Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Fear Exhaustion

     This morning, Sarah Hoyt notes a tragic death: a man who decided not to fear the Wuhan virus:

     A Virginia pastor who criticized the “mass hysteria” surrounding the coronavirus pandemic has died of the illness, according to new reports.

     Landon Spradlin, of Gretna — a small town halfway between Lynchburg and Danville — started to feel sick while in New Orleans, where he went to preach to the crowds gathered for Mardi Gras celebrations, according to the BBC.

     A month later, Spradlin — who was also a seasoned musician inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2016 — died.

     [T]he pastor said he believes the coronavirus “is a real issue, but I believe the media is pumping out fear and doing more harm than good.”

     There's an important phenomenon being played out for our viewing pleasure, and Pastor Spradlin is one point on the graph. Each of us has:

  1. A certain level of risk-aversion;
  2. A limited supply of "fear energy."

     If Smith is highly risk-averse and Jones is not, then a threat that would make Smith cower behind a locked door will leave Jones unaffected. The threat might be real, in the sense that some percent of those who don't take the necessary precautions will be afflicted by it. Some might even die. But Jones is willing to accept the risk involved, whereas Smith is not.

     But the "fear energy supply" matters, too. If Smith has been terrified repeatedly over a range of threats, his ability to fear another one actively — call it his marginal fear-reaction capacity — might be down to zero. Under such circumstances Smith is likely to be paralyzed by the new threat. He'll fear it, but he won't be able to respond with deliberate action as he has to the threats he already fears.

     Quite a lot of Americans are in Smith's position. Consider the many things the media has tried to get us to fear. Yes, many of them have proved (or will soon prove) to be phantasms. That doesn't matter to the risk-averse. While the Wuhan virus might terrify them, their capacity to deal with this marginal fear has been they refrain from doing things that those who still possess a non-zero marginal fear-reaction capacity think wise.

     Pastor Spradlin had either exhausted his fear energy or was a "Jones" whose level of risk tolerance was higher than many others. If he got the dirty end of the stick, that doesn't mean he was in some objective, absolute sense "wrong," any more than a cliff-climber whose equipment fails him and sends him plummeting to his death was "wrong" to embrace his dangerous pastime.

     But beyond that, there are issues of governmental usurpation of authority – incursions into Americans’ few remaining freedoms – before us. The Wuhan virus, and the fear of it promoted by the media and assorted power-mongers in government, has enabled government at all levels to do something that has never even been attempted before: a nationwide “quarantine” that locks all of us into our homes, whether or not we’re sick.

     If that doesn’t terrify you, check your pulse: you may have died and not noticed.

     With regard to this subject and many, many others, I exhort my Gentle Readers to read Sarah’s essay from Monday. It’s both personal and passionate. A snippet:

     This is a situation designed to induce madness, particularly when all our news apparatus is trying its best to drive us to panic fear, because they think they can use it to then panic us into socialism. Destroying the economy is a plus value in this, as then we’ll need (they think) socialism. Socialism never really fixes such situations, but it is often something people embrace when desperate (before they get defeated and starve.)

     He who genuinely prizes freedom and understands how fragile and easily infringed it is will resonate to her sentiments. He who doesn’t? Well, let’s just say he’s exactly the sort of low creature the government-run school system has been trying to produce these past sixty years.


Paul Bonneau said...

"Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread."

Fear is the useful emotion that deters us from becoming dead fools. It does this by modifying our behavior to a better course, one we are more likely to survive. Too much fear can paralyze, so it's a good idea to have some manner of control over it, but not so much as to ignore it entirely.

One thing we can be sure of, in these times: the government cure will be worse than the disease.

Something I wrote about fear, some years ago:

Unknown said...

Its even questionable whether the man died of covid, as they are listing all deaths as from covid.

Lying liars lie.
I don't believe anything anymore.