Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Price of Paranoia

Since 9/11, societies in general [Western countries in particular] have become more and more focused on security and safety issues. One might argue that is a healthy, normal, and laudable reaction to certain events that occurred around that time. I would argue the opposite, that it is a sick, bizarre, and laughable reaction to isolated and extremely rare events. Worst of all, our responses to these "threats" is costing us severely in many ways, and is taking priority over problems that are more important, urgent, and easier to solve.

Examples? Sure, I'll give you some examples.

1. Air travel/border crossings - I don't travel to or through the States anymore [four times in the last eight years], even though I live right across the St. Clair River from Michigan. The ridiculous requirements [especially in the States] to try and eliminate the 0.0000001% of incidents that happen due to terrorist attacks/hijackings are intrusive, cost billions in extra manpower and technology, and slow down/stop the free flow of goods and people.
COST - untold billions of dollars in time , manpower, and technology to uncover a threat that is really not there.
- secure cockpit doors, pilot training, and competent police force investigations.
Inspiring Event - 9/11. Not that Oklahoma thing. Right wing white guys did that so it is a fluke and does not count.......I guess.

2. Drinking water - When I was growing up drinking water from a tap was normal behaviour. Now, it is the height of risk taking. Bottled water? Are you kidding me? Well, at least they are not drinking Coke or Pepsi.
COST - billions of consumer dollars not to mention the environmental cost of all the plastic bottles that litter our landscape and must be recycled.
Solution -
proper water treatment facilities with trained personnel manning them.
Inspiring Event - Walkerton [in Canada] and I am sure others around the world.

3. Child Predators - You can accuse me of minimizing the real threat and its impact [which is devastating to say the least] but I am focusing on the threat from "strangers" who lurk in our neighbourhoods in trench coats. The real threat, well over 90% of these assaults, are from people already known by the children and parents. Parents, and society in general, have overreacted by virtually locking kids into their yards or homes, wasting legal/police resources on senseless investigations and prosecutions, and a special shout out to the media for raising a hub-ub for every incident they can find. If only they were as diligent investigating or publicizing the more serious, but less lurid, crimes of our governments and corporations.
COST- a generation of fat, lazy, socially isolated children, who will inherit our stupid fear of anyone strange/unknown. The dollar cost due to wasted justice system and media resources when they could actually be doing something worthwhile to society.
- background checks on coaches, teachers, etc. and some reasonable "training" for parents and children on predator awareness. Also, encourage children to actually play in parks in groups without adult supervision. The adults are the problem.
Inspiring event - I can't put my finger on a specific event, but there was a TV movie back in the seventies or so that seemed to catalyze this whole fiasco. For most people, probably a local occurrence.

4. Marijuana - You can almost include the whole war on drugs, but specifically the criminalization of weed is wasting legal resources on a potential gold mine for the government [re:taxes]. It is also destroying the lives of users who arrested and jailed for nothing worse than personal recreation [an oversimplification, I know, but that is my opinion].
COST- billions of manhours in the legal system, billions of dollars in prison costs, and hundreds of thousands of wasted lives of normally law abiding citizens. Not to mention the potential tax bonanza for our governments and the jobs that could be created in supporting this new industry.
- legalize it and regulate it.
Inspiring event - who knows? A cabal of crotchety old men [led by Nixon] who could not get laid in college? Just a guess.

The other hidden cost in all of these paranoias, and more that I could name, is our loss of civil liberties. In each of these cases the government and corporations justify intruding even farther into our lives. Whether it is monitoring phone conversations, internet usage, affiliations, ID cards, increase in police powers to search and seize citizens going about their normal lives, they are slowly inching [faster than that really] our society into a totalitarian state all in the name of making us safe and secure.

NOTE: This is my first post in eighteen months. I was inspired by the colossal waste of money that my Canadian government is spending to host the G8 and G20 summits. Most of it being justified to keep the leaders [a real rogues gallery of fools, dictators, and jackasses] safe and secure.