Thursday, October 22, 2015

Guest Post: Can We Please Dial Down The Hysteria?

Here is a guest post by Dinah Paritzky (my sister), which I thought fitting in light of today's events in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and the aftermath that I see in the community

The panic levels of the general population are (rationally) out of all proportion to the threat – and the media is not helping any. Imagine if every single time someone got injured or killed in a car crash, the headlines would pop up on our screens, along with interviews with eye witnesses. It would happen dozens of times every single day – and would probably terrify us all. Nobody would want to get in a car – or leave their house!

I wonder what would happen if the terrorist attacks were only reported on the regular evening headlines? And not as newsflashes? It's obviously not a realistic wish – but let's just imagine for a moment. Of course the news channels would not get their nice juicy stories – but maybe we would all be that much calmer?

Am I scared when I leave my house in Bet Shemesh and go to work in Jerusalem that I will be stabbed by a terrorist? Well, yes. I am also scared that someone will crash head-on into my car at full speed (as once happened!), that I will get run over, that there will be an earthquake, or I could be bitten by a poisonous snake, or I could fall over and break my back or skull. I could also have a heart attack or a brain aneurysm. Or get struck by lightning. Or catch Asian flu. Or get murdered by a random lunatic as opposed to an actual terrorist.

We all know that some of those things are statistically more likely to happen than a terrorist attack. And yet perfectly rational people lose all sense of perspective. If a terrorist attack happens in Bet Shemesh (a town of 80,000 people or so), you do not need to call me to see if I am okay. I assume that if I were to be murdered then you would be upset. But you do not need to demonstrate your affection for me by calling to see if I am alive and well. You could wait to hear on the news what actually happened. If an attack happens on my street (chas ve...), then sure – go ahead and call. But if it happens in my town? Or my country? You really don’t need to bother. It just adds to the general levels of hysteria.

Last week my son's school had a 2 day trip to the yishuvim in the south including Sderot, to see how they live. Despite the school getting all possible ishurim, a few parents sent out mails saying how scared they were, and asked if we were sending our sons. I replied that I work in downtown Jerusalem, my daughter is on a kibbutz on the border of Gaza and my son is in the army, and that Sderot seems like a safer option than any of those. The reply? "I want to keep my son 100% safe, not 90% safe." Well, sorry, but I have news for you - you can't. You could try chaining him to his bed wrapped in cotton wool and never letting him go near a road – but you won't do that.

I do realize this is a sliding scale: anyone more scared than me is hysterical and anyone less scared is an idiot :-). However, can we at least try to be slightly rational?

To be sure, we can take some basic precautions - after all, I don’t cross the road with my eyes closed. But can we a) carry on with our lives and b) not frantically phone/ sms/ whatsapp/ facebook the minute there is a pigua?

25 comments:

  1. We're gonna tweet ourselves to death! :)

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  2. Your sister should know how to use a firearm...

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  3. Really great post. Even though I am one of the hysterical friends who called you up this morning to see if you were OK. :-)

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  4. You're right in everything you say but a bit harsh on your well-meaning friends.

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  5. I understand what you're saying, but I think it's also unreasonable to expect that concerned relatives aren't going to want to check in just to be sure.

    I live in a small town in north-western Virginia (about 40 miles west of Washington DC.) Every time there is a severe weather event (hurricane, snowstorm, tornado, etc.) anywhere on the East coast of the United States - anywhere between North Carolina and Massachusetts, I get a phone call from relatives in Arizona asking if I'm OK.

    Most of the time, the storm didn't pass anywhere near my town, or even near my state, and the weather maps all clearly indicate this. But that doesn't matter. My relatives care and are concerned and so they call.

    And sometimes, I think they're just using the storm as an excuse to call and talk for a while, since we don't see each other very often.

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  6. The post is correct, but there's nothing wrong with relatives showing concern by phone calls or tweets. To the contrary, if you didn't receive any such messages you might think them callous or indifferent. (Even if you personally wouldn't, many would.)

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  7. Does the hysteria and hyperbole indicate a diminishing return on emunah or bitachon in HKBH?

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  8. I tried this argument with my mother who is in NY. Didn't work. I even tried the argument that no one here is walking into schools and shooting 13 people at a time.
    She thinks I'm some extremist hilltop youth guy. At the same time my neighbors tell me that I'm some extremist lefty because I'm not very rw. So there I'm getting hit from both ends.

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  9. I have been telling people that Israel was and remains safer than the US and I have the statistics to back up my claim.

    We AVERAGE over 20 shootings a week in New York City and that is as safe as any large city in the US. NYC has roughly the same population as Israel.

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    1. Most victims know their killer. While anyone's family member or co-worker could lose it one day and kill them, people feel secure and don't worry about this happening to them. It's being randomly targeted just because your Jewish that makes people frightened. If 5 Jews were killed in NYC each week randomly but the apparent motive was just that they were Jewish, then the Jewish population in NYC would be very afraid too.

