Roger Marolt: Paranoia will destroy us
Paranoia appears to be spreading around us like quicksand in a terrifying dream, at times looming larger than global warming or the pandemic. Scared people do crazy things. The insurrection on Capitol Hill might be only a warm-up. Fear is contagious. Does this make me paranoid?
It’s not political. Both parties have fallen prey to fear. Republicans are afraid of becoming Socialists. Democrats think fascism is around the corner wearing a MAGA hat. Neither believes working together within the framework of our democratic process, that all allegedly revere for the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, is of any value. How ridiculous that sounds, and yet it’s true!
Where did this profusion of paranoia originate? I doubt it’s ages old. I don’t believe I was previously oblivious to it. As with global warming, we need only look out the window to observe it taking over.
It could be a lack of education, in quantity and quality. A college history professor provided indelible words of wisdom: “The more you know, the less you fear.” It is the unknown that keeps us awake at night. Ignorance is the greatest factor of fear.
We may have succumbed to helicopter parenting, too. Increasingly we have grown up in a dusty, swirling vortex where exploration and discovery is done under the cautioning eyes of overprotective parents. Many missed teaching how to evaluate risk, and everything is presented as dangerous on the same level.
The proliferation of pot may be a contributing factor. A Denver Post editorial recently stated, “Reading peer-reviewed research in top medical journals around the world has led us to conclude the risk of high-potency marijuana to Coloradan’s mental health is substantial.” Schizophrenia and paranoia were the focus. This is from mainstream media, so who knows if it’s true?
Materialism inflating the value of stuff could be stoking fear. If things of the world are all we’ve got, then everything is at stake, every day, every moment. Feeling we can lose everything leaves no room for relaxing. When we stop valuing the untouchable intangibles inside of us, then we must be on guard all the time watching over the stuff, including our minds and bodies, that, if not destroyed or stolen, will deteriorate into uselessness over time, nonetheless.
Maybe we need more spirituality. Much paranoia stems from looking for and accepting simple answers to unanswerable questions. Easy answers are satisfying, though they may scare us. But, it’s better to be scared and feel smart than admit the answers are beyond our comprehension. Spirituality embraces absolute truth, many components of which are unknowable. How many stars are there in the universe? I don’t even want to think about that; for now we have to stop the power-hungry cabal from eating our babies. On the other hand, when the main worry is getting right with God, fear fades in comparison. That’s when we become less paranoid and spend energy on doing good.
Media sensationalism doesn’t help things. This is where objectivity and capitalism collide. In commercial media ventures, you can be always correct and not make money. For commercial success, you have to be interesting. This is why it’s becoming harder for mainstream outlets to compete in the age of the internet. The New York Times must balance telling the truth with being compelling, while Qanon can post anything its creators can imagine. It’s like a brussel sprout farmer competing with Coca-Cola. We can certainly handle the truth, but why would we when refreshing, bubbly, sweet versions of the “news” are so much easier to gulp? Sensationalism tastes delectably delicious but hangs the fat of fear on our jowls.
Social media is a factor. There is a great irony here. Parents are scared to death that today’s kids are going to be overwhelmed by it, when the truth is that adults are the ones being consumed. I’m not saying social media is not dangerous for children, but they are growing up with it and understand its powers and limitations far more than adults do. Their guards are up and ours are down. The moment we feel we are above its pernicious effects, that’s when we embrace troubled thinking.
Is fear a motivator or a paralyzer? If we are running from carnivorous wild animals, I’d say fear helps, but when it comes to solving complex problems or confronting myths, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. Something doesn’t feel right about the abundance of fear blanketing us now. I am afraid of that.
Roger Marolt would love to posses the wisdom to instantly and appropriately turn fear into action or acceptance. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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