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Author Topic: It's Hip to be Scared  (Read 1398 times)

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Mothra

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It's Hip to be Scared
« on: September 11, 2013, 03:06:07 PM »

Thought this article on how our generation has adopted a sort of persistent, bracing dread pretty interesting. It is mighty depressing, mind you, but I definitely thought it was worth a read.

Quote
Itís this sense of inevitable destruction, this floating paranoia and devout belief that disaster and massive, massive wrongdoing is unavoidable, that I think increasingly defines my generation, if not the world. Itís been 12 years since 9/11, and a horrific war rages on in the Middle East, and weíve more or less retreated from most of the heroic postures we struck there less than a decade ago. Itís been 5 years since the financial crisis, and everyone who was responsible for it not only got away with it, but actively profited from it, punishing civilians while the authorities looked on, either helpless or attempting to assume the image of helplessness. And itís been less than a year since we discovered that, yeah, actually, the government is recording every single thing you do. We havenít yet experienced the consequences of this, not fully, but we all seem to agree that we will.
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Mongrel

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2013, 04:40:12 PM »

I think there's also a segment of the population that actively craves for a disaster to hit some big reset button. Zombie fantasies, yahoos hoping for a world economic collapse or WWIII, stuff like that. They feed the fearful and in turn feed off of them.

There's also the issue of people being outmatched by the power of modern western governments and multinational corporations like never before. I'm not sure this is the right thread, but there's also the issue of the vast refinement of practical mind control. I don't mean like sci-fi brain probes or syringes full of sopalamine, I'm talking about the hundreds of thousands of little programs put forth to shape our behaviour in subtle ways, usually for really stupid pedestrian things, like getting us to buy doritos or trinkets in video games.

We're actually in the middle of a vast experiment to look into the way our brains react to stimuli, only it's not an experiment anyone agreed to, it's been spontaneously crowdsourced to thousands of different companies and organizations. That research could also be put to positive ends, or at least we could better guard against the worst effect, but because there was no discussion about this, we understand only vaguely and there's no conversation about how to handle it. THAT'S the shit I find scary, myself.

I don't know if that's really appropriate for this thread or if that's a different topic. I think I should make a separate discussion, but I can't help but think it contributes to the sense of powerlessness that contributes to this zeitgeist. There are other things too, just as important: Real declines in material prosperity, losses in security beyond just government spying, social dissatisfaction (there's another whole argument about how social media have affected our interactions, potentially negatively).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in shitty times, everything goes down together in a slow-moving shit avalanche. Sometimes you can see specific things in there like bits of corn, yesterday's old boot, or a cold glistening chunk of raw fear, but it's part and parcel of this whole fucking greater mess we're in, social, environmental, economic, international, etc.
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Zaratustra

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2013, 06:52:29 PM »

I guess the writer of the article forgot about the Cold War and the omnipresent Red Scare? The only period in contemporary history Americans were raised without fear of some vague impending death is 1991-2001.

Even the resurgence of zombie movies is timed to a general feeling nobody knows what the fuck they're doing - end of Vietnam War, 1975, end of Bush government, 2008.

I would be loathe to point to any single successful movie as a stamp of the zeitgeist. You need to look at trends, not directorial marks.

Robertjbennett

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2013, 01:02:39 AM »

Hello, this is the author of the above mentioned post. Your comment was interesting to me, and I wanted to ask you some questions:

How many unsuspecting American civilians did the Soviet Union, or any other national authority for that matter, manage to kill on American soil?

If the Soviet Union was to kill American civilians en masse, what do you think their strategic goal would be? And would this strategic goal be comparable to those of the perpetrators of, say, the Boston Marathon Bombing? If the Soviet Union put a bomb on an American plane, do you think they would do so with goals similar to those of the Underwear Bomber?

How do you feel the leadership structure of the Soviet Union, or any other opposing national authority we've dealt with in the past, is similar to the leadership structures of the myriad, nebulous, and ever-changing terrorist organizations we've been opposing for the past 15 years?

Would you say that the Cold War achieved a definite end when the Soviet Union collapsed? If so, can you envision, given the current global state, a definite, absolute, final end to the War on Terror in a manner that is similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union? Do you think it would be possible for all terrorist networks - which, as I said above, are myriad, nebulous, ever-changing, and nomadic to boot - to totally and utterly collapse, kaput, over, forever, in a region stretching from North Africa to the Hindu Kush, across over a dozen different countries?

If you consider the answers to these questions, would you say that it is possible that the War on Terror might have a very different effect on national outlook and popular culture than the Cold War, or the Vietnam War, or even World War II?
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Zaratustra

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2013, 01:23:38 AM »

So basically you mean "People used to be scared, but not in the way -we- are scared, our scared is totally more real". OK.

And sure, I can envision a end to the War of Terror.  Follow me:

The government stops using "terrorism" as an excuse for any and all breaches of privacy, and people just go on with their lives.

Sometimes a car bomb explodes, and sometimes a pressure cooker is turned into the world's worst claymore mine. Three or four people die from that. The news has nothing to report because terrorism is not the word of the day, the action is treated like a random event from unhinged individuals, government promises to do things that never actually come into fruition, everyone's convinced the world is crap, and soon things get back to normal. (Except for the two hundred people that need counseling for a few years, of course.)

A one-sided war is over as soon as you stop fighting it.









Royal☭

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2013, 01:47:47 AM »

Maybe an end of terrorism involves a re-evaluation of how we consider violence and imperialism in society. Terrorism as an act has been less of a problem in our lives - mostly because of its vagueness and complexity - than Terrorism as an idea. It's mere idea, much like the propagandized threat of the Soviet Union, is used to justify declarations of war as well as intrusive invasions of privacy.

