By A. Boomer
“The worst evil one has is the anticipation of the calamities that do not happen” – Benjamin Disraeli
Project Fear as a concept first came to the public notice during the Scottish referendum.
Now Cameron is mobilising it again for the Brexit referendum.
But perhaps it was Tony Blair who invented it with the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in the Dodgy Dossier.
But now it is everywhere. In the latest outbreak, we are told that one in four people will suffer from mental ill-health next year, with young people being especially vulnerable.
So surely it is time to ask whether all this fearmongering itself is healthy for us? Should we be subjected to a constant litany of warnings, threats, advice and general pessimism?
One thing’s for sure and that is that low level anxiety threatens to break out into full-scale panic at any time – that was seen during the recent controversy over child meningitis.
Jennie Brown, headmistress of St Albans High School for girls has said, writing in a Sunday newspaper: “Children of the millennium didn’t play unsupervised outside, they didn’t climb trees or get back for supper with torn jeans and wet wellies. The state and the education system have fetishised protection, parents have cosseted their children.” This generation has had no experience of the privations and dangers their grandparents – the wartime generation – faced, she said, and concluded: “An epidemic of protectiveness has created a monstrous inability to cope with difficulty.”
Yes blame the parents – but surely the parents were not responsible for the atmosphere of fear and anxiety in which we are now all forced to live and which, in the age of instant global communications, is throwing up huge social and personal problems, with young people in the front line.
- It is now routine to hear from one report or another that the millennials, or generation Y, or twenty-somethings, face a poorer life both now and in the future than their parents did. Their pension, if they have one, will only support an impoverished retirement on top of the state pension – if there is one.
- Another staple of the gloom bulletins is how graduates cannot find suitable jobs and half of them are flipping burgers or working in call centres, whereas back in the day….
- Not to mention the ever wilder estimates of how much student debt the average young worker is carrying around.
- The ever higher age at which they are likely to get onto the housing ladder, if ever.
- We face cancer, diabetes, dementia, you name it, from just about anything we eat, and some so-called experts are now demanding dementia checks for anyone over 40 so Britain can boast being “the most dementia-friendly country in the world”….or just the most demented?
- We are urged constantly to check our credit rating, which most of us never knew or cared we had, partly so that commercial organisations can profit from inducing enough of us to do so.
- Even before the latest Brussels attacks, a government spokesman was warning us all about the imminence of a “marauding gunman attack”…sweet dreams!
- Tumble-driers. Even the humblest of kitchen appliances carries hidden menace. The Exploding Tumble Drier sits there ready to ignite the fluff and burn down the kitchen, the house, the whole block. We are not even safe in our own homes.
The fearsome power of social media and instant news on our phones makes us vulnerable, at any moment, to another bout of debilitating fear or worry. But what irks me is that the airwaves and cyberspace seem to be dominated by the phoney fears, not the real issues we should be concerned about.
Yours will be different, but whatever they are I am sure they are more valid than the manufactured worries that the authorities constantly hector us with – as a distraction from the serious ones.
So after my eight phoney scares, here are my eight real concerns.
- The internet. If you find yourself reaching to answer the phone only to find it never rang you could be suffering from ‘ringxiety’. A study found that internet-dependent teenagers are increasingly lonely, with many lacking the confidence to cope with simple personal interactions – such as answering the front door. Of 1000 12 to 17 year olds surveyed by Kings College London, 60% said they were lonely and a third found it hard to make friends.
- Personal debt is at an all-time high in our country, as the low interest rates have encouraged a borrowing spree and helped prop up the economy – just like it did a decade ago. One expert who did predict the global financial crash of 2008 has recently warned there will be another, and worse than the last one. William White, who now works for the OECD, says: “At a certain point when something is unsustainable it will end.”
- We never cease to be warned about global climate change but what about the pollution on our streets? Diesel engines are causing 50,000 deaths a year and the politicians don’t appear to have noticed, as long as the motor manufacturers need to keep selling those 4x4s. Blood-curdling threats about Alzheimers are all very well, but might pollution be to blame?
- Yes, you don’t have to be in a protest camp to believe that globalisation is the means by which governments and elites are organising the whole world to their benefit, and the detriment of ordinary people worldwide.
- More ‘stuff’ will not make us happier (at least those of us who already have plenty). That’s the view of ‘happiness expert’ Professor Paul Dolan of the London School of Economics. He says joy and purpose are to be found not in things but in experiences – listening to music, being outdoors, helping someone else.
- Conflicting advice. Chief medical officer Sally Davies said recently that every time she takes a glass of wine she asks ‘is this going to give me breast cancer?’ Yet for years we have been told by the experts that wine is good for us, it’s part of the Mediterranean diet! Then there is sunlight. We are constantly being warned of the dangers of skin cancer and blindness, but at the same time told that lack of Vitamin D – which we get mainly from sunlight – leads to a catalogue of illnesses, some of them very serious.
- The housing shortage – leads to high prices, high rents, intergenerational unfairness, and successive governments tinker round the edges.
- Finally, war and poverty round the world – the 24-hour newsfeed can numb us to the shocking reality of global inequalities and suffering, and our sad wee donations never seem to make a difference.
The question I am left with is this: are governments actually using fear deliberately? Do they believe it will nudge us into adopting the attitudes and behaviours that suit their agenda? Are they distracting us from noticing the real problems which they appear impotent to tackle and address?
Are they weaponising fear in order to control us?
Now that really is something to worry about!