Sunday, February 27, 2022

Julie Burchill on Risk Aversion

To my mind, and perhaps even to yours, Julie Burchill’s take on the Ukraine War coalesces well with the points made by Allison Schrager and yours truly, namely that we have lost the habit of risk taking. 

Burchill does not quite blame it on therapy; she left that to me. But a culture build by and for therapy sees everything in terms of feelings. It defines us within a mother/infant dyad and detaches us from the real world and sends us scurrying into our inner fortress, there to wallow and whine.

She wrote:

For a moment it seemed that the war in Ukraine was straight out of the history books. Tanks rolled out of one European country and into another on the shallow pretext that it was all about liberating minority peoples in the invaded country and uniting them with their brethren – the Sudetenland Stomp. Then the Telegraph claimed that Russia had ‘triggered’ Britons, and it became clear that this was actually a very modern war – the first war to be mostly about the people not actually fighting in it. A war about our feelings.

Of course, risk aversion makes us children and makes government bureaucrats and television talking heads into Mommies and Nannies. We are, dare I say, in touch with our inner child:

We’ve been groomed to think of ourselves as precious, fragile children for quite a while now, all the easier to boss around, muzzle and be sent to our rooms for the best part of two years. It starts with the television talking head telling us to ‘Wrap up warm / Stay hydrated’ instead of simply telling us what the weather will be. It takes in the radio interviews with young doctors during the pandemic (‘We’re being fast-tracked, it’s so exciting!’ Talking head: ‘But scary too?’ ‘No, just exciting!’) And ends up here, with Western media ceaselessly nagging at Ukrainians to be more scared….

Now, thanks to therapy, we refuse all risks because we define ourselves as the sum of all our fears. We are scared. We are afraid. We want to hide and wait for it all to go away-- like children.

Social media of course makes everything all about us to the nth degree, and it wasn’t long before one bright spark was whining that ‘Russia’s attack on Ukraine means there’s a stressful news cycle ahead of us’. 

There’s been a big lie for a long time that modern life is uniquely stressful and that we should approach ourselves as delicate flowers in ceaseless need of ‘pampering’ and ‘self-soothing’ rather than as the tough, mobile pleasure-units we are born with the capability to be. And sure enough, whereas the prospect of war would once have made us more combative, now even another country’s conflict is a cue for a collective fainting fit. Each and every section of society is believed to be currently in meltdown concerning the invasion of Ukraine. And every media outlet has been offering succour to the Western world’s brave little soldiers.

Being scared of life is now accepted as the norm, hence the ludicrous rise of trigger warnings. I’m fine with people being worry-warts so long as they don’t paint me as being weird for not worrying – that’s strength-shaming.

Well said and well written.

1 comment:

L'Ankou said...

You know what... the very same thought ran through my head. "Russia's attack on Ukraine means there's a stressful news cycle ahead of us." But then I look at these Ukrainians turned poets by the war. Maybe they always were, idk, but it's incredibly refreshing to see a culture respond with such wit and comradery to such a difficult situation. It's good to know that's possible.