Everyone wants to feel safe. In a nation where we often find so little to agree upon, it is probable that the vast majority of Americans can agree that daily danger—except for that experienced vicariously through a television in the cozy comfort of our living rooms—is to be strenuously avoided.
There is, however, a point beyond which an aversion to risk becomes an unhealthful and unhelpful impediment to a life well lived.
Our very existence on this often unpredictable and sometimes hostile earth itself involves a certain degree of risk. Demanding absolutely safety at every turn impedes our ability to experience happy and fulfilling lives because excessive timidity keeps us from seizing opportunities that could make us happier.
We might be afraid to approach someone to whom we are attracted, so we end up lonely and miserable. Changing jobs could produce such a high degree of anxiety that we end up stuck in a dead end position that frustrates our hopes for the future. Relocating to another town or city—or even another country—will inevitably involve leaving behind people and places that are comfortable and familiar, so we might stay planted right where we are and miss out on fascinating life adventures as a consequence of our damaging inertia. Sticking to only those courses of action that we deem the safest can, paradoxically, rob us of happiness—and still steal away that safety that we desperately crave.
On a broader national scale, our collective fixation on personal safety morphs into a much larger and infinitely more damaging problem because, no matter how sturdy the cage we insist upon locking ourselves inside, our lives will continue to be beset with rough challenges to be overcome, and the people around us will behave as humans always have—strangely and sometimes stupidly. We cannot stop risk from creeping into our world no matter how fervently we wish it to be otherwise, and the line between thoughtful caution and damaging cowardice is easier to trip over than we might realize.
There seems, for example, no other plausible explanation for our Covid-19 craziness, a two year long irrational terror of a virus whose survivability is very close to 100%. We readily acquiesced as “two weeks to bend the curve” became a shameful and shocking national scandal that wiped out our country’s well being, introduced the most extraordinary and unprecedented restrictions on our movements and actions, and transformed seemingly reasonable adults into quivering children who carried around bottles of hand sanitizers as if they were teddy bears and pleaded for Big Government bureaucrats to protect them from all harm.
It was an national episode of mass idiocy that both exposed the shocking weaknesses of our safety-first culture and placed our most important personal liberties at the beck and call of officials who were themselves terrified—of being blamed by the most frantic fear mongers among us for not being sufficiently draconian.
Although it was quite the party for Welfare State absolutists who were thrilled at the prospect of spewing trillions of borrowed government dollars in every conceivable direction, our stupendous overreaction to a not-very-deadly virus revealed that reasonable adult restraint and circumspection was no match for mass hysteria and political opportunism.
If armies of carnivorous zombies had been marching down our streets and biting the heads off passing children, there would perhaps have been a reason for destroying our economy, driving our nation into even more dangerous levels of debt, disrupting our educational systems, incarcerating people in their homes, inflicting experimental vaccines on those with a minuscule risk of death, and engaging in utterly pointless masking theatrics—but even then it would have been outrageous to join the panic. It would have simpler to hand us each a shotgun so that we could hunt us some zombies, but this direct approach would have doubtlessly offended those who believe head-chomping zombies should not be subjected to discrimination.
Which leads to another discussion where our fears have overwhelmed our reason.
We are apparently today living in a nation where the hue of your skin determines your chances for a successful and happy life, and the only way to protect ourselves is to turn every conflict or controversy in America into a discussion about race. Although racism certainly still exists in America, and will continue to do so to some small degree no matter what we do, making our nation one where we are safe from the specter of racism has caused us to engage in a moral and existential overreach that is completely out of proportion to the actual scope of the problem.
A few telling statistics tend to quickly call the prevalence of actual racism today into question—and speak boldly to our nation’s success in escaping our sad history.
Presuming that our willingness to marry those of races different from our own is a robust and reliable indication of America’s tolerance and acceptance, a 2021 Gallup poll found that our approval of interracial marriage now stands at 94%. It would, of course, be wonderful if this number stood at 100%, but the approval rate that we have actually reached seems difficult to reconcile with the supposedly entrenched and pervasive institutional racism that plagues our nation—and justified the 2020 torching of so many of America’s cities.
If unrelenting bigotry is truly the defining characteristic of White Americans, it seems remarkable that 18% of Black Americans now marry someone of a different race or ethnicity, which perhaps brings new meaning to the phrase “sleeping with the enemy”, but also contradicts the preferred narrative of those who insist ours is a nation defined by its hatreds and preference for de facto segregation.
