A Society of Fear

For all the progress we have made with the technological revolution there has been a cost to our daily lives. Like so many things for every two steps forward we take one step back.  Despite Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates’ always optimistic view of what technology can accomplish, it does not always seem to me to be all so rosy out there on this big orb we call home.   The information age at times produces information  overload, which causes us to have to segment what we read and hear. We are filtered a stream of negative news briefings, in a manner we simply cannot keep up with.  We just accept what is written as we do not have the time to question. With technology bringing us so much freedom, society as a whole seems gripped by fear.   We base our lives on what is wrong with society and lose sight of what is right. In many ways it is defining us.

When I look back at my childhood it seems that I had unlimited freedom to go and do whatever I pleased.  I had a lot of wooded area around the house I grew up in – amidst some good size neighborhoods.  I would wander into those woods alone or with local kids with no fear.  The woods were a haven of fun, it was like “Never, Never Land”.  The games and space seemed endless. I would be gone sometimes for hours but would always return safely home.  Maybe a little dirty or with a bruise but no one seemed to have any concerns, least my father and mother.  It all seemed so normal.  Today with our kids, we rarely let them out of our sight.  We fear letting them go in the woods alone, who knows who else prowls the forests near our home.  When I turn on the TV and see John Walsh host “America’s Most Wanted”, my stomach turns knowing what happened to his son and in a local department store.  Then the “what if” scenarios start in my mind as I think about my children and I crawl into a self-made illness.  Based on what I see today it seems amazing my mom ever let me or my brother out of her sight.

School was different to, as the levity extended kids was more forgiving versus today where if you say or threaten anyone, or simulate a weapon, it could lead to a suspension from school.  In sixth grade  I got in a fight and bloodied up a fifth grader pretty good ( I have since learned that the fifth grader in question went through a massive growth spurt and I am lucky to be alive).  I was brought to the principles office.  He was very stern with me and punished me by telling me to  go home and tell my parents what I did (yeah right…).    My parents never new, though I suspect my dad would have been proud, he was a fight fan.  I was in school the next day.  These days I would be suspended for a week and have to see a councilor.  In fairness to the schools things have changed.   There had been numerous incidents in our schools – in the inner city where gang violence has raged.  Even when I was in high school you heard about security guards in inner city schools, in cities such as Detroit or Philadelphia.  The poor with no hope.  One event changed that perspective… Columbine.  Then it was not just an inner city problem but everyone’s.  A sad statement on where we are today, but true.   There seemed no reason or justification for such an event. As we learned more about the perpetrators we came to see they had fairly normal upbringings    The aftermath of that event left a country shaken and wondering how and why?  Now every high school in America seems like it has airport level security, or better.  Reality is cruel.

In college I saw an interview with Tom Petty discussing his song “Jammin Me”.  This was the late eighties and he was discussing how much information we receive and the difficulty of processing it all, which was the basis for the song.  It was true then, it is naive now.  The interview was before the internet and we still had less than 60 cable stations.  Today we receive information so fast we find ourselves constantly having to read the latest report regarding a disaster of mother nature. or a new report on what we should be eating or not eating.  Many stories and reports have valid claims but it depends on the source and today there are so many different sources.  We move so fast it seems we do not have the time to question and without that ability it is difficult to find resolution.

The media often times does not want to confront it as they are never to blame for anything, they are just doing their jobs for the greater good of society and since they control the airwaves they get to dictate their points.  They do however care about viewer ratings and if negative news can generate ratings then they are in the game.  I tire of the right and left feeding this frenzy, always with the same mantra, “It’s not your fault. it is someone else’s and you are being made to suffer because of it”.  Feeding fear with its favorite friends, hate and anger.  But rather than challenge or question many tend to retreat to their favorite talk show host or extreme website.  To gather more information to fuel the fire.

There are a lot of reasons for these attitudes and emotions.  It seems as a society we easily fall prey to the notion that it is not my fault but someone else’s.  It is easy to do when life is not going so well, it seems to lessen our burden.It would be great if that lead to happiness, but the emotions associated with this attitude are not of sunshine and blue skies, but of anger and vindictiveness.  As we get more information we learn more about the remote corners and remote horror’s of society.  Leading us on and never-ending.  It would be nice to set ourselves free and simply start living.  Enjoy a ray of sunlight or a drop of rain.  To simply appreciate being.  But alas the excitement and rush of the information we receive has a grip on us that it will not willingly let go.  It has become hard to be disconnected, even when we want to be.  For all of technologies promise we are more scared than we ever have been.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann June 22, 2011

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