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James Wanliss / Mar. 26, 2016

Things Worse Than Ignorance

As a child walking across a sports field during competition I suddenly heard my teacher scream for me to duck. The intensity in his voice was fierce, insistent. Without thought I dropped to my knees the instant a 16 pound metal ball flew over my head. I obeyed him without question because it sounded so urgent. Had I not dropped my head would have been smashed in and the hammer throw ended in disaster. My teacher wrapped me in his arms and declared me the luckiest boy in the world. If you had a curable disease, would you not rather know before it was too late? Would you ignore someone who cried in fear because they thought a hammer was about to crush your skull? I have heard it said that ignorance is bliss. It is probably only ignorant people who say this.

As a child walking across a sports field during competition I suddenly heard my teacher scream for me to duck. The intensity in his voice was fierce, insistent. Without thought I dropped to my knees the instant a 16 pound metal ball flew over my head. I obeyed him without question because it sounded so urgent.

Had I not dropped my head would have been smashed in and the hammer throw ended in disaster. My teacher wrapped me in his arms and declared me the luckiest boy in the world.

If you had a curable disease, would you not rather know before it was too late? Would you ignore someone who cried in fear because they thought a hammer was about to crush your skull? I have heard it said that ignorance is bliss. It is probably only ignorant people who say this.

But there is something worse than ignorance, and that is unwarranted fear. Had there been no hammer I would have smiled sheepishly at the bad joke. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

A new study concludes that Millennials should be renamed the “anxious generation.” This is matched by my experience as a teacher of two decades. Even in this short time I’ve noticed students in the past few years have tended to be more neurotic, and emotionally delicate, than any I’ve ever encountered.

When people get heated about imaginary threats — when they constantly cry wolf — that not only gets trying, it generates stress and anxiety. When the tenth fire alarm drill blares in one day but everything is obviously fine, in fact better than ever, it becomes galling and one simply ignores the alarm.

Those who think each fire alarm might be real are in genuine emotional distress.

In 1978 Jim Jones convinced over 900 members of his socialist People’s Temple to commit mass suicide in the jungle of Guyana. Jones’s idealism was a large part of what made him so lethal. He really believed his propaganda. It was regular for Jones to play his emergency recording at the Temple compound, “White Night! White Night! Get to the pavilion! Run! Your lives are in danger!”

The People’s Temple teaches us something about the danger of being in a constant state of tension, afraid that the end of the world may come at any moment.

While many nations now enjoy prosperity unprecedented in history, for many people in those nations the early twenty-first century brings with it freezing despair and lack of confidence that this prosperity can continue much longer. Increasingly these days there have been louder cries that societal collapse is coming.

According to Gallup polls Americans are pessimistic about the future. A Pew survey of 47 nations found a general increase in the percentage of people citing pollution and environmental problems as a top global threat.

Given the overwhelming media prevalence of what Bjørn Lomborg calls ‘The Litany,’ maybe it should not be surprising that people are anxious.

“We are all familiar,” says Lomborg, “with the litany of our ever-deteriorating environment. It is the doomsday message endlessly repeated by the media, as when Time magazine tells us that ‘everyone knows the planet is in bad shape.’ We have heard the litany so often that yet another repetition is, well, almost reassuring.”

At the 2015 Paris Climate Conference President Obama offered his version of the Litany: “a glimpse of our children’s fate if the climate keeps changing faster than our efforts to address it. Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields that no longer grow. Political disruptions that trigger new conflict, and even more floods of desperate peoples seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own.”

It is hard to think beyond the clanging and relentless deluge of fire alarms from important people.

As perception of danger increases people will worry more, leading to more enthusiasm for reporting the concern, and so to more fear. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, over 13 percent of the population are on antidepressants and the number is climbing.

It is difficult enough to question, let alone resist, an idea taught to the exclusion of others from kindergarten through university, printed in newspapers and magazines, and seen and heard multiple times each day on television and radio.

Young people are particularly at risk from this epidemic of fear. They are the first generation raised from cradle to grave on a constant diet of global warming fears.

And they are afraid. Very afraid.

A recent study finds millennials are more anxious and depressed than any generation since measurements began in the 1930s. They are being force fed lies. And so we find in the first quarter of the twenty-first century we live in a world where many people find it difficult to disentangle reality from fantasy. Could constant cries of environmental disaster blasted into their ears play a role?

Bear in mind that net warming anomaly the alarmists claim causes these upheavals amounts to a minuscule 0.6–0.8 °C in 100 years. Never mind that the very best climate models simulate two to three times observed warming and that none predicted that for about 20 years there’s been no warming trend apparent in NASA’s satellite records, the most reliable because the least contaminated and least “adjusted.”

“How extraordinary!” said the political scientist Aaron Wildavsky, “The richest, longest lived, best-protected, most resourceful civilization, with the highest degree of insight into its own technology, is on the way to becoming the most frightened.”

We seem to have arrived.

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