Waking up worried these days

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist laments the growing amount of fear in society

Gord Turner

Gord Turner

It seems as if every time I wake up these days something disastrous has occurred somewhere on earth. We had the airliner from Malaysia to China disappear with the result that hundreds of families and relationships were disrupted.  We had the ferry boat go down off the coast of South Korea with all the school children drowning. Then the other day, a passenger plane carrying hundreds of people was shot down by a missile, a byproduct of a local war.

It used to be we had nothing to worry about except worry itself. Now anything can happen, almost anywhere. It’s got to the point that people are wondering if it wouldn’t be better to go back to the relative peace of an earlier era when folks didn’t travel as much. In their old age, a lot of retired people wandered to the local library or sat on benches out in the sun. To travel to the next town—Castlegar to Grand Forks, for example—took a lot of effort and often was a major outing.

In our time, many people look forward to retirement to travel to exotic places in the world they never had time to get to. This requires traveling long distances by many means of transportation—various airlines, taxis, shuttles, trains and cruise ships. Then along come pirates off the coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean who board ships, rob everyone on board, and threaten lives. Then you hear about cruise ships running aground and passengers stranded or left to die.

Some families are asking their traveling members to forego their many travels because of worry about possible disasters. They believe the wayfarers might become hostages somewhere or simply body parts in a field. The statements run something like these: “Planes are always crashing, cruise ships are always capsizing, ferry boats are always running aground, trains are always being derailed and people are always facing death.” And I have to agree that it’s scary if one focuses on these major disasters and makes them into the norm.

The word ‘always’ in these statements, however, is the problem. Disasters are not ‘always’ happening, but in our era of instant communication and in-your-face documentation by the media, it seems so. Malaysian Airlines, whose two planes have been the focus of both a disappearance and a shoot-down, sends out hundreds of flights daily and carries thousands of people to their destinations. Airline travel remains a safe way to travel, but the mishaps and the media coverage scare people.

I’ve always taken the position that if you “run scared,” you will never do anything or go anywhere. If you have traveling in your blood, you should forget these incidents and plan your next trip. If you finally can afford to travel or now have the time, you should visit a travel agent. You should not give in to the travel paranoia that’s creeping into our collective and individual consciousness.

I guess any of us could end up in a disaster or difficult situation somewhere else in the world. But then you could step onto a street downtown and be run over by a passing car just as readily. You could drive around a corner and end up in a highway accident or rollover. Bad things do happen on the streets and sidewalks of our own towns—and often in our own homes.

It’s psychologically true, however, that a major disaster freaks us out in a way that a less dramatic episode featuring one or two individuals does not. The big event lurks forever and makes us wary.

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