I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
-Bene Gesserit Litany – Frank Herbert, DUNE
I’m now 2 weeks away from my travel date, the closer it comes the more it seems discussions turn towards the continued search for MH370, the Ebola outbreak and World War 3. As much as you push it out of your mind it’s still lurking in there, asking a single question.
You catch looks briefly in your friends or relatives eyes, concern in their text messages and oddities in their Facebook posts. My mother posted an article on my Facebook wall about recently deceased Ebola victims reanimating, my response was “Finally I have a useful transferable skill set, I knew my research into the zombie apocalypse someday pay off!” Jokes aside I know the concern comes from a place of caring and is a by-product of the media’s constant psychological warfare.
It can be enough to paralyse you, keep you in a “safe” corner of the world, prevent you from taking risks with your job, following your dreams, your aspirations. To me that just feels like a different kind of death.
Doing anything is risk and doing nothing is risk.
Lets break it down old school.
We have had aeroplane disaster movies, aeroplane disasters, hijackings, terrorism all showing that aeroplanes are just flying coffins ready to rend asunder on the slightest of whims, its even turned into a parody of itself.
If watching The Young Ones taught me anything it’s “Statistically air travel is safer than crossing the road.”
Without just chucking a pile of numbers at you consider this, the global road toll for 2010 was 1.2 million people.
Just let that sink in for a second before we continue.
If every fatal traffic disaster was leapt on by the media to the same degree you would never watch the news again, it would be 24/7 Mad Max The Road Warrior, crash footage over and over, interviews with distraught family members, investigations into the car manufacturers. It would never end. It would also be demoralising and really depressing.
But we are used to that media’s treatment with air disasters. Why is that?
Ebola is the current cause for concern for many, it has killed 3,500 this year, it is no doubt a horrific disease. Again I’ll point you to that statistic of the global road toll in 2010 1.2 million. If the same level of concern was shown for motor vehicles they would be wrapped in plastic, no one would drive and even stepping onto a road would cause anxiety attacks. Now I am not trivialising it but although there is an element of risk using a car we accept that and move on. Obviously travelling to any of the Hot-zones in Africa would increase that risk substantially and be a very bad idea. Ebola is in fact less communicable than say the bird and swine flu epidemics by not being airborne. Being careful isn’t a bad idea, carry some Purell, wash and thoroughly cook produce you buy, avoid public restrooms. There is a difference between preparedness and hysteria.
Am I concerned? No more than accidentally looking the wrong way when crossing the street in another country and catching a face full of tour-bus, which nearly happened to me in Italy. Better ban streets as well as cars, just to be safe.
War and Terrorism
“Oceania was at war with Eurasia; therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.” – George Orwell, 1984
Most people only count the “official” wars in history, the ones with numbers behind them, if you have an even passing awareness of history, there hasn’t been a time when there hasn’t been a war in the last 100 years and possibly in the last 1000.
Sadly until human kind gets over its greed and ego it will likely continue.
Like in the previous example travelling to or through a known danger zone is likely a bad idea, however I’ll point out that the United States shoot down of Iran Air flight 665 caused a low level of coverage and little international reaction when compared to the Malaysian Airlines flight M17 over Ukraine, so apart from lunatics making bad decisions come in all nationalities what do people take away from this. Media coverage.
Travel Guru Rick Steves made a point about the state of terrorism and international travel that resonates deeply with me.
“I think we’re 300 million people and if we lose a few hundred people a year to terrorists, that doesn’t change who we are and it shouldn’t change the fabric of our society. Frankly I think we should get used to losing—as long as we’re taking the stance in the world of being the military superpower, you’re going to have people nipping at you. And if it’s hundreds or thousands—we lose 15,000 people a year to have the right to bear arms and most people think that’s a good deal, year after year. We spend 15,000 people for the right to bear arms. What do we spend to be as aggressive and heavy weight on this planet? We’re always going to have terrorism.” -Rick Steves, source Wikipedia/ Seattle Times
We all have limited time left, every birthday is a countdown, what does scare me far more than my own mortality is what I have seen and done with it so far. As much as I would like to write about sitting in the sun with kittens on my lap there is plenty of time for me to do that later in life.
This may not be the most reassuring piece you will read but it should give some perspective. I can travel the world and face the smothering fear that sells newspapers, advertising and drives internet traffic or stay home, worrying about my job, high blood pressure, getting too much sun exposure, getting too little sun exposure, gluten and the economy. I used to be afraid of those things, but for me it wasn’t living just existing.
We are the sum of our experiences, in that final equation I want it to balance with how I lived.