Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Worst. Advice. Ever.

The Economist, a magazine that I normally enjoy reading, is doing what I dislike most in the media - fear mongering.

Outside of the simple fact that emoting never solves anything, telling people to be afraid sends exactly the wrong message. What will our fear accomplish? Every time we as the public respond to a situation with inchoate terror, politicians (well meaning or not is for the reader to decide) rush to make the case that they need more powers to deal with the situation; which they eventually become reluctant to part with, even once it becomes clear that the problem isn't being solved, because the exercise of those powers enables them to claim to be acting, and if those powers are relinquished and a new crisis arises, the political opposition is going to be quick to lay blame. And not only do those power come with limitations on how we can live our lives, but the trade-offs they entail start to erode our ability to care for ourselves and each other. In other words, the ability to protect requires power that increases the need to protect. And the cycle goes on.

Saving the world economy is possible by the actions of us, as people. We're always told to think of our lives as if life were a railroad, with us as passengers at the mercy of the engineers and conductors. But I think that an expressway is a better metaphor. Traffic jams are a fact of life, but if we are all skilled drivers - and are willing to lean on our horns when people start getting out of line - we can, collectively, minimize the delays. Okay, so we'll need the help of the D.O.T., or a traffic cop now and again. But if we all understand the rules of the road - especially those that we've created for ourselves, we can create a well-functioning (if very imperfect) system.

I know I keep coming back to this metaphor, but it speaks to me, and so it's always at hand. I understand the search for a Good Shepherd, but shepherds eat mutton, too.

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