Allow me to lead off with a snippet of an old essay by humorist P. J. O’Rourke:
Something is happening in America, not something dangerous but something all too safe. I see it in my lifelong friends. I am a child of the “baby boom,” a generation not known for its sane or cautious approach to things. Yet suddenly my peers are giving up drinking, giving up smoking, cutting down on coffee, sugar, and salt. They will not eat red meat, and they now go to restaurants whose menus have inspired me to stand on a chair yelling, “Floppsy, Moppsy, Cotton-tail, dinner is served!” This from the generation of LSD, Weather Underground, and Altamont! And all in the name of safety! Our nation has withstood many divisions: north and south, black and white, labor and management; but I do not know if the country can survive division into smoking and nonsmoking sections.
As once anything was excusable in the name of patriotism, now anything is excusable in the name of safety. We will kiss some low place on every dishtowel-head in the Levant rather than have a single brecdcr reactor on our shores. We will make every lube artist in America learn Japanese rather than produce an enjoyable automobile. This is treason. America was founded on danger. How many lifeboat drills were held on the Mayflower? Where were the smoke detectors in the Lincoln family cabin? Who checked to see whether Indian war paint was made with red dye No. 2? It was the thrilling, vast, wonderful danger of America that drew people here from all over the world-spacious skies filled with blizzards and tornadoes, purpled mountain majesties to fall off, and fruited plains full of snarling animals and armed aborigines. America is a dangerous country. Safety has no place here.
[From Republican Party Reptile]
Great God in heaven, did he ever pin it!
The “safety” argument has been a greater destroyer of freedom than any other weapon in the Left’s toolbox. The COVID-19 paranoia campaign was only the most recent demonstration – and what a demonstration! Americans sacrificed every last element of their freedom in the name of a virus no more dangerous than influenza, for which cheap cures and therapies were already available. Worse yet, our compliance informed the Left that we could be herded like sheep if only we could be made sufficiently afraid.
“Afraid of what?” I hear you ask. Why, of one another, of course!
Thomas Sowell, among others, has told us that nothing is 100% safe. Indeed! To step across one’s own living room floor carries an element of risk, as a friend of mine could tell you after a recent broken hip. My best friend died two years ago from something most of us would regard as safe enough to risk without thought: he was a mere eight feet up a ladder and fell off. But the fall didn’t kill him; the hospital did. (I shall refrain from providing further details to avert a lawsuit.)
It didn’t just happen that a majority of the populace bought into the hysteria manufactured about a virus that doesn’t kill 99.8-something percent of the otherwise healthy population. They were primed to buy into it – by decades of programming about saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety being the single most important thing in life. Even to the extent of stifling the expression of life….
Safetyism hasn’t eliminated risk; it has sucked the joy out of living. A person who fears what-might-happen to an irrational degree is a person whose capacity to act is crippled since there is always something that might happen. This includes going for a walk outside on a sunny day. It might rain. You might be struck by lightning. To never go for a walk because it might rain and because you might get struck by lightning is a manifestation of severe psychological problems, an inability to gauge risk and accept that rational risk-taking is a normal part of life.
Now, those are the observations of a man in an inherently dangerous trade, one whose customers die on America’s roads at a rate of about 30,000 per year. Pretty dangerous, eh? But are you about to give up driving because of that risk? I’m not. I doubt you could find a hundred Americans with driver’s licenses who would.
The farce reaches peak farcicality when we consider what the COVID fear porn has done to young Americans: the cohort least likely to contract the virus, much less die from it. Their lives have been truncated. No school! No society! Very little of any of the normal routines and pleasures of life for a minor American. And thousands of them have suicided because of it. But of course, these are not reckoned up against the “lives saved” by the government-induced panic over the Kung Flu, any more than those killed by the so-called vaccines.
Once again I am put in mind of a striking passage from Steven Brust’s outstanding fantasy The Phoenix Guards:
“Let me tell you a story,” Aerich said.
“Ah,” said Tazendra. “I should like to hear a story.”
“Well then, here it is. Once there was a young man of the House of the Lyorn. He was raised in a proud family, and brought up in all the ways he ought to have been. That is, he was taught history, poetics, philosophy, sorcery, swordsmanship, penmanship, and the thousand other things necessary for one who is to rule over the lands and vassals he will someday inherit—for he was the eldest child, in fact, the only child of this family.”
He paused to sip his tea. Khaavren thought he detected an odd tremor in the Lyorn’s hand. He said, “Pray continue, good Aerich. You perceive we are all listening most adamantly.”
“Well, it so happened that at just about the time this gentleman reached the age of eighty—that is, well before, by the custom of his House, he was considered to have reached maturity—his father became involved in court politics. To be precise, he was called in by His Majesty, Cherova, for advice on settling matters with the King of Elde Island, whose name, I regret to say, escapes me.”
“I think it is not important,” said Khaavren. “Please continue.”
“Yes. Well, a certain individual, also of the House of the Lyorn, had, until that time, been advising His Late Majesty on the subject, but m—, that is to say, the young man’s father proved more able to conduct negotiations.”
“Well,” said Khaavren, “it would seem that this would be all to the good.”
“So it would seem, good Khaavren. Yet there are times when it is dangerous to succeed where another fails.”
“Ah. There was jealousy?”
“You have it exactly,” said Aerich. “And not only jealousy, but the power to act on it. The discredited advisor was not above using subterfuge and hiring known thieves. It began to appear as if the successful advisor were unscrupulous. The evidence mounted until, driven to distraction, the gentleman began to fight back in ways he would never have thought himself capable of using. Of course, this was discovered, and, in less time than one would have thought possible, the successful advisor became the discredited one, and, furthermore, all of his lands were taken and he died a broken, penniless man, leaving his son trained to rule a fief that was no longer in the family.”
Khaavren studied his friend for some moments, then said, “And the unscrupulous advisor, could his name, perhaps, have been Shaltre?”
Aerich stared at him coldly. “I have no idea to what you could be referring. I was telling a story, to illustrate a point.”
“And the point, good Aerich?”
“The point is that it is sometimes dangerous to meddle with those who have fewer scruples than you do; you may lose more than your life. You may lose a stake you didn’t know you had set onto the board.”
“And yet, good Aerich, was the Lyorn wrong to have done what he could for the Empire?”
“Ah, as to that, I do not say. I merely bring up a matter for you to consider before you dive headlong into danger of an unknown sort, from an unknown quarter. We have no worry for our lives, after all; they have belonged to the Empire from the moment we took our oaths. But what are we prepared to risk, my friends? Surely this deserves some consideration.”
As he spoke, Khaavren felt a sudden chill, as if, in the winter, a window had been left open and cold air, unmistakable in feeling yet indefinite in source, had touched the back of his neck and sent its tendrils down his spine. He sent a glance at Pel, who was frowning and staring at the floor.
Tazendra, however, said, “But consider that, if we do nothing, we are giving in to fear of the worst sort—the fear of unknown dangers. We may scorn a man who runs from a battle he cannot win; how much more should we scorn a man who runs from a place where he thinks there might be a battle that perhaps he cannot win?”
Khaavren stirred. “I think our friend the Dzur has the right on this, good Aerich.”
The Lyorn sighed. “Yes,” he said. “I’m afraid I agree. And you, good Pel?”
The Yendi made a dismissing gesture with a wave of his hand. “We are young, we are brave, and we are four together. If we let fear direct us now, what will we do when we have lived a millennium or two, and know the full measure of terror? We will be afraid to throw a stick in a river, lest we be splashed by water that has somehow been poisoned. I agree with Tazendra.”
Life is for living – and for those who will live it in cognizance of its possibilities. Life cannot be usefully lived by one who fears so widely and so deeply that he hesitates to set forth on any course without first preparing every imaginable defense against every imaginable hazard.
Now reflect on the aims of a government that would deliberately spread irrational fear among its citizens as a method for depriving them of every last speck of their God-given freedoms. For if there is anything sensibly to be feared, surely a government that would do that would qualify.