January 2013 – Why Do We Scare Ourselves Like This?

We’ve outdone ourselves in 2012 conjuring up dire threats that have created a climate of fear. In some perverse way, we must enjoy this, because we continue sounding alarms with increased panic.

Fortunately, you just survived the end of the world!  The Mayan Calendar scare was supposed to happen on 12/21/2012, and here you still are, reading this article, days later. So, congratulations, you lived through Armageddon, just as the experts told us we would. Dr. John Carlson, NASA Director of the Center for archeo-astronomy, began studying the 2012 Mayan doom prophesy almost 35 years ago. Apparently the Mayans thought in much longer time intervals with their Long Count calendar, making it the most complex calendar system ever developed. They thought not just in thousands of years, but in millions and billions while they studied the stars in our universe. Dr. Carlson explains that with those kinds of big picture numbers, their calendar “rolls over” the way your odometer does when it passes the 100,000. So on 12/21/12, the Mayan Calendar simply rolled over to a re-start, not the end of the world. To any would be worriers out there, Dr. Carlson’s message is, this wasn’t a close call, it was just an unfounded misunderstanding. Someone saw a blank page and started worrying.

Remember the Y2K scare? For all the hoopla leading up to 12/31/99, and the number of companies that invested in new computer systems, it appears that the Y2K phenomenon was no more than another Mayan Calendar rollover scare. Is anyone out there aware of a single company that went out of business because of Y2K computer issues? Interesting, isn’t it?

2012 is special because less than two weeks after the “end of the world”, we now have to worry whether the US will drive headlong over the fiscal cliff. From fire and brimstone to financial collapse in just 10 days! Film at eleven!

To put this all in perspective, remember that the quickest and most powerful emotion we feel is that of fear. Fear gets people’s attention better than anything else, which explains its frequent use. We all become carriers if we pass on misinformation or fan the flames of rumor, and fear is always one of those things that people seem to want to share, so that explains its power. Fear can also be a great way of getting attention off ourselves and onto someone else.

So assuming that the Fiscal Cliff is, in actuality, another great example of both parties of our government continuing to kick the can down the road, while managing to keep us all in suspense, we will likely not fall into fiscal collapse. Although there are certainly some hugely important points for us to address about federal spending, economic stimulation, and federal revenue generation, the economy is not going to implode. This isn’t the first time; it’s just the next time, by the way.

Let’s presume that you’re convinced we’ll survive these events – what can we do to not scare ourselves so much going forward? How do we start to focus on solutions rather than just fear?

  1. Do your diligence. Don’t believe everything you see on the internet or that you get in an e-mail from someone who is trying to rile you up. Go do a little research and find the facts. www.factcheck.org is a great resource to monitor factual accuracy of U.S. politics.
  2. Don’t hit the “Forward” button quite so fast. Before you pull the trigger, figure out what you’re aiming for
  3. Challenge your sources! When it sounds too good, or too bad, to be true….it probably is. Instead of passing along a fear, put it to bed!

So Mr. and Mrs. Contestant….would you like “Disease and Pestilence” for $400? How about “World Terrorism” for $600? Or should we just get back to the game basics of Fix the USA for the grand prize?

Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year!


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