Sometimes it is useful to be scared – as long as you are scared of the things which actually pose a danger and that you can avoid or deal with the threat.
In the 1920s one of the biggest fears among the British electorate was the spread of Communism – highlighted by the reaction to the (almost certainly bogus) Zinoviev letter just before the 1924 election, which ended the first Labour government. The 1920s were a time to be frightened, but the greatest threat to most people in the 1920s came as a result of the Wall Street Crash in America, not from Russia.
In the 1990s we were treated to the ‘Stranger Danger’ campaign, which had the effect of making children implicitly trust people they knew, but making them scared of new people and new situations. Keeping children indoors as a response has had huge negative implications in terms of health and self-confidence. The majority of attacks on children are by family members or people already known to them.
The 2008 financial crash and resulting recession did not start in Europe. It started in America, whose reckless lending to homebuyers caused massive defaults on loans. UK financial institutions had followed the same bad practises and our over-extended banks came near to collapse. Europe was once a dangerous place – especially between 1939 and 1945. The EEC was set up to prevent another European war. Last time I looked, it was still working. The solution to our economic difficulties will not be found in leaving the EU.
Events in Woolwich have scared many people, but this sort of danger is very rare and realistically there is virtually nothing we can do about it. In fact, doing nothing at all is probably the best reaction. Ignoring terrorist attacks reduces their success in terms of publicity for the terrorists’ cause.
The biggest danger most of us face today is on the roads. Over 1,700 people were killed on the roads of Britain last year – not by terrorists, but by motorists. Cars, big mortgages and relatives pose a bigger danger to most of us than terrorists, Europe or strangers.
Beware the motorists’ threat today. Cross safely.