This extract is a review of “Risk – The Science and Politics of Fear”. I’m posting it in the context of a proliferation of blogsites (A Western Heart is a good example) using fear as a driver for a range of loony viewpoints. Perhaps the head can be taught to rule the gut in this issue. It’s worth a try.
Many of you won't believe this, but Western societies are safer than they ever have been in history. This is hard to believe because of a constant struggle between two human factors, the Head (rational thought) and the Gut (hard-wired survival instincts). This conflict is laid bare in a new book by Dan Gardner: “Risk: the Science and Politics of Fear.” Within this 300+ page book, Mr. Gardner, a journalist and historian, throws the fear that pervades our lives into sharp relief. He not only shows how we're all wired to be terrified of unrealistically small risks, he also shows that the media, our governments, and big corporations encourage these fears. Sometimes they encourage them for mercenary reasons; other times, the fear is encouraged inadvertently.
A century ago, your window to the world was in fact the front window of your house. You paid attention to threats that were local. You could read the paper and note the threats that were far away, but they had little impact on your daily assessments. Fifty years ago, your window to the world was the television. With visuals and the humanizing effect of in-person interviews, distant threats became more real and pertinent to Gut. Today, what you see on television has become your local community, with all of the rapes, murders and abductions from around the world neatly organized and queued up for your consumption. When a sweet little girl 1400 km away goes missing, Gut tells you that all little children in your immediate community are at risk. The truth, of course, is quite different.
Where were you on 9/11? Everyone remembers. I also remember that the
Looks like a good read.