Thursday, June 10, 2010
LIVING IN A PARANOID SOCIETY
Today is rant day. A weekend’s worth of shows went without any horrible screw-ups. I’m through teaching for a little while. Yesterday I actually had time to water the greenhouse before all the plants died, and I was able to get a couple of nights sleep. I suddenly have the energy to get on my soapbox and rant!
Paranoia, as we all know, is an irrational fear. It seems humans have a deep-seated need to fear something, and that need is not going to go away any time soon. If our lives are so safe and comfortable that we don’t need to fear plagues, famines, attacks from wild animals, or war on our very doorstep, we find other things to fear. If the things we should fear are too big to be comprehensible, like an undersea oil leak spilling so much for so long that it, together with the garbage we have dumped, kills all of the oceans on the planet, or humans continuing to reproduce exponentially so that we eventually wipe out every other form of life and starve to death while wallowing in our own garbage and excrement, we find small things to fear - things over which we feel that we, personally, can have some control. Things like razor blades in apples at Halloween. “Germs”. Being sued. “Chemicals” in perfume.
Every product comes with a warning label lest someone should misuse it and sue the manufacturer. “Do not put the plastic bag over your head and keep it there for so long that you suffocate. Do not drink the drain cleaner or wash your hands with it. Do not put your fingers in the food grinder while it is running. Do not touch the heating element when the space heater is on. …”, and so on. Everyone is assumed to be an imbecile with no common sense just waiting to sue the manufacturer of a product that they have misused.
People have become so paranoid about “germs” that they continually wash or “sanitize” their hands in a way that could only be characterized as obsessive-compulsive. The medical profession has been so eager to prescribe antibiotics “just in case” that a whole host of mutated microorganisms have arisen, ones that are resistant to all of the commonly used antibiotics. That is far more scary than any of the “germs” that our immune systems evolved to deal with.
There are entire websites devoted to bashing “chemicals” in perfumes. If not chemicals, what, pray tell, are we supposed to put in perfumes? What are we supposed to wear, eat, or drink? Everything in this world, including the very people who fear chemicals in perfumes, is made up of chemical building blocks. Our own bodies contain things that would make us shudder in horror if we saw the whole unpronounceable list of ingredients written out on a label. The same people who claim to be allergic to perfumes blithely go about inhaling air fresheners, fabric softeners, deodorants, shampoos, and hand sanitizer gels that contain more cheap “chemicals” than any of the perfumes they object to. Ah … but they are using these products out of fear that their garbage will stink, their laundry will be less than fresh and fluffy, their armpits will smell like sweat, their hair will be oily, or their hands might have “germs” crawling on them. Using a scented product for pleasure does not fit with the puritan ethic of using things only out of necessity or fear.
Maybe we should concentrate more on big fears and not worry about the small stuff. Wear good perfume while we think about how to stop war, overpopulation, and global warming. If we can't stop Rome from burning, at least enjoy a tasty meal, a glass of good wine, a fine perfume, and some lively violin music on the way out.