trust everyone.”  I’ve spoken with numerous people from Islamic countries, some Muslim, some ex-Muslims, and to a person, they described a level of distrust that caused them to lie and deceive almost incessantly, not just to non-Muslims (permissible), but to everyone because your neighbors may be report you for some infraction of Sharia, or to gain favor of local authorities. One Egyptian woman told me the hardest thing for her after coming to America was breaking her habit of lying. She said she was living in fear constantly. Watch the docudrama “The Stoning of Soroya M” to see how fear and distrust affects a society.

If we allow fear to dictate how we live, we are no longer Free. Life is full of risk! Take the proper precautions, yes, but seriously, shutting yourself inside 4 walls indefinitely, is not physically, or mentally, healthy.

According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a 1% increase in the country’s unemployment rate is correlated with a 3.6% rise in opioid deaths. That’s just opioids.  Unemployment claims increased to 17 Million from March 15-April 4, up from 280 thousand the week ending 3/14.  It’s my understanding that furloughed workers are not counted in the “unemployed” numbers, as their employers will, through CARE legislation, be helped by the Federal government to pay them.  17 million people, plus furloughed employees, classified as “non-essential”.  What are the emotional and psychological possibilities for increased substance addiction, domestic violence/abuse, increase in crime rates due to either boredom, frustration, or simple desperation to survive?

I recently had a conversation with a close friend who is a retired Army Officer.  He said the civilian population is going to be exposed to and experience PTSD symptoms due to this current situation.  He added, “We need to start talking about this now!”  Indeed.

Fear, if allowed to proliferate, will be the disease that kills America.  It will not be a virus.  The basic premise of the above meme, inspired by the experience of a friend of mine, is already taking place.  Let’s all just calm down.

A very famous American President once proclaimed, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!”


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12 04 2020
Dewayne Burgess

Outstanding!

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