If there is one concept in the modern age that needs to be folded, spindled, and mutilated, it is the idea of safety. Safety represents an entirely negative idea: the removal of risk, which inevitably translates into protecting the weaker from the stronger by neutering power. In order to fully render power impotent, however, those who desire safety must also limit the information which justifies power, specifically any knowledge above that upon which the weaker are acting as part of their modus operandi.
People in this modern age tend to view it as anomalous because of its technological advances. This outlook requires a fallacious assumption that technology exists on an absolute scale. Past empires have far exceeded the abilities of their neighbors in terms of technology, most notably the Greek, Persian, Roman, Mayan and Indian empires, but they fell by the same method the modern West is declining — class revolt, reckless outbreeding and corruption — mainly because technology alone does not insulate an empire from crisis.
Even the leadership equivalent of technology, advanced managerial and legal systems designed to dole out power in minute increments producing supposedly “equal” results, breaks down if given false starting assumptions or administered by those determined to circumvent it. In fact, management seems to work the opposite way of how it is intended by protecting the corrupt through its tendency to cloak them in authority and hide them behind a maze of rules, standards and measurements that baffle anyone but the extremely dedicated person with lots of time to sift through thousands of pages of bureaucratese.
These institutions justify themselves with the idea of safety, or the defense of people against potential harms, whether from themselves or others. Since the topic of our human tendency to do the exact opposite of what we need to be doing remains unpopular, their focus inevitably shifts to the mysterious enemy or scapegoat upon whom all failings can be blamed and in whose name all new powers can be rationalized. Like the mythological Satan, the best scapegoat is one who does not exist and cannot defend himself, such as the role of Emmanuel Goldstein in 1984 who seemed to be filled by various actors but may not have in fact existed at all.
If we scapegoat a nonsense entity, anything we attribute to that entity is assumed to be true without proof, and since the shadow figure cannot contradict that, all charges stick. To listen to those who advocate government and society being focused on “safety,” risks lurk behind every corner. Mattresses without tags will burst into flame and kill you; food additives will reach out and gift you with tumors in your sleep; bad thoughts will jump off the PDF page or out of a book and turn you into a full-fledged Nazi or anarchist setting cars ablaze. Naturally, risks exist, but not to the degree that the safety-advocates say they do, and they are limited by the choices made by those who encounter them. Few people who avoid smoking in bed find their mattresses suddenly ablaze, and the risk of most “dangers” is less than the chance of being stung to death by bees, while everyday threats like obesity, drunkenness, accident, and other forms of human lack of self-control are the most likely forces to kill any one of us.
Even more, statistics lie about circumstances. Most who die of the various terrors described in wide-eyed self-important glow by the news are elderly, and many who manage to damage or destroy themselves do so in the midst of disorganized lives where a long stack of bad, selfish and short-term decisions lead to conditions where nothing but failure remains. An obese person living in a trailer park in the path of a tornado, sucking down his 15th menthol cigarette and fourth cheeseburger of the day while drinking watery beer and re-attaching his propane tank using chewing gum — maybe even in a “hoarder” style whirlpool of useless possessions — faces one real risk, which is that the accumulated stupidity will find some way to snuff them. This is where modernity disconnects cause and effect; if someone under such circumstances dies from a mattress fire, is the mattress to blame, or simply the tottering house of cards assembled by the oblivious human?
Governments dedicate infinite resources to “educating” us about risks such that most public places are interrupted by ugly warning signs, blinking indicators and recorded messages. Hours of educational video, years worth of seminars and presentations, decades of mandatory classes and aeons of public policy discussion accompany these. If someone dies, it is a “tragedy” even if that person was worthless (and if we are honest, every single one of us considers some categories of people to be worthless) and brought it upon themselves, and through the magic of “accountability” we blame those in power for this unnecessary death.
And nothing is worse than death, we the assembled crowd think from our armchairs, because we fear nothing more than death itself. Thus we panic and foam at our mental mouths and demand that something be done. The press fans the flames with hysterical paranoia disguised as “advice.” Politicians make rules, ugly signs and blinkers go up, and we have another barrier of red tape and bureaucracy thrown in our path before we can accomplish simple life tasks. The accumulated rage makes us angry and we scapegoat the world, much like before that we scapegoated those who are more powerful than us. To take revenge on it, we find some reason to blame it, namely that it is bad and full of risk, and so we lash out at it with more rules. Then life gets more insufferable and the cycle begins again. Round and round. Round and round, again.
I suggest a society based on the creative principle instead: we focus on goals instead of fears. This requires recognition that life is not safe and never will be, and that the concept of “safety” — perceived as an abstraction in a universal context, then applied by our neurotic minds to every possible niche in our daily lives — is itself fallacious. We can design our society not to avoid risk, but to be logical, so that risk comes in proportion to our awareness of what is around us. This corresponds roughly to the results we get anyway, because even with thousands of rules idiots are dreaming up new ways to maim, mangle and murder themselves daily, but without the overhead of making ourselves into worrywarts.
What holds up this transition? I will submit to you this simple axiom: in a group of a hundred people, only a handful have actual direction. The rest have attached to something — a job, a sports team, a church, an ideology, a dollar amount — that they can believe in and they make their lives’ importance contingent upon that. When asked what they want from their leaders, they will not (unsurprisingly) state a goal, but fears. They have no goals, so what concerns their minds is interruptions of what they already have, like bad gamblers unwilling to take risks and therefore equating taking any risk with the behavior of compulsive risk-takers who rolled the dice and lost everything. In a society ruled by popularity, the fear of risk takes over from any attempt at goals.
Almost all public policy can be explained through the quest for safety. Patriotism is safety from foreign threats; diversity and welfare are safety through buying off the lower classes; global warming is a kind of talisman against our general fear of the sheer havok we are wreaking upon our environment. Democracy produces products in the form of visions, like how we project ourselves into the comfortable living room and stable families we see in video ads, and the best products channel an amorphous series of fears into a single symbol and produce a similarly symbolic solution. As with all human failings, our smart monkey-plus brains deceive us and we become a howling mob of simians demanding tangible assurances against an intangible order which determines our future.