Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just When You Thought It Was Orange

I am with John Carter Wood, who is with Anne Applebaum on this one:
Speaking as an American who lives in Europe, I feel it is incumbent upon me to describe what people like me do when we hear warnings like the one issued on Sunday by the U.S. State Department and cited above: We do nothing.

We do nothing, first and foremost, because there is nothing we can do. Unless the State Department gets specific—e.g., "don't go to the Eiffel Tower tomorrow"—information at that level of generality is completely meaningless.
I am not physically with John and Anne -- I still live in America for whatever reason -- but where it counts, on the scale of subjective alarm over these terror threats and rumors of terror threats, I am with them, and I think nearly everyone else is too. Even right here in the USA, we too do nothing upon hearing these "warnings."

Sure, it's a big country, so there are undoubtedly exceptions, but people have long since tuned out the changing shades of the Fearfulness Rainbow and the stream of dire-sounding threats that go along with it. They barely register as background noise by now, and as John points out (via Andrew), they almost never translate into practical, concrete steps to be taken. Hence they come across as little more than an instruction to attenuate one's fear, and as I mentioned in a recent post, significant emotional states such as fear, love, loyalty, and revulsion don't respond to verbal commands, nor to color changes.

John:
I also understand that governments are in a kind of damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't position on this issue ....
No doubt they see it that way, but I am firmly in the damned if you do camp. Flashing the rainbow and announcing that hints of menace are afoot, somewhere in a continent, only discredit the announcer.

That's not to say there has been no effort made to prepare the public for what might come -- we are advised to keep an emergency preparedness kit and an emergency plan. These are sensible measures.

Fear and safety are colorless. Whether they are odorless is the subject of another post on another day.

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