Monday, November 9, 2009


I know it's been quite awhile since I've blogged anything.  There's been a lot going on lately with work and life, but nothing I felt particularly like blogging about.  Lately, however, I've been thinking a lot about fear.  Fear and our society's bizarre obsession with it!  We live in one of the safest periods in the history of time.  Mortality rates are down, life expectancy is up.  Modern medicine has more capabilities to preserve life than our ancestors could ever have imagined.  We have cell phones, 9-1-1 emergency responses, seat belts, airbags, and alarm systems.  We should feel an amazing sense of security.  And yet many people are completely dominated by fear.  America used to be "in God we trust," or "the home of the brave."  But today our societal structure has been built upon intricate networks of fear and intimidation.
Last week I sat in a new employee meeting with our company's Aflac representative.  She pitched several different insurance packages to us that could potentially offset the costs of a potential future tragedy, if we start paying monthly installments now.  There is a life insurance package (which is on top of the automatic package our company provides) which will double or triple my current "award" (1 year's salary) to Joel if I die.  There is also cancer "protection."  I can start payments now, and in the event that someday I get cancer, Aflak will help to cover my expenses (more fully than most insurances, and without a pre-existing condition clause). There is even a coverage package for rare diseases.  I can pay about $25 a month and if I come down with any number of rare diseases--including mad cow disease or West Nile virus, I'll be paid for my pains. 
The representative had a wealth of examples and stories about freak accidents and random occurences that rarely happen in life outside of Grey's Anatomy.  Stories about people falling with lanyards and cutting off fingers or children getting bizarre immune disorders.  She preyed upon our feelings of being alone and vulnerable.  She took away any faith in God or family or health or anything else, and instilled a terrifying feeling of lack of control and connection.  And several of my coworkers, desperate for that control or connection to someone that will support them through tough times are now participating in various plans.  And so it's got me wondering what has happened to our society, when our confidence passed away and fear took over. 
I spent the last 2 years of my life in Mauritania, and didn't feel afraid once.  Joel and I were the only white people for miles.  We experienced a coup d'etat.  We slept outside.  I was alone quite a bit--as a women in an environment that was very anti-women.  Our neighbors and host family were Arab and Muslim, a culture that is often quite hostile to the West.  But you can ask Joel--we weren't afraid once.
Now I'm back in the States, and I find myself obsessively locking doors.  When I'm at home alone I bolt my door-sometimes twice.  I didn't hesitate to enroll in my work's healthcare plan--that was half the reason for finding a job!  And when I walk alone at night I get freaked out quite a bit. 
So what's the difference? 
The only thing I've been able to come up with is self-reliance.  Here in the States we pride ourselves on self-reliance and being independent.  In Mauritania they have a "mashallah" attitude about everything--basically saying that life is in God's hands and there isn't much we can do about it.  They have a community focus--one that says that neighbors take care of each other and look out for one another.  People in Maal constantly told me "we have no problems here," by which they really meant no one is ever alone, and we don't let anyone come to harm under our watch.  For example: one time we heard a domestic squabble going on a few houses away.  A woman started yelling.  And in less than a minute, our entire neighborhood had convened, men descending on that household as though it was on fire!  They mediated the situation, and everything was taken care of quickly and without problem. 
What is my response to this?  As a result I've been thinking a lot about Matthew 10:28: "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body..."  What have we traded in this obsessive journey for self-preservation where we have stopped caring about the soul in our desire to protect the body?  In our quest for comfort and protection, we have cast aside God, neighbor, friend, and faith.  Has our increase in health care, safety measures, convenient appliances and life expectancy really made our world a better place?  In our society where we allow ourselves to be dominated by fear-mongering from the media and other influences we prevent ourselves from truly living, and from ever discovering truth.  So my challenge today is to think about your community--the structure of family, friends, co-workers and neighbors that may be providing support to you in tough times.  Think about where you are placing your trust--beware of that which can destroy your soul.