I have just picked up from the local op-shop for a mere $2 a quite prescient book published in 2008 written by someone named Dan Gardner whose title is: Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear. Have so far only read the back cover, but it’s quite interesting of itself.
We are the safest and healthiest human beings who ever lived, and yet irrational fear is growing with deadly consequences…. In part this irrationality is caused by those – politicians, activists and the media – who promote fear for their own gain. Culture also matter. But a more fundamental cause is human psychology.
[The book] sets out to explain in a compulsively readable fashion how we make decisions and run our lives. We learn how the brain has not one but two systems to analyse risk. One is primitive, unconscious, and inyuitive; the other is conscious and rational. The two systems often agree, but occasionally they come to very different conclusions. When that happens, we can find ourselves worrying about what the statistics tell us is a trivial threat … [while at the same time] shrugging off serious risks.
Then there are the ideological differences between individuals. There is then the political differences which may themselves be psychologically driven. I quoted Peter Hitchens on dealing with the coronavirus the other day, and now James Delingpole has entered the debate in support of Peter: Coronavirus — Peter Hitchens Is Right….
Just like in war, the great coronavirus plague is bringing out the best in people and the worst in people.
So far, the petty tyrants, the tell-tales, the ignoramuses, the rule-takers and the finger-pointers are having a field day; the more original, clear-eyed thinkers meanwhile, are having to take care about what they say for fear of being judged and found wanting by the self-righteous mob.
Already the battle lines are starting to make themselves clear.
There are, roughly speaking, two opposing camps.
“I for one welcome our new insect overlords”. This contains the control freaks; the authoritarians; the snitches; the panickers; the killjoys; the ‘trust the experts’; the curtain-twitchers; the leftists; and the catastrophists.
The Awkward Squad. This contains the liberty-lovers; the libertines; the grand strategists; the rebels; the sceptics; the mavericks; the contrarians; the misfits; the deplorables.
Obviously it’s not quite as simple as that. Though I’m mainly in the Awkward Squad camp, I’ve certainly had my headless chicken moments. (At one point, I even went so far as to retweet approvingly a tweet from our current Hysteric In Chief Piers Morgan).
Equally, I know that there are plenty of people I respect who are currently in the “I for one welcome our new insect overlords” camp. This is not because they are stupid or are dangerous leftists with fascistic tendencies or are invertebrates who like being walked all over by the authorities, but simply because they are understandably scared, inadequately informed and haven’t (yet) seen the bigger picture.
Generally, though, what we’re seeing writ large in this pandemic is a clash between two ideological positions — one essentially authoritarian, one more or less libertarian. I think this conflict is going to get more bitter and nasty as the pandemic progresses.
Beyond that, what was once politically near impossible is rapidly moving towards near normal. There are always emergencies which for many open ways to take our freedoms which once gone will never come back.