Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fear and Risk Management

I went to the dentist yesterday, which usually is a chance for me to read MacLean's and then launch into a rant slamming Mark Steyn. But due to some distractions talking with the receptionist, I didn't find his article, so I'm going to discuss a different, but related topic: fear and cowardice, starting with going to the dentist, which is one of my big fears.

I am afraid of so much stuff it's almost pathetic. At the dentist's I get really tense, apparently. He keeps telling me to relax, and offers suggestions on how to do it. I tell him being tense is my way of relaxing.

I am also afraid of heights. Not just me, but I can't watch other people, even strangers I don't care about, teetering on the edge of a cliff. I get butterflies in my stomach during movies where people are hanging on under helicopters, or on the edge of skyscrapers. Even though I am sitting in my couch at ground level.

I am fearful of getting any kind of personal injury, especially a kind that involves blood or bones sticking out. I am very aware that when riding a motorcycle, this can happen at any time, and it helps me concentrate mentally on driving, and looking for threats to my safety. I suspect this fear has helped me maintain a fairly safe driving record over the years. I am also afraid when making a cheese sandwich that the knife could slip and cut off a finger. Mary Ann is constantly telling me that my knife handling technique is all wrong, because I will never point the sharp edge toward myself under any circumstances and it seems you need to do that sometimes just to get things done.

I have a ton of other phobias, from injection needles to paper cuts, confrontations with waitresses to sticking my fingers in a moving lawnmower blade.

However, there is a bright side, to my lack of courage. It seems that by being very afraid of everything that could cause me some physical or psychic injury, I have used up all the available fear cells in my brain. So I don't have any left over for artificial fears. For example, hell is something I am not afraid of. Similarly Friday 13th. I also don't fear witchcraft, or bad luck. I just do not have the paranoia to spare on frivolities.

Some people think global warming is scaremongering. I am not afraid of global warming, although do I think it is happening, and I try to do my part on a personal level to not make it worse. But ultimately, I don't see a trip to the emergency room for me because the temperature goes up a few degrees, or all the polar bears go extinct. I guess if I was really afraid of global warming, I would either become a global warming denier, or stop driving my motorcycle. But somehow I can both ride my motorcycle, and understand that it has a negative effect on the environment. In a way I'm glad that flying to Mexico uses more gas than riding my bike, because riding is what I wanted to do anyway. And even in Mexico I am still more afraid of a traffic accident than I am of bandits.

I am not afraid of wind turbines, as the oil companies' propaganda has no effect on me. Although I might be afraid of them if I was smaller, could fly, and used echo location to find my food.

I am not afraid of the Moslems, even though I read some of the propaganda put out by Mark Steyn about how they are taking over the world. Although I may be a coward in many ways, it at least has the positive benefit of making me somewhat resistant to artificial fear mongering. Especially sitting in the dentist's waiting room, reading MacLean's magazine, I find it difficult to divert any of my fear to something as remote as a Muslim takeover.

I am not afraid of gay marriage, I am not afraid of abortion, I am not afraid of socialism or communism.

So all the fearmongers of the world, the Mark Steyns, the Rush Limbaughs, the Dick Cheneys, are like water off a duck's back to me. I save my fear for things that could really hurt, like that car in front of my handlebars that could make a left turn into my path. Car accidents claim ten times as many lives every year than 9/11 or even gay marriage. And I find it crazy that people are worried about socialism, and meanwhile they are driving their cars with reckless abandon, assuming the airbags or whatever will protect them. Bad risk assessment, it seems to me.

Picture: Stolen off the internet as usual. This one is so funny I wish I had photoshopped it myself. I love finding pictures of polar bears and penguins. Doesn't anybody know they don't live together?


  1. Fear of global warming? Interesting recent article: Cold comfort: the psychology of climate denial ... It is the human instinct to shut out or modify a terrifying truth: that the world as we know it is heading for a smash.

    Fear of wind turbines? You may not have that particular fear, but it seems to be contagious, despite the preponderance of scientific evidence to the contrary.

  2. Amazing how strong the anti-wind turbine movement is. At the core of the debate is the physics. Fossil fuels are a much bigger bang for the buck than anything else. Except that the supply is not infinite, and the resulting CO2 is heating up the planet. Oil addiction is similar to the "sugar high" I enjoy at Tim Horton's and just as addictive and brain addling. But we are going to need to shake our addiction and diversify our energy diet to be a healthy civilization again.