We live in scary times. At least I thought we did. But the November issue of ODE magazine features a wonderful article by Marco Visscher that debunks five of our fears. Here is what he has to say.
FEAR ONE: There are more wars in the world today than ever before. Not so. The number of conflicts fell at least 40 percent over the past 15 years, and the number of genocides and political assassinations since 1988 has fallen 80 percent. Not only is the number of wars decreasing, but the amount of death they cause is also falling. In 1950 the average war claimed 38,000 lives. Today that number is down 98 percent to 600. I don’t what Mr. Visscher does with the numbers out of Iraq. Take that CNN.
FEAR TWO: Arms proliferation is up. Despite nukes in North Korea and (soon) Iran (and then Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Egypt) international arms trade has fallen 33 percent between 1990 and 2000. I had a feeling it was getting harder to buy that tank I wanted for deer hunting. Thank God for the NRA.
FEAR THREE: Wars kill more civilians than soldiers. While it is true that things are worse than in WWI when only 5 percent of the casualties were civilians, today the number is only somewhere between 30 and 60 percent.
FEAR FOUR: Women and children are the real casualties of war. The fact is that since it is primarily men who wage war, it is men who die most often in them: 90 percent in most wars, and 60 percent in Kosovo and Iraq. Of course if you are a feminist as I am, you long for the day when women and men die equally in war.
FEAR FIVE: I could be the victim of a terror attack at any minute. Unless I live in Iraq this is not really so. I am much more likely to die in a car accident or from eating too many transfats than at the hands of a terrorist. Maybe we should be testing drivers for alcohol before they get behind the wheel the way we test travelers for over three ounces of Coke (not coke, nobody seems to be checking for that).
So it seems all my fears are for naught. So why is everyone trying to scare me? Do they think it will make me more compliant as I stand in long lines to be screened for mouthwash? Or do they imagine that I will vote for the candidate who can out scare the guys who are scaring me? Or maybe they figure if I am scared enough I won’t notice the fact that the middle class is fading, the poor are increasing, the debt is crushing our kids, and the Constitution is falling victim to homophobes and Christian Taliban?
Bread and circus are no longer enough. Now we have to be scared shitless as well. I’d complain if I weren’t afraid that doing so would violate the Patriot Act.