My wife and I were giving thought to our upcoming vacation plans. Would it be Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, or Belize. Or perhaps we'd stay on U.S. soil and go for the Pacific Northwest, Cape Cod, or maybe Alaska? While considering this my thoughts went from the news of drug cartels and their abductions and killings of innocent people, to the Swine flu, cholera, or malarial sicknesses which seemed to dominate the news south of the U.S. border. For a moment, I felt a pang of panic. To stay in the U.S. is probably the safer choice. Okay, but wait a minute! What about terrorist attacks on U.S. soil; that could happen anywhere. And certainly drug trafficking, car-jacking, and senseless acts of violence are not limited to Mexico and Central America. For that matter, neither is the Swine flu.

About then, I saw a television commercial where the mother was waiting for her child to board a school bus for the first time. A pang of fear swelled up, again, as I thought of child abductions, school house shootings, or playground sexual assaults; how can parents endure the threats facing their children in today’s world? When I was younger, I'd go off on my own without giving much thought of the dangers involved; make my plans, gather my gear, make sure I was well outfitted, and go – even if by myself. Now we’ve become a society of fear and loathing for anything that might put us in unreasonable jeopardy.
While I realize there has been an overall increase in crime in general, our awareness of these crimes have increased in recent years predominantly because of the media and the Internet. Hardly an event can pass without the news channels exploiting the fear and anxiety of the senseless crimes; movies depict extremely violent acts because, that’s entertainment; video games are becoming more and more hostile and marketed to young teens and children without consideration of their innocence. We’ve been led down a path of social hysteria due, in large part, to media sensationalism. Violence sells. That’s what we’re really facing. What is marketable? The media further compounds our fears by emphasizing the threat of death from prescription drugs, the inevitable cancer from mother’s breast milk, and brain damage from watching too much TV, oh and let’s not forget carpal tunnel syndrome from too much Internet porn. We’re becoming a society that embraces apprehension rather than optimism.

Perhaps what is really needed is to take a step back and look at our society . Should we really dread walking outside for fear the rain might contain acid, or should we embrace it and let it lighten our spirits. My wife, Cara, of Choctaw decent, is a glorious exception to the prevailing fears that encompass our society; she, resolutely, fears nothing. She takes her action without giving consideration to global events. She’ll face off a person who throws trash on the street until the person relinquishes and tosses the trash back into their car. Before she retired as a school teacher, she would routinely stand up to gangster wannabes demanding they adhere to the rules or suffer the consequences. It was her look at me when I frowned about our vacation choices that made me wake up to the realization that I had allowed myself to be drowned in the stigma of irrational fear.

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Comment by Nathan Jarred Jones on August 16, 2009 at 10:36pm
I think that is a great analysis of the condition. Allophobia would seem to describe the effect of the news articles have on the general population. We, therefore, fear the differences in other people, not because there is an evident reason to fear these people, but because the propaganda makes us fearful. We are led to believe that stories of violence are the case with any other class of individual exist in the norm.

Whether the condition exists in other parts of the world, I don't know. I would suspect it would simply because of human nature. Take, for example, the stir that is being caused in Great Briton now because of Health Care issues. The Americans are the ones who are hyped about Health Care Reform and, until recently England had been quiet about their policies. But now because we've raised the issue, and we're willing to drag the U.K into our squabbles in order to raise hysteria to a new level, we see their people beginning to show the same disagreements with there packages.

I don't know, perhaps we could get a dialog going to discuss this issue further with others from the Eastern Hemisphere.
Comment by NIKOS GOUSGOUNIS on August 16, 2009 at 4:52pm
I think that all that Nathan is decribing can be named Allophobia, or the fear for the OTHERNESS.; People in the West are dressed to be suspicious to whatever DIFFERENT because UNKNOWN and allthese hysterias and panic is selling in the media very well. If this is a recent culturaltrend of the West for the reasons described above , it rests to notice what is happening in the REST of the World not including the West. This should be a very interesting challenge for active anthropologists and here the notion of OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY will be proved to be true or not true.


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