Sunday, February 08, 2009

B.W.'s Book Report: State of Fear

Imagine my surprise.

I've been working on and off on a book called Refuse to Be Afraid, which aims to convince folks that fear clouds the mind and prevents us from freeing ourselves to our full potential as individuals. And now I find a book that already accomplishes that objective, from an entertaining storyteller who clearly was thinking along the same lines.
"Has it ever occurred to you how astonishing the culture of Western society really is? Industrialized nations provide their citizens with unprecedented safety, health and comfort. Average life spans increased 50 percent in the last century. Yet modern people live in abject fear. They are afraid of strangers, of disease, of crime, of the environment. They are afraid of the homes they live in, the food they eat, the technology that surrounds them. They are in a particular panic over things they can't even see — germs, chemicals, additives, pollutants. They are timid, nervous, fretful and depressed. And even more amazingly, they are convinced that the environment of the planet is being destroyed around them. Remarkable! Like the belief in witchcraft. It's an extraordinary delusion — a global fantasy worthy of the Middle Ages. Everything is going to hell, and we must all live in fear. Amazing.

"How has this world view been instilled in everybody? Because although we imagine we live in different nations — France, Germany, Japan, the U.S. — in fact, we inhabit exactly the same state, the State of Fear. How has that been accomplished?"

Peter said nothing. He knew it wasn't necessary.
Michael Crichton's State of Fear was released in 2004. It may be even more relevant now, five years later, than it was then. As with all of the Crichton novels I've encountered through the years, it's a quick read — I dashed through most of its 600+ pages this weekend.

If my forthcoming little collection of essays and anecdotes is one-tenth as powerful as this novel, I will have considered my efforts a success. Somewhere between my covers I will have to acknowledge Crichton's meticulous dismemberment of one especially powerful set of fear mongers currently afoot around the world.



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