18 April, 2006

Scary stuff

I think I scared the hell out of most of my students today. I know I scared some of them. This happens a lot when the subject turns to global terrorism.

I try to keep in mind that there's a line that I need to observe. I want the class to understand that the problem is real and serious. This isn't movies and TV. Real people die, and the bad guys often get away with it. I don't want students to panic, and I certainly don't want the kind of "hopeless" anxiety that leads to passive acceptance.

The way in which the topic is portrayed by the government (and in the mass media, too) doesn't help. We're led to look outside of ourselves--to the president, the Office of Homeland Security, or Jack Bauer the all-American hero--to save us. Fear is used as a lever to shape votes, limit debate, and encourage us to look away. And its not just terrorism. For decades people have been told to follow instructions and rely on government. To be small and scared and dependent. More and more people need to admit that government can't do it. Neither can heros--real or imagined. When things come down to the crunch, it's up to each of us to do the best we can--to cooperate, when cooperation makes sense, or to stand alone.

Serial movie villians would invariably shout something like "Who will save you now?!" the moment before the hero arrived to make things right. But guess what: nobody's coming. Nobody can. It's up to us, each of us. We can't afford the luxury of paralysis. Or ignorance.

No comments: