Monday, August 29, 2011

Preparedness vs fear mongering

It's not a contradiction that has been lost on me, that I incessantly preach preparedness but mocked the hysteria surrounding Hurricane Irene this weekend. No doubt friends and family thought to themselves, but this is what you talk about all the time ... being prepared. However there is a contradiction lost on most people, that, while preppers like me are paranoid and irrationally worried about the future, when the government overreacts and whips up unwarranted hysteria, they're just looking out for your best interests. Hey, at least they didn't underreact!

Indeed, the ability to bug out should be on top of your preparedness checklist. And hey, if you want to bug out in the face of a relatively weak storm, there's no harm in that and I certainly won't criticize you. If I had still lived in NJ, three blocks from the ocean and only a few miles from where Irene made landfall, I probably would've moved inland, just in case my home got flooded, which my neighborhood was certainly prone to. 75mph winds are, frankly, more of a nuisance than anything.

What I'm talking about is blatant fearmongering from the media and the government. Today, the National Hurricane Center is on the defensive, although I'm not sure why. Sure, they predicted Irene would reach category 4 status, while it never got above 2. This was while the hurricane was still in the Caribbean. But I don't recall them telling anyone this was Katrina in the East, and even as the despicable mayor Bloomberg and Jabba the Hut, governor of NJ, were predicting Armageddon, the worst prediction that was made was that Irene would be a hurricane in name only as it hit New York City - with winds of 75mph, as opposed to 65mph in actuality.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg ordered the forced evacuation of 300,000 people, which I am happy to report, went mostly unheeded. But to force compliance with that evacuation, he ordered mass transit shut down a full 14 hours before Irene struck NY. This action was unprecedented; not even on 9-11 was mass transit shut down. Ditto NJ, where a state of emergency was declared 2 days before the hurricane hit, and mass transit shut down along the same timetable as New York City.

Today, damage control is in full effect, and the media and government spin is still in overdrive. Whereas prior to the hurricane they were hyping the danger, now they must hype the damage, lest the impression be given that they overreacted. While most people are clearing the twigs and leaves from their lawns, and pumping water from their basements, Obama holds press conferences with Napolitano, making sure people are adequately afraid of the hurricane's wrath long after it crossed the Canadian border. Jabba the Hut is claiming damage in his state alone could be in the tens of billions, a ludicrous assertion.

What we have just witnessed is the government and the media, under fire and losing support from the plebs, for good reason, trying to assert themselves to prove to people they are relevant. It was a test balloon set aloft to see how much hysteria could be whipped up over what was, in relative terms, a non-event. Just how much, exactly, are they able to dictate your reality? Can they make you abandon common sense and whip yourself up into hysteria when all indications are it's completely unwarranted?

I lived in NJ the first 36 years of my life, and, while not experiencing hurricanes on the same regularity and intensity as, say, Florida, I've experienced my fair share. My memory may not fully serve me, but, if the storm actually managed to maintain hurricane strength by the time it reached the cooler waters off the mid-Atlantic, only one was higher than category one (Gloria, 1985, category two). During any of these storms, I can't recall even losing power for any extended period. Even during Gloria, the worst hurricane I've seen, if power was lost it was not for more than a few hours; the most extensive damage I can remember was a neighbor's fence being destroyed, and my pool cover blowing off.

While there is always the danger of freak accidents happening, like a tree breaking in half during a particularly strong gust and falling on your house or car, or of course storm surge or flooding in coastal areas, these storms are of no particular concern. There are numerous weather events that occur yearly that can cause similar damage and life threatening situations - a severe thunderstorm, the numerous nor'easters that strike every year - yet by uttering the word hurricane they expect us to be adequately terrified and feign great anger and disdain if you're not.

What's just as maddening as the initial overreaction is the fear being spread that warnings during a more perilous event will then go unheeded. This is to say that people, lacking common sense or any ability to think for themselves, will only have the government and its kept media to rely upon to dictate to them how dangerous any given situation is. As if we won't take serious, on our own account, the approach of a category 4 storm, and then ignore the government's warnings because they overreacted the last time. I suppose for many people, this will be the case. I've actually been scorned by family members for not adequately expressing concern for their well-being, as if their well-being was ever really threatened. There is fantasy and there is reality: the fantasy was that this was a dangerous and perilous storm; the reality is the collective yawn would be palpable if they called it a nor'easter. Kind of dangerous, kind of destructive, but to the overwhelming majority of people, a nuisance. A minor inconvenience. While I wasn't there to witness this storm, I am certain I've experienced nor'easters that were far more perilous than hurricane Irene.

Meanwhile, I experience tornado warnings every two weeks or so, which never make national news, and therefore never prompt worried calls from friends and family. Your typical southern thunderstorm, with its violent lightning, high winds, and deluge rains, not to mention occasional tornado, is far more frightening than a low-end hurricane any day, I assure you.

The truth is, TPTB have spent many generations crafting a society based on fear. There is always something to be afraid of; your life is in constant peril. The more fear and panic they can generate, the more they can control your actions. They want you to look at the normal ebbs and flows of life as if it's a constant struggle to keep from being murdered by terrorists, getting sick from viruses, or being killed by minor weather events, etc. People who don't take these things seriously are castigated; others find your lack of concern, however warranted, insulting. As if it's based on a lack of love or compassion, rather than a refusal to think and feel how others try to make you think and feel. I don't ask, "How high?" when they tell me to jump, and I don't apologize for it. Is that a lack of compassion, or do I just have too much faith in people?

Or, is it that we need to grow a set of balls, and, while preparing for the worst, not make an apocalypse out of nothing?

People, in their hysterics, take severe issue with me calling this a non-event, ignoring everything else I've said. Of course an event occurred, and it cost many people dearly. But rather than treating this like it's the sort of thing that just happens, naturally, every day, somewhere in the world, people insist on relishing the role of victim, demanding the whole world feel guilty for not suffering along with them, or not showering them with empathy as if they were helpless children. Death is a part of life, and anyone who promised you a life free from danger, lied to you. Be prepared, not an hysterical victim.