Thursday, March 31, 2011

Emotionalistic Safety

The panic that's been going on about the nuclear problems in Japan have reminded me how irrational people in general tend to respond to safety issues. They don't worry about facts, actual risks, or the safety measures put in place, but rather how "extreme" the consequences are if all should go wrong. Simply put, I think the most emotionally-driven segments of the culture are responding negatively to the nuclear problems mainly because of what serious health concerns (radiation, poisoned food/water supply, etc.) a disaster would bring, ignoring entirely what little possibility there may be of that happening and what safety mechanisms and intelligence there is to prevent all that. All they can project in their heads are glowing corpses, and that alone freaks them out enough to want to do away with nuclear energy altogether.

I take this to be evidence of some of the worst heights emotionalism can obtain. Such a mentality ignores facts almost entirely, instead focusing on how scared it is of the consequences, and can very easily put itself in more harm's way by giving up life-saving values in the name of "safety," such as the affect our energy supply and technology would sustain if we were to eliminate nuclear energy. I feel disgusted at the indulgence of emotion that goes on in that scenario.

To project this mentality smaller scale, an equal absurdity is people horrified of lightning. The odds of lightning striking you or your home are so incredibly slim that it's virtually guaranteed you'll never be hit in any sense during your lifetime, but the odds of you getting hurt in a car crash are incredibly higher. Yet I've seen those people hop in and out of cars without an ounce of concern, but when it starts to lightning outside they're frightened of showers, headphones, televisions, and so on. It makes no sense except to say that those people are freaked out at the thought of getting struck by lightning, perhaps remember every movie they saw someone get electrocuted in, and somehow are more comfortable with the thought of a car crash. I, for one, continue my life as usual when lightning storms hit; if I got struck and survived it'd be an awesome story to tell.

In order for constructive debate about the nuclear problems in Japan to progress productively people need to stop daydreaming about how horrible the consequences would look and feel, and start looking at the facts objectively. Just because something spikes your emotions and causes you to "freak" out doesn't mean that it's an objective danger. If society caves into this type of fear, choosing as "safe" those things that make them feel comfortable, we could very well bring the greatest dangers of all onto ourselves. Safety is not to be determined by whatever makes us feel good.

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