Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why is the world a dangerous place?

Well, maybe we are assuming too much by asking this question. Sure there are wars, terrorist crazies, drug runners, gangs, Avian flu, HIV, tuberculosis, global climate change, civil wars, and more. That laundry list really tells us nothing about how dangerous the world really is.

"Dangerous" is a relative term. The relativism of it leaves us with the potential for getting in all sorts of trouble. Here I am talking about both personal troubles and social troubles. I'll return to those two themes after an aside...

Our perception of danger, however loosely based on reality, can still be beneficial in many ways. Again, "beneficial" is one of those relative terms. Even worse, there are rarely any absolute benefits or costs. Some people always benefit or suffer more, while others may be relatively unaffected. Now, let's get down out of the stratosphere and see what this means in the real world.

The benefits of any idea are social and economic in nature. Ambitious people get power and status by leading the crusade against some danger. Politicians and activists love to get on their soapboxes and talk about such-and-such threat to nature, the American way of life, and et cetera. Perceptions of danger also generate business opportunities. Business opportunities create job opportunities and tax revenue. How many people are making money selling identity theft insurance, self-defense classes, and gas masks? Well, one never knows when a chemical weapon will be used in the neighborhood.

Now, back to those personal and social troubles that I mentioned earlier. There is a common theme here: we waste resources that could be put to better use. If identity theft really has no value to John Q. Public, then he would be better served by investing his money or buying more DVDs. Identity theft can be worked up into a national crisis. Then the government invests inordinately in studies, legislation, and Congressional debate (You did know that their time costs money, I hope.) over something with relatively modest social impact.

But things can get even worse than that! After 9/11 did you or people you know start looking at people of (probable) Middle Eastern descent and think of them as potentially dangerous? Do you think this could breed hostility and hatred? Do you think these dark sentiments were really based on an objective assessment of the threat? Of course not! (Yes, I am saying that it is OK to think of a category of people as bad if there is strong evidence to suggest that they are bad - the Taliban, Gestapo, KGB, and ecoterrorists come to mind.)

2 Comments:

Blogger Whore said...

The world is a dangerous place because you want to see it that way.

We make our own reality. Stop letting someone else make yours.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

stupid idiot who posted above,

ok go to ria de janierio beach at 2am see if thats not dangerous stupid fuck

4:42 PM  

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