Thebastidge: Monsters
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    Tuesday, December 28, 2004


    Belmont Club has some interesting commentary on the attitudes that contributed in some small part to the magnitude of the recent Tsunami tragedy.

    In my mind, the money quote is this:
    The realization of its necessity has come, at least in some small measure, to institutions which are scorned by some the sneering readers of the Sydney Morning Herald. The Internet, space based sensors, biohazard threat detection, the exoatmospheric interception of earthbound objects -- are all things deemed at one time or another as a waste of money by the more enlightened, but which may yet provide the margin for survival in a day unforeseen or unimagined. More important than the specific technologies themselves is the watchful and precautionary mindset which created them. For some, the world is not and was never a paradaisal Gaia but a dangerous place filled with peril both natural and man-made. On the days we forget the ocean is there to remind us.

    Not to trivialize this huge tragedy, but my point here is not to comment directly on the Tsunami death toll in itself. Others will do so in greater detail than I have time or inclination to.

    I'm off in a slightly different tangent, spurred by Wretchard's contrast of the world-as-benevolent-Gaia VS the reality of violence and danger.

    Here in the industrialized, rich and admittedly somewhat decadent West, we're sheltered from the realities of most of the world's thin margin of security. We don't know what it means to actually have food shortages. We can't imagine not having clean water that is fit to drink, we really can't imagine water so polluted as to kill thousands, brought on by a simple natural disaster. We're used to emergency services which can handle anything, and if not quite cover it all, then we mobilize the National Guard for relief. One way or another, things get handled. We can't imagine a situation that would overwhelm the 'system'.

    This leads to some really irrational beliefs and behaviours. One such is a feeling of near omnipotence evinced by some in their demands that we always accomplish our goals without any negative consequence. Such individuals (usually identifying themselves as 'liberals', but more properly referred to as 'leftist') seem to believe that America can accomplish goals without collateral costs. When such collateral costs do occur, we're decried as not caring, as if were we only to care more, these negative externalities would disappear.

    Another weird thing is our American insistence on sheltering children from 'bad things' in all aspects. We don't even want to talk about them with our kids, whether it is death, sex, disease or pregnancy resulting from sex... even financial difficulties we try to conceal from children.

    Why should children be unable to understand that their parents cannot afford every whim?

    I know many parents who discourage their kids from believing in monsters. I do not see the point of this. I think we should encourage some healthy fear. Without an immune system type of response to danger, then we are likely to be hurt more when something happens than if we are inoculated against it.

    After all, there are monsters in the world. There is no point in encouraging children to think of lions, tigers, and bears as cuddly creatures. These animals are worthy of respect as part of the cycle of life and deserve to be accorded their place in the world, yes. But they are not to be taken lightly. Sharks and crocodiles are creatures of appetites, but no conscience. Disney does us a mis-service there by representing nature in such a fantastical way. Anthropomorphism has fueled some bizarre interpretations of nature by us sheltered city-dwellers that would never fly in a society closer to nature.

    Volcanoes are awesome and awe-inspiring sights, yes. They are majestic, at a distance. But up close, the proper response is RUN! (and that, probably after voiding one's bowels in panicked fight or flight reaction.) We should have this reaction to a great many things about which Hollywood and Disney have done their best to cripple our rationality (and the respect that nature rightly deserves not only for existing, but for being dangerous.)

    I don't know if this is all as coherent as I would like, it is after all, 5:30 in the morning. I guess I'm just coming back around to the idea that situational awareness seems all too lacking in the society I see around me. This applies to everyday life, but also to this international situation we find ourselves in, and hopefully we can convince those fluffy-bunny Disney-loving Vegans among us, to recognize the dangers (and the monsters in the dark) before we are collectively bitten again.


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