Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The best way to fight terror is not to be terrified

I was browsing Norman Geras's blog, partly wondering what had happened to the Normblog Posterity Poll (I found the answer to that here). And immediately beneath that post I found this one, in which Norman seems uncharacteristically dense. He takes John Goekler to task for not understanding

the distinction between dying in an accident, or through illnesses brought on by a lifestyle that you've chosen, or through some other process not deliberately intended to harm, and being done to death for no other reason than that someone wants to kill you - or maybe not even you but just anyone, and you will do

and concludes that

Goekler isn't all that clever.

Perhaps not, but clearly cleverer than Norman on this one. For the person dying, does the distinction Norman sets such store by have the faintest relevance? If I had to die at 10:00 tomorrow it would be of no consolation to me that I would die in an accident rather than a terrorist bombing. Death is death, at least to those on the receiving end, and it is their irrational reactions to the relative likelihood of various forms of death that Goekler is concerned with. If I am to worry about dying (and frankly I consider it a waste of time to do so) then surely it makes more sense to worry about the most likely eventualities, such as slipping and banging my head, or being hit by a car, than the hugely unlikely ones such as being involved in a terrorist attack. If Norman seriously believes that the latter is in some magical way more worthy of concern than the others, then he has been taken in by the fact that deaths by violence are more often reported in the media than car accidents or trips and falls. A common fallacy, and one I wouldn't have expected Norman to have been seduced by. (See my post here for the total number of deaths from terrorism in Europe in 2007 versus the number of people who died in industrial accidents in Britain alone that year.)

In any case, there is clearly nothing to be gained in any rational sense by worrying about one's own death, or anyone else's. (Something Jesus recognised when he advised us to "take no thought for the morrow". ) When it will happen, it will happen. Goekler is absolutely on the ball when he says that the important things are:

... the courage to face whatever comes with dignity and intention, and the strong relationships that assure we will face the future together, and find comfort and meaning in doing so.

Anyone who believes that these things are less important than wasting time and money on the "war on terror", in my opinion, isn't all that clever.