Really, my biggest complaint about the article would be that, to quote the dude, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man. If you really want to get the impression of how people feel about the world, it might be good to actually speak with them. I personally don't fear constantly. At least no more than I feel happiness, anger, optimism, cynicism, pessimism, etc. And it seems to me that the fact that people are going on, attempting to make lives for themselves and that Preppers are still a minority in society would suggest that no, people aren't living in constant fear of some destruction.

MarsDragon

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2013, 02:07:05 AM »

I'm still more frightened by the idea of nuclear war than terrorists, for what it's worth.
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R^2

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2013, 02:20:41 AM »

I'm still more frightened by the idea of being broke and homeless than terrorists, for what it's worth.
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Mongrel

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2013, 03:47:50 AM »

I'm still more frightened by the idea of being broke and homeless than terrorists, for what it's worth.

Yeah, this seems way more relevant to me. The fear the author describes is a factor, but only as smaller part of a bigger whole.
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Brentai

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2013, 04:39:48 AM »

I think Zara kind of accidentally hit upon a point, which is that if our generation is exceptional at all it's that we were exposed to a period of time that WASN'T marked by some sort of hanging threat.  No ongoing wars, no nuclear scare, no massive civil rights battle, the economy was impeccable, the terrorists were incompetent, and even the far-off confusing tribal conflicts mostly produced amazing cellists.  All we had left to worry about was petty crime, gays in the military, and what the President was doing with his dick.

If we feel like we're more put-upon than our ancestors then it's because we've been tricked into thinking that peace and prosperity are the natural order of things, rather than a fleeting prize won at a heavy price.
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Mongrel

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2013, 04:53:36 AM »

There have been some periods like that in the past. It's been a damn long time though.

I'm not really sure that that many people were that "conditioned" though. The window you're talking about was very brief - maybe ten years. You have to be of a very very particular age - narrower than just "generation Y" - to not have spent your formative years during that era and not have had any earlier or later experience.
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R^2

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2013, 05:05:25 AM »

Thought about this some more, figured I'd elaborate. Probably needlessly.

The article points out that yes, shit sucks. Nobody knows how bad socioeconomic factors are than me! I guess if robertjbennett comes back I can fill him in, but you guys know what I'm talking about already.

I've just now struggled past the poverty line to take my first ragged, gulping breath of Lower Middle Class. And... I still live in more idle luxury than people did 100 years ago, definitely better than your average medieval king. I don't have as many gold coins in my basement (or a basement...) but I think I have a comparable number of peppercorns in my pantry.

You want to tell someone who lived through the Great Depression that inside 100 years from that event people's main health problems come from eating too much food?

Hell, I'm posting this from a device I keep in my pocket that's going to beam this very text through the air to a central server somewhere. It may bounce off a satellite somebody launched into outer fucking space just so I could look at pictures of cats on my lunch break at work.

So yeah, the government is corrupt, we're mired in wars I don't understand and in places I'd have to look up on a map because we're falling behind the rest of the world in basic education, and humanity is pissing into its collective wellwater on environmental issues, and women and racial/religious/sexual minorities still have to fight uphill battles for basic human decency and respect, and the people who make the world like that not only avoid punishment but actively profit off what they do... but those problems are too big for me. I can't worry about them, because there's nothing I can do about them. My existential dread is about whether I can take care of myself and start a family, not whether phantom terrorists might one day blow that hypothetical family up.

I have until the end of the month to decide if I can afford health insurance on my workplace's group plan. I probably can't, but the question is one I actually have to think about now. Things are bad, but I can't buy into something so despairing as things being worse now than they've ever been.
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Mongrel

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2013, 05:31:07 AM »

Well, historical measures are important when it comes to measuring personal prosperity, but relativity to our peers is also important, arguably more so. It's pretty understandable for anyone in your situation to feel less than wealthy.
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R^2

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2013, 08:32:23 AM »

I guess I came off as a little TOO optimistic, then. There's certainly no danger of me feeling wealthy.
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Sharkey

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2013, 09:18:34 AM »

It's no great depression, but I would agree that things are the worst they've been economically in over half a century. Since the aftermath of the second world war, anyway. Especially in terms of individual buying power, wealth disparity, and the social safety net. Coming on the heels of a period of relative prosperity that occurred at a point in most of our lives where we were establishing our baseline for normal puts it into sharper relief.

I don't give a second thought to terrorism, other than the encroachments on civil liberties made in the name of fighting it.  You're several orders of magnitude more likely to be shot by a cop than killed by a terrorist, justifiably or otherwise, and with an extra zero or two tacked on depending on your ethnicity. Hell, you're far more likely to drown in the bathtub or be trampled by pigs. Sure, there's a case to be made for all the "living in the shadow of 911" noise, but it has more to do with the response than anything to do with actual terrorists.

Mostly I'm pissed that they're starting to call 9/11 Patriot's Day in some places. We already have one of those. It's in April and it's a fuck of a lot more relevant. Though arguably it did concern domestic terrorists, and has been a favorite day for it ever since. Which is why anyone working in a federal building is probably a bit jumpy on the 19th.
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Mongrel

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2013, 10:39:12 AM »

I've thought for a while now that 9/11 was the most successful and damaging attack ever carried out against the American people.

And not because it destroyed some buildings or killed a pretty fair number of folks.
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Stush

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2013, 10:51:04 AM »

The only thing i'm afraid of is skeletons, but I live in australia, it's pretty safe here.
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R^2

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2013, 11:10:24 AM »

Well, you get used to all the spiders after a while I guess.
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BEAT

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2013, 01:14:05 PM »

The only thing i'm afraid of is skeletons, but I live in australia, it's pretty safe here.
ARE YOU NOW
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BŁge

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Re: It's Hip to be Scared
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2013, 01:59:21 PM »

RUN STUSH RUN
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