Not to Worry!

Hi Readers — Here’s a great article from Parade Magazine by the Freakonomics folks, all about how we fear the wrong things. Allow us to quote one particularly salient paragraph (or two, actually):

There are any number of topics about which our fears run far out of proportion to reality. For instance, whom are you more afraid of: strangers or people you know?

While “strangers” is the obvious answer, it’s probably wrong. Three out of four murder victims knew their assailants; about seven of 10 rape victims knew theirs. While the public is justifiably horrified when a stranger snatches a child off the street, the data show that such kidnappings are extremely rare.

This is not news to most Free-Rangers, but hopefully it will calm a  lot of folks’ fears. But if your big fear is sharks…watch out behind you!

No. I jest. If your big fear is sharks, it’ll calm you about those, too. (But not about elephants.) — Lenore

13 Responses

  1. If I need to worry about sharks, it probably means I also have to worry about boat integrity…

  2. I have a phobia about sharks, probably from watching Jaws when I was far too young. It’s so bad I find myself stopping swimming suddenly and looking around for sharks *in the swimming pool*!

    Since I know it’s a ridiculous fear I don’t let it stop me going swimming – but damn I wish it were easier to get my emotional reaction to follow the statistics.

  3. I would really love being able to choose what to fear. Maybe some day we could all do so. In the meantime, I will try to get along living my life happily, without letting my fears take control.
    And enjoying this wonderful blog, where I´ve met so many people who, like me, think I´m not reckless by teaching my kids to do so, too.
    Cheers!

  4. My father would always talk about “elephant repellant”… “it must work, do you see any elephants?”

  5. hippos and moose are both more dangerous than sharks, too.

  6. I recently read “Animals Make us Human” by Temple Grandin wherein she mentions that more animal-related zoo injuries are caused by zebras than by all the zoo-kept carnivorous creatures combined. This makes obvious sense because 1) there are more zebras and 2) they look so much like domesticated horses that people treat them inappropriately as domesticated when at best they’re only habituated and 3) people and keepers take logical safety measures when near the lion cage but usually not so much for the zebras.

    I need to get some zebra repellent, @hmcnally

  7. Helen, I thought I was the only lunatic who worried about sharks in swimming pools.

  8. I won’t step foot in an ocean for fear of sharks but I let my kids talk to strangers. So, does that make me a Freakonomic or not? I’m unclear.

    (A marine biologist once told me once that if humans were tasty to sharks, recreational swimming in the ocean would never happen because we would all be lunch. I am still not placated. I think we should all be allowed one irrational fear and mine will be sharks.)

  9. I like how that article concluded that we solved horse problems with cars, when cars would be a legitimate fear since they’re the top cause of death for a very large segment of the population. The part where it casually dismissed all environmental fears because we’re not sure about global warming was pretty great too.

    Definitely NOT a quality piece of writing.

  10. When I started diving, the first thing my parents asked was “aren’t you afraid of the sharks?” I pointed them to a ton of statistics and made them watch Sharkwater (great movie btw, really sad, but really good), and they’ve stopped freaking out about it. Even when we went to the Bahamas and dove with the sharks they didn’t freak out.

  11. Ah sharks. Since I live in Australia, this is a FAVOURITE media beat up. After something like sixty years of no shark deaths in Sydney Harbour, there was a spate (OK, three) shark attacks last summer in the Harbour (no deaths from memory, but one navy diver lost a hand).
    The Left went into a frenzy – we were forcing the sharks to attack humans because of over-fishing. The Right went into a frenzy – because the Greenies had cleaned up the harbour of pollution (yes, that was their argument) now no one was safe from sharks!
    The media frenzy rose to a crescendo because there was the annual swim in the harbour race with hundreds of people. Media crews lined up, all morning TV shows had interviews with random swimmers “Aren’t you afraid of getting attacked?” (Best answer was “I’m afraid the shark will attack someone coming behind me, instead of someone in front of me”) Papers were asking why scuba divers with spear guns weren’t deployed beneath the swimmers for protection.

    And then…

    No one got attacked.

  12. This reminds me of what my grandmother said while I was planning to attend a beach party with a friend a few years ago. She got all upset as she worried about sharks and drowning though my friend and I would be staying by a bonfire and only getting our toes wet as we looked for sea shells. I had to tell her that the beach we were going to is so polluted that large sharks haven’t been sighted there for about thirty years, and we were not going to swim as the water was loaded with garbage and bio hazards due to a sewage plant nearby. Strangely she still thought sharks were a bigger threat to me than than the waste management faculty right by the ocean.

  13. My life seems to support these statistics. I have been diving with sharks many, many times with no problems (they mostly just sleep on the bottom, but even when they are swimming around, they just don’t care about the divers. And I have been charged at by an elephant while I was on a solo (with a guide) horseback safari in Zimbabwe. Since I escaped, I consider it one of the coolest, most badass things to have ever happened to me.

    Also, I guarantee that if my family is ever murdered, it will be by my brother-in-law. He’s just one of those off-kilter types that probably won’t ever crack up all the way, but you know there’s potential there. And he blames his family (my husband mostly) for everything wrong with his life.

    Can’t really worry about the strangers.

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