The destructive nature of a 'What if?' society
Yesterday I posted about the increasing problem in the US of an extremist culture (https://goo.gl/KURIwj
). No, I don’t mean the terrorists or the right-wing nut cases, I talked about the everyday extremism that has led to the US becoming the most dangerous western nation, by far.
As a European it’s hard to convey just how big the difference is between what we consider ‘normal’ and what is now considered ‘normal’ in the US. For instance, the idea that a police officer would not only patrol on school grounds on a daily basis but also be called to restore order if a kid isn’t behaving in class, is completely unheard of in my country.
But there is one way that I can illustrate this to you, and that is with this clip from a documentary, which you can see below. It’s part of a longer series about the welfare system and culture that exist in the Nordic European countries (the area known as Scandinavia). And in this episode a police officer from the LAPD is visiting the police forces in Finland, Sweden, and Norway. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbM9uCxEJDMNote: It has English subtitles :)
The differences are a like night and day. The LAPD’s officers normal state is that he is potentially ‘fighting for his life’ on every assignment. But in the Nordic countries, we don’t feel anything like this.
What I like the most is what we see at the end. In the final segment of the documentary, the LAPD officer visits Norway, where the police doesn’t even carry a gun. They have a gun in their cars, but not on their person.
To the LAPD officer, this is so crazy that he cannot even imagine why such a system exists, and he starts to rationalize why the police needs guns with the rhetoric we hear so often from the US. It’s the “what if [something very bad] happened?”
For instance, what if the Norwegian police came upon a person with a gun. Is it then reasonable or even safe to ask them to run back to their cars to arm themselves? No, of course not, you would say. Right?
But if this is what you think, you are not looking at the bigger picture.
First of all, the “what if…” mentality is based on irrational emotions. If we instead look at the data, we find that the Norwegian police is many, many times safer than in the US. So, the rational that you are safer if you have a gun isn’t actually true.
We see the same thing when it comes to you and me. In the US, we also often hear the “what if...” scenario applies to why private citizens are buying guns. What if someone broke into your home? What if someone assaulted you on the street?
Would you like to own a gun to protect yourself and your family?
Even Obama said this in his latest speech after the latest mass shooting. He said “There are good people who have guns for hunting, sports, and protecting their family”.
I’m sorry, but that’s an insane way of thinking. You see, having a gun makes you many, many times more likely to get hurt
than if you didn’t have a gun.
If I had a gun for my ‘protection’, so would my neighbors, and their neighbors. In fact, soon, everyone would have a gun.
This, of course, also means that the criminals will have guns too, because they suddenly become commonplace items, rather than the very rare objects that is hard to get.
This in turn means that, if everyone had guns and someone decided to rob my home, they would likely bring one with them.
So, having allowed people to arm themselves doesn’t actually make you safer. The only thing it does is to raise the threat level from something rather benign to something rather deadly. Today, a burglary is most likely not armed. But if everyone had guns, they probably would be.
And you only have to look at the data to confirm this. In Norway, the death by firearm rate is only 0.04 per 100,000 people. In the US it’s 3.55. That means you are 88 times less safe in the US, where you have guns, than in Norway, where not even the police carry guns.
The very idea that you should get a gun to protect your family is exactly the opposite of what you want to do. I’m so happy to live in a country where we don’t have guns. In my country, our gun related deaths are 0.22 per 100,000. That’s 5.5 times higher than in Norway, but still 16 times less than the ‘normal’ in the US.
But in the documentary, you see how the US police officer isn’t even thinking like this. In his world, there is only the “what if…” scenario. He always prepares himself for the worst.
The problem is that the “What if…” scenarios never stop. You can always take it a step further.
- What if a kid in school is attacking another kid (which happens)? Well, let’s create a school police force.
- What if the kid has a gun? Well, let’s arm the school police. Let’s bring guns into a school environment.
- What if that isn’t enough? Well, let’s get one of these: https://goo.gl/AzkWZM
It’s the same with the rest of the US society. Look at the military. The US military is 8.5 times larger than Russia’s, and in terms of sophistication, it's at least twice as capable. That makes the US military 20 times more powerful than anything that could even remotely threaten it. And yet, at every presidential election, strengthening the military always comes up because ‘what if…’ …uhh… something happened.
It’s just crazy.
Or look at immigration. A group of Syrian refugees arrives in the US, and suddenly the political debates are turning to the worst case scenario. “What if some of these are ISIL fighters in disguise? Let’s deport them all back, just to be safe!”
It’s a completely irrational way of dealing with things.
You don’t want a culture based on “what ifs…”, because all that does is to polarize the problem into the extremes.
So… what if you didn’t ask ‘what if’? What if you look at the problem by looking at the data instead of the fears? What if people didn’t protect themselves with guns? What if kids weren’t exposed to school police forces?
What if, like what you see in the documentary, you could have a society where none of these concerns even exist in people’s everyday lives?
Look at what the LAPD officer experienced after spending an evening out in Sweden. He saw no police, heard no sirens, saw no worried faced, or people feeling scared. To him it sounded like that was unusual. To us, it’s normal. Why would it be any other way?
What kind of society do you really want to create?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbM9uCxEJDM