The recent effort to create “safety” for non-White Americans by pushing the questionable tenets of Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project through our schools and courts of law is a cure far more dangerous than the actual disease. Creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia where none needs to exist is akin to insisting that we cure our acne by amputating our heads.
Instances of actual racist behavior are, of course, despicable, but as with the chimeric quest for “Zero Covid”, it is impossible to completely eliminate every trace of stupidity in our populace. This is a sad fact, but it is equally sad—and dangerous—to try to press a narrative that builds walls rather tearing down the few remaining vestiges of past American bigotry through cooperative and collaborative efforts that build on the already remarkable heterogeneity of our nation.
However, this kind of tolerant and thoughtful dialogue is difficult in a country where we are told that safety is best pursued by shutting our mouths.
Creating the illusion of “safety” by endorsing pervasive surveillance and censorship of thought and expression is another highly questionable tactic—endorsed and implemented by the most supposedly brilliant minds in our country—that is putting America in the most dire peril.
Core freedoms that once defined our democracy are daily discarded in the quest to “protect” us from any idea that contradicts the elite narratives on topics ranging from gender to human rights to climate change. Where vigorous and fearless debate was once considered a fundamental and indispensable strength of America’s wildly successful experiment with self-governance in a diverse and vibrant society, one which has been widely admired and copied for centuries, we are now encouraged to shun any notion of questioning elite opinion makers, for asking questions only proves that we are hateful, dangerous, and ignorant—so we must be eliminated from participation in both public discourse and private employment.
The last decade of so of Cancel Culture has been an object lesson in blindly chasing safety—and falling off a cliff in the process. Fear has made us vulnerable to demagogues rather than saved us. Many in America and elsewhere realize this, but they have been silenced and ridiculed when they speak up, which only puts us all at further risk of making the bad decisions that lead to disastrous policies and cause widespread harm.
A perfect example of the grave danger we place ourselves in by censoring in the name of supposed safety is the manner in which overblown concerns about climate change have impeded the development and use of fossil fuel resources.
Now that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has turned gas, oil, and coal shortages into a form of economic warfare—and the spiraling prices of these natural resources have helped to finance Putin’s military—many nations have been caught flat footed, struggling to meet consumer, commercial and industrial needs for affordable energy because they choose unreliable and expensive Green energy grids, thinking it was “safer” for us all. America has, sadly, been equally shortsighted in this regard.
Due in large part to the anti-fossil fuel agenda of the Biden administration, we have been forced humiliate ourselves by begging enemy nations such Iran and Venezuela for oil—and even allies such as Saudi Arabia have told us to take a hike. Worldwide food insecurity now looms because fuel shortages have drastically reduced the production of the nitrogen fertilizers we need to feed a hungry world, and many will face the prospect of shivering through the cold winters ahead because they will not be able to afford the energy they will need to heat their homes.
Are we made safer by subsidizing the construction of windmills, or are we protecting ourselves right into famine and continued warfare? It seems likely the supposed safety promised to America by climate change extremists has instead instead put both our economic health and national security at risk.
Finally, circling back to the extraordinarily damaging and demented policies adopted by the American government during the Great Coronavirus Terror, all of which was done to placate those who dreamed of safety above all else, one can only wonder how much better off our nation would be today had we heeded the advice of the hundreds of thousands of scientists who signed The Great Barrington Declaration starting back in 2020.
Despite every official and media effort to silence their voices, again reminding us of the pernicious effects of both censorship and a panicky obsession with safety, these brave individuals tried valiantly to bring the world’s attention to the irreparable harm that our lockdown and shutdown policies were inflicting on individuals, arguing for more targeted approaches that would allow the vast majority of people to continue to live normal lives while adequately protecting those who were vulnerable because of advanced age or serious pre-existing medical problems.
If you never heard of The Great Barrington Declaration or its recommendations, it is little surprise. These more measured recommendations were considered irresponsible in comparison with the supposedly safer approach favored by those who turned our planet into a prison camp. It is a pitiable commentary on both our nation and world that we allowed irrational fear to crush us when a more responsible strategy was presented—and we are all less safe today as a result of the individual and economic damage we have inflicted on ourselves.
The importance of taking risks, understanding that risk is a part of life, and listening to those who dare to dissent is critical to solving the problems that we must face. Silence in the face of stupidity—whether we are talking of public health, racial relations, or energy policies—makes us no safer. We need to assume reasonable risks with our lives, careers, and thoughts, for if we continue to chase safety above all else, we will be in far more danger—and live far less fulfilling lives—as a result.