Panic, Paranoia and Politics

All that our politicians want to do is to protect our lifestyle. They give us picket fenced houses by keeping the interest rate at bay, until some brats working as highly paid brokers mess it up – hmmm, so sorry! Didn’t see that coming!

They protect our borders by building missile defence systems to keep away intruders, until some brats working as underpaid terrorists board an airplane and shoot down the twin towers – sorry, didn’t see that coming either.

Then the dust settled, we have built our memorials and got used to all the crappy airline security which leaves us dried out and grumpy, and we even started to accept the machine gun armed police guards at airports and railway stations – which by the way do NOT make me feel safe, but sort of in the line of fire – when paranoia creeps in from another end: Business people!

The ones who own buildings. So far I only had one encounter in a mall in Cambridge where I was forbidden to take photos of the artistically designed roof. Similar stories have been mushrooming everywhere and very soon we might not be able to take a photo of a brick at our local builders centre without being asked to hand over the camera.

Apparently, terrorists have been seen strolling around, taking photos of stuff and then throwing bombs on it, or leaving explosives in our hand luggage, or blowing themselves up after having bought a well thought through backpack to nicely accommodate all the C4, or whatever else they might be using these days.

Two questions arising from that: Firstly, why should they need to take pictures of the roof of a building to achieve any of the above? Secondly, will I get arrested in the future for showing an accidental interest in the same brand of backpacks?

Another fear grows out of the uncharted spaces of the virtual world, meaning everything that has to do with ‘electronic data’ and ‘Internet’. Recently I downloaded the server log files of my ‘Incredible Ladies’ site to see how many hits it had and from where they came – yes, I am that vein; my confidence needs to know whether or not I managed to keep my fan base of two – turns out: Some American law firm had been visiting in search for Nike links.

Hmmm? Either they wanted to see how often Nike gets linked in, hence how successful the brand is – OR, they want to see if somebody used their pictures unlawfully, or wrote something nasty about the company to then sue the perpetrator for an enormously unreasonable sum.

Phew! I always keep my website as clean and politically correct as ever possible, what doesn’t make life easier in becoming a much loved comical column writer.

See how paranoia begins? Not write that, don’t do this… and it’s all so virtual, who knows the rules, really? And if they catch me… my house, my livelihood, my relationships – EVERYTHING – will be destroyed…!

These days this fear of being sued has crept into every aspect of daily life. I guess you already know that you shouldn’t hire a bouncy castle without getting insurance. Very soon we can’t go strawberry picking anymore – we might slip on one and might break a leg. If a company promotes the idea of biking to work in order to enhance corporate green image, and then one of the staff gets hit by a car – could they be sued? …probably only if they neglected to provide a three day course on safe biking.

As soon as we become protective and territorial we become paranoid – and vulnerable. People in fear are easily influenced; they will stop thinking for themselves and they will comply with any remedy proposed. So far I don’t feel that those remedies like health & safety regulations, prohibitions and armed guards gave us back our freedom, but sneakily made our world shrink. And so far I haven’t heard of any government in the world brave enough to stop that madness by law; in contrary, they seem to be using this dark atmosphere between their fellow citizens for their own benefits.

What scares me is that all this indoctrinates our children. Oh, you are only talking in front of adults about those issues… you want to keep your children’s childhood clean, bright and happy… and how do you make sure they don’t pick up stuff in other people’s houses, the telly, the internet, the school, the street? Kids have an empathy radar built in. They just know when adults are tense, and they can guess about what that might be, and then they will build their own little world of panic, fear and paranoia. At least one of these kids will become the leader of a country one day, and will make damn sure that we will stay well within the boundaries of our white picket fences.

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Panic, Paranoia and Politics

comment: by Rika date: 03/09/08

When I talked to a colleague about our harpy encounter in Cambridge he inspired me to research a bit further. I couldn't believe it when he told me that schools have cancelled sport events because kids might get hurt. However, he was right. I found two newspaper stories referring to different incidents.

The Telegraph reported in June 2008 that a school in West Sussex cancelled an event due to uneven ground, and the Daily Mail published in July 2008 that an event in  Washington, Tyne and Wear got cancelled because kids might fall over in fun races.

Another aspect of paranoia came to light when the Guardian reported that education chiefs in Swansea, south Wales had concerns about the safety of road trips performed by parents bringing their kids to sport events like friendly football games. They didn't actually advise to cancel, but it happened anyway because organisers got cold feet and are now waiting for clear guidelines. The same story was picked up by BBC news as well.

This makes me raise the question: In which way do these people think they are qualified to help our kids grow into adults tough enough to take on the world?

The metaphor of a plant raised in a glass house thus never having felt the wind and in turn will break as soon as it gets outside, is often used - and it is true. Wrapping kids in cotton wool might keep their skin intact, but will keep their minds weak.

I can't help but feel that this is not about protecting the children anymore, but about protecting the adults against guilt and prosecution. And this is a trap into which parents can fall as well.

I never will forget the little story my friend told me when she had to let loose of her little almost three year old for the first time:

Living in a cul-de-sac area the kids were used to playing in the street and they knew how to behave when a car came, however her little one always walked to visit friends either together with her or with dad.

One day the door bell rang and the five year old boy from down the street came asking if his friend were free to play at his house.

And then mum swallowed the knot in her throat, put on his jacket and watched from the kitchen window the five year old firmly holding her little one's hand, who happily walked away without sparing a glance for her.

And she wasn't sure whether to laugh or to cry, and whether the pain or the pride were the stronger emotion.

We will never be able to avoid moments like those. And this is not just about kids, this is about all our loved ones and it is about ourselves. If we allow fear to take over - we never will be able to feel the pride!

Some more thoughts around the issue of taking own decisions and taking on the fear:

A Little Tale
Flying Chicken

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Author: Rika