March 3, 2000 (Ira Pilgrim)


Don't tell me that worry doesn't do any good. I know better. The things I worry about don't happen.


Anyone who isn't isolated from the world around him is inundated by the messages broadcast by fear mongers. We are continually exhorted to be afraid of a variety of events that will probably not happen to us. Women are told to fear breast cancer, men prostate cancer. Both sexes are told to be afraid of cardiovascular disease. We are told constantly that if we do not take some certain medicine or eat or not eat certain foods, that we are doomed to an early grave. One consequence of this is that many of us are bundles of anxiety; if not for ourselves, then for the Earth, the environment, the nation and on and on. If we watch the evening news on TV, we are left with the impression that we are all in constant danger and our children are similarly in mortal peril.

Some fears are easily dealt with. If you are doing something that endangers your health, all that you have to do is to stop doing it and you don't have to be afraid any more. That's simple enough, but more often the fear mongers don't just want us to stop doing something that is bad for us; they want us to do something positive, such as send money or buy something. This is true of so-called non-profit organizations as well as companies that have a product to sell. If people aren't afraid, they would have no reason to send money and without money, those non-profit organizations would cease to exist. If the non-profit organization ceased to exist, its executives, writers etc. would have to find another job. As for those who sell a product, the same thing applies. In short, the profit motive influences almost all enterprises.

TV news programs are obliged to fill up the few time slots that are not filled by commercials. Consequently, we are not exhorted just once; we are nagged over and over again. It is not enough to report on the news that a child is missing. Day after day, week after week and month after month we are told that that same child is still missing. Parents of children murdered years ago are featured on the evening news, as well as some police chief who tells us that the investigating is continuing. If they don't have new video, they show the old stuff over and over and over.

Strangely enough, genuine catastrophes such as earthquakes and hurricanes, in which thousands of people are killed and many more left homeless, are covered for a few days and then promptly dropped. That is, unless it occurs in our immediate area, in which case it is followed for months, in much the same way as some child's disappearance. Sure, a child's disappearance is important, but there is little point in prolonging it far beyond what might do some good.

I have a great labor saving idea: There is really no point in preparing a different news segment every time that the news people want to scare the heck out of us. One generic fear segment will do fine. To the background music of the kids ditty, "Did you ever think as the hearse goes by, that someday you will have to die. They'll put you in a big black box and cover you over with dirt and rocks......etc." They can vary the picture so that on one day you will see a funeral procession; on another a picture of worms crawling over a skull, and so on. Naw, on second thought, that would never do. In a short time people would get used to it. They wouldn't be afraid any more and they wouldn't buy whatever products or services they want us to buy. Oh well, one more of my great ideas bites the dust.

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