It’s because of fear. A threat perceived blown out of proportion so that it becomes a rampaging beast and in effect loses the reason we’re afraid of it in the first place. A real threat gets so exaggerated that we begin not to see it as a threat anymore. And that’s the real danger of fear.
Remember a time when kids had nothing to fear except getting home late and shouted at by their parents? Remember that time when you could leave your front door unlocked through the day and people wouldn’t come in and attempt to rape and murder you? Remember the time when teens on the street didn’t mean trouble? No, I don’t remember them either because I grew up in a time when we’re constantly being told to be afraid of things. Don’t go near water because you’ll drown. Don’t talk to strangers because they all want to kidnap, sexually abuse and kill you. Don’t sunbathe because you’ll get cancer. Hell, I could fill three or four posts with the things that have been announced as causing cancer in my lifetime, but I wont.
I’ve been thinking recently about fear versus reality and I’ve come to some interesting conclusions. Talking to some elderly folks I always hear about how things were better in their day and how children were safer on the street. Personally I think that’s a pile of crap. Things weren’t better in those days; information was just a more limited commodity. We didn’t have the internet back then and twenty four hour news channels continually beaming the horror of our existence into our living rooms. When people say things were better back then they actually mean that you didn’t hear about it as much. Kids being snatched off the streets weren’t newsworthy because the police didn’t have the technology to prove they were snatched and chalked half of them up as runaways. For similar reasons most bad things that were equally prevalent back in the “good old days” as they are now just weren’t heard of. The world hasn’t really gotten worse, but we’ve now got more tools to see it’s sickness.
Another point I thought about is that we’re being controlled by fear of things that probably wont happen to us in our lifetime, but what happens when fear of those things gets out of control? Take poor Betty Robinson (the woman in the photo accompanying this post). She’s an 82 year old widow and has taken up amateur photography to fill her autumn years. One day recently, while taking photos of Southampton Common near her home she found the children’s outdoor paddling pool with no children in it and decided it would be a good photo to take. Suddenly she’s accosted by a council worker who demands that she stop taking photographs of the empty pool. When she asked why she was told that it’s because she could be a paedophile. Don’t worry, you read that right. Now taking photos of an empty pool is enough to brand you with that stigma. Betty did eventually get an apology from Southampton City Council (only after approaching the newspapers with her story) but they maintain that their workers must know who is taking photographs for public safety.
What I want to know is how taking photographs of an empty paddling pool in any way endangers kids? How can it be construed as the actions of a paedophile? Well we’re back to that old problem again – Fear. Fear has taken over from common sense here, as it’s starting to do in many other places and situations. Fear has placed a paedophile around every corner ready to tempt your kids into a van with promises of sweets and puppies. Parents are afraid to kiss or hug their children in public in case they get labelled as child molesters. The old tradition of baby photos in the bath can get a parent arrested now. If a child is lost in the street and can’t find his/her parents then you’d be better off leaving them to their fate than taking them to the police station (Something I had to deal with not long ago. Luckily there were two of us so Kim stayed with the kid while I went to grab a copper).
Fear has distanced us from our children and put the threat of paedophiles everywhere, and in some ways that is a good thing until you hear stories like the one about Betty. Things like that make you realise how stupid the fear is. It becomes the wolf that Peter kept crying about – a dangerous threat but nothing to really worry about as it’s not real. Too much fear of something makes people lose their wariness over that thing as they see it as something created by fear rather than the actual threat itself. Just take a look at America and their actions against terrorists. The threat isn’t thought about half as much as the ridiculous measures being taken to guard against that threat. And that’s the way the world is going with child abuse now.
My final thought on this subject is about the council worker who stopped Mrs Robinson from taking those photographs. Where does he stop in his duty to protect the public from perceived threats. Obviously he’s got the guts to stand up against someone he thinks may be a paedophile about to make off with a kinky photograph of an empty paddling pool especially when she’s an 82 year old woman, but would he so readily stand up to someone my size or larger trying to deal drugs to the children? Would he stop someone being stabbed on the common in an attempted mugging? I’d put money on the answer to both those questions being “No” for one simple reason. You know it and I know it. You even read it at the beginning so say it with me…
It’s because of fear.