Is the World a Safe Place?

More and more studies are showing that how you answer that question will accurately determine whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. If you accept that as a given, then we are in a very scary point in history, because I can’t imagine anyone or anything that would make any of us change your mind about how we answer that question.

If you think the world is not a safe place, well, then, it wouldn’t be very safe for you to change your mind, now, would it? On the other hand, if you think it is a safe place, then you are more flexible about new concepts, new knowledge, new ways of seeing the world and the way we choose to live in it, and I can’t imagine anything making you give that up, either.

Think about this from a political standpoint. If the world isn’t safe, then immigrants can’t be trusted and should be walled off. Vaccinations can’t be trusted. We should stick with age-old traditions. Gender roles should remain rigid. We should all have guns. These are all political issues that stem from our worldviews.

This article, entitled A new theory for why Republicans and Democrats see the world differently, by Ezra Klein, spells this out in much more detail. It’s a fascinating, though frustrating read.

And once you’ve read that, hop on over to take this intriguing test. It consists of 27 questions that have nothing to do with politics, but your answers will quite accurately predict your politics regardless. It’s pretty much based on the same theory, only it determines one’s level of disgust. And that’s a little scary, don’t you think? (The results said that my brain is 74 percent Democrat. That’s because the only thing that disgusts me to any degree at present is the current administration. I’m surprised that I didn’t show up as 110 percent Democrat. Still…)

So, if the way we all see the safety of the world isn’t likely to change, and if it’s true that that pretty much spells out our political party, then that means we can count on being polarized from here on out. Because we’re already polarized. That means that this divisiveness and gridlock will be nearly impossible to get past. In essence, nothing of note will ever get done.

That makes me tired. And it makes me sad. But I’m really glad to be in the group that sees the world as a basically safe place. It must be terrifying to think otherwise.

safe world

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Mean World Syndrome

People alive today have access to more news and entertainment than any human being in the history of the planet. If anything major happens in the world, we are all able to find out about it almost instantly. We’ve come a long way from the days when a hurricane could hit Long Island without any advanced warning for its residents. Surely that’s to our benefit, right?

Yes and no. We also have more access to misinformation and exaggeration, and our ability to think critically does not seem to be keeping apace. That means that many of us believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is. This is called mean world syndrome, and it’s a serious problem.

If you don’t believe that your attitudes are shaped by the media, then you haven’t been paying attention. Without its influence, there’s no way that someone so deranged and unqualified could be in the White House. Without it, none of us would feel the need to keep up with the Kardashians. (For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt that need. But then, I don’t have a TV in my house, either.)

If it’s any comfort at all, according to this Public Radio International article, the world is a much safer pace than it used to be. War deaths have dramatically decreased. We just hear about them more often. We all work fewer hours each week. There is less poverty and homicide, and more democracy than ever before.

And this article from Psychology Today also states that violence against women and children has decreased worldwide. We are more likely to die of old age than in a hail of bullets.

And, lest we forget, the average life expectancy for the residents of this planet is now up in the 70’s, as opposed to age 48 back in 1950. That’s pretty remarkable, don’t you think? So stop what you’re doing, look about you, and breathe. It’s going to be okay. Odds are pretty good that you won’t encounter any lions or tigers or bears. Oh, my.

dorothy

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Trust Your Instincts

Back when I was in college the first time, I was renting the top floor of a Victorian house just a few blocks away from campus. It had two bedrooms, so I decided to look for a roommate to split expenses. Based on the advice of a friend, I settled on a young, outgoing, very upbeat girl. My friend knew me for the quiet homebody that I was, and she said that someone that outgoing would probably never be home, and that would suit me perfectly.

Thus began one of the worst roommate experiences of my life.

She was, indeed, a social butterfly, but she’d often bring that back home with her, and she wasn’t a very discriminating person. When I tripped over the scruffy older man sleeping in my hallway and I asked her who it was, she said she didn’t know his name. She had met him the night before and he needed a place to crash. She didn’t think I’d mind.

Other times, I’d come home from work and find the apartment full of giggling girls who were helping themselves to my groceries. These same girls often blew the fuses in the house because, for some reason, they all seemed to come equipped with hair dryers, and insisted on using them simultaneously, as one does, apparently, before a night on the town.

She also ran up the phone bill so high that the phone company started billing us every two weeks rather than monthly, and she was racking up late fees.

Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, and I told her she’d have to find someplace else to live. I decided that this would be my last roommate ever. But friends told me I should try again. Think of the money I’d save! So, in this time before internet, I reluctantly posted a note on the campus bulletin board.

A guy responded. He was a student whom I’d never met. I hadn’t really specified a gender preference, but this made me mildly uncomfortable. But it was separate bedrooms, after all, so I figured I’d at least talk to him.

When he came over, he brought another friend. And they were big. I got this really uncomfortable vibe from both of them. They felt dangerous. He said he needed an answer right that very second, but I told him I’d have to think about it. He tried to intimidate me. If he was that bad on a first meeting, I couldn’t imagine what living with him would be like. So I trusted my instincts and said no.

The next day there was an anonymous note in my campus mailbox. “I’m going to kill you,” it said. My blood ran cold.

I took it to the Dean of students, and he looked at that guy’s student records, and the handwriting matched. He also said that the reason this guy was looking for a place to live in such a hurry was that he had been kicked out of the dormitory for destruction of property. The Dean had a little chat with him, and I never heard from him again.

I guess the moral of the story is that getting advice from friends is nice, but always, always trust your instincts.

I haven’t lived with anyone unless we were in a romantic relationship since that day. Unless you count my dogs. They’re excellent roommates.

instincts

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