There are many scary things in the world. And many, many people who grab our attention, our endorsement, our time and our money by highlighting them. Politicians, media, salespeople and yes, self-defence instructors. Fear based advertising is very common, in the self defence industry as well as in the media in general. There are reasons for this, we are wired to respond more strongly to fear & danger than almost anything else. It isn’t all malicious either, a lot of people – especially in the martial arts and self defence industry, and in charities – genuinely feel that they are helping you see dangers you might be unaware of, or “spreading awareness” of social issues they may feel strongly about. And to an extent they may be right, many of us live very sheltered lives, and may be unaware of the dangers around us. But, on the whole, our world is actually pretty safe and pretty cool.
Awareness should not lead to paranoia. Awareness does not mean just being aware of the bad stuff, of dangers, problems and difficulties. It means also being aware of the good, the interesting and the amazing. Marvelling at all the cool stuff we get to experience, and not taking it all for granted. And yes, acknowledging that there are dangers, there are problems, but they don’t make up the whole of existence.
I don’t like flying very much. On a deep level it makes me uncomfortable. And there is one thing that takes the discomfort away to large degree: Simple amazement at what flying actually means. Last week I attended a seminar on the other side of the earth. It took me a day to get there. That is amazing. On Tuesday I saw the sun rise above the clouds. Something that for most of human history none of my ancestors would have been able to experience. And it wasn’t the first time I saw it, and that makes it no less awesome. On the same flight, as we were landing I could look down on the mediterranean sea, an incredible shade of blue and the water so clear I could see the bottom.
I am less that 30 years old, and there are only two continents I have not been to in my life (Antarctica and South America). I met people last week that live half a world away, from vastly different backgrounds and through the internet I can communicate with them easily, within a few seconds. I can access, through the laptop I am typing this on, or through my phone, or a range of other devices, more knowledge than anyone a few decades ago could possibly have been exposed to. Sure, I can also access vast amounts of crud, BS, assholery, cat pictures and other irrelevances, but if I was to pay attention, there is so much good stuff out there. Also last week, I tried food from three new countries, all in the same, different country. There should be more Ethiopian restaurants, that stuff is seriously good!
I can wake up, walk a few steps, turn a tap and have running water coming out, in a climate that is pretty close to desert-like. Not drinking water mind you, but still (for that I have to go a few steps further and push a button on the water filter on the fridge). There is an infrastructure that prevents the vast majority of violence and can prevent or heal the vast majority of diseases and injuries.
To stop with the list, our parts of the world are good. Though the word has been incredibly abused in the name of political agenda, we are very privileged. And we can acknowledge that, take the good, thank our ancestors (because no, that did not happen by itself, someone worked for it) and the people still working to make the world better. And we can ourselves work to make our little corner of the world a little better.
At the same time we can acknowledge that this does not mean that there are no problems, that it’s the same everywhere, or that we could not be the victims of violence, disease or other threats. The amazing things above that I can do? I’m not the one making them work. They are based on an intricate infrastructure to function, and if that breaks down they all go away. We can recognise that without getting paranoid.
We train to deal with them as much as we are able, without lowering our quality of life now. We educate ourselves so we can help the system to function. We take social actions to address social problems. We are nice to people, making our offices, families or communities a little more pleasant. We train self-defence to prevent violence. We keep ourselves healthy to prevent disease We have contingency plans in the case of disaster. Not for some fantasy doomsday scenario, but because shit happens. And then we turn around and enjoy the amazing lives we have been given, instead of overfocusing on whatever problem of the week someone, whose career or self-esteem depends on it, is trying to sell us on. Let them fearmonger, whine and grumble. I’ll just get on and live meanwhile thank you very much!
PS: Also there is irony in the world. The evening after I wrote this the local water supply shut down for two days. Go figure 😛