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    2. Actually considerably more people were killed by terrorists in NYC this century than in all of Israel.

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    3. Actually considerably more people were killed by terrorists in NYC this century than in all of Israel.

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  10. > "I want to keep my son 100% safe, not 90% safe." Well, sorry, but I have news for you - you can't. You could try chaining him to his bed wrapped in cotton wool

    That's a fire hazard...

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  11. It may be easy for me to say so, sitting safely in Canada, but the best way to fight terrorism is not to allow yourself to the terrified.
    Terrorism is a tactic. They continue to use it because it appears to be working.

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  12. The NYC stats are not directly comparable because a lot of those cases are criminals shooting other criminals or are drug related. If you live a normal life in a normal neighborhood, the odds are much, much lower.

    Nevertheless, the post is spot on and I'm glad it was stated by someone who lives in Israel and has a right to say it. (I do have children there, but that is still not the same thing).

    (Also, people do underestimate the risk of driving (and crossing the street) and should be more careful. :)

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  13. Oh thank you Mr. Rational for yet another expression of your feeelings of superiority. Maybe we learned hysteria from your response to your book banning.

    I already 3x have been in the same location, same day as terrorist acts over the last three weeks. And heard the sirens of ambulances racing off with the wounded. Yesterday, the terrorists tried to board my daughter's school bus.

    This is a very dangerous situation that has the potential of getting much worse, unlike autos which are consistently bad - and likely we should all be much more worried about cars.

    Now is not the time to be Mr. Cool. Now is the time to get upset, unlike with your book banning, where you should have just sucked it up and dealt with it.

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    1. The post was by his sister.

      Of course the situation is quite serious and needs to be dealt with at all levels from the PM on down. And we all support you in the traumatic experiences that you had.

      I think that what is being said here is that effort should be concentrated on those who are truly affected and going overboard on caution actually prevents that from happening. For example, the cancellation of the field trip to Sderot would have meant *less* support for the people there affected by their proximity to Gaza. And if everyone who lives or works in Jerusalem and has the opportunity to go somewhere else takes that opportunity, then this would be a tragic result and leave you in a much worse situation than exists now.

      On your last lines: I don't think that panic ever is useful. The last sentence is just a cheap shot which undermines the sincerity of your demands for sympathy. And I think that he did deal with it.

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    2. It would help if you were to a actually read the post before ladelling out the ponderous snark, YK. Then, you might have noticed that this is a guest post. Speaking of getting upset and hysteria, one notes that any mention of the book ban gets you characters out of the online woodwork in a jiffy. Such a loyal readership of this blog....obsessive, one might even say.

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  14. Not sure if you allow posts from YouTube, but the Joker in The Dark Knight captures the mindset of terrorism perfectly. https://youtu.be/ZRG1tWQN6e8?t=157

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  15. Although I largely agree with what was written here, it must be remembered that terrorism is a strategic threat. The "Oslo goverments' (Rabin, Peres, Barak, Sharon) used the same arguments in order to be able to sit on their hands and not respond (recall Sharon's immortal Orwellian statement "restraint is strength"). Islamic sources such as the Qur'an teach that Jews are cowards because they misunderstand our abhorrence of bloodshed.. If you have seen the vile HAMAS propaganda pictures showing Jews (who are portrayed as Haredim) running in terror from knife-wielding terrorists or vehicles driven by them, you can see that they are trying to reinforce this view among the Arab population in order to convince them that if they just keep up the terror attacks, we will fold up in the end. Of course, the unilateral flight of the IDF from southern Lebanon and Gush Katif reinforced this view and lead to massive missile attacks and the big wave of suicide bombings. Therefore our best weapon to fight them (in addition to seeking out the leaders and liquidating them) is to go about our lives as normally as possible, while taking reasonable precautions, like arming ourselves with guns, pepper spray, rolling pins, umbrellas, etc.

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    1. Pepper spray, rolling pins, umbrellas won't do the job. The simplest and most effective approach would be for the government to deputise all combat unit reservists and require them to carry a side arm as they go about their daily business. Rules of angagement need to be less PC as well; shoot until it stops moving or clip is empty because the possibility of a suicide vest or faking being down should be more of a concern than the life of the subject. Temujin's armchair general advice for the day.

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  16. Sorry, the only hysteria that really needs to be reined in are the violent actions by numerous young Arabs and now some Jews. The incessant calling and information gathering is merely a phenomenon associated with cell phone use. If it weren't to ask about the well being of someone in a city where violence had occurred, it would be some other excuse. The one who rear-ended the writer was probably texting or in some great rush to beat a light. In any case, refua shelaima and Shabbat shalom.

    Y. Aharon

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  17. Because accidents are... you know... accidents.

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  18. But if they do not cry out and sound the trumpets , rather they say "this is nothing extraordinary just the way of the world, calamities like this happen". Such an attitude is heartless, and will cause them to cling to their bad deeds and will further cause more calamities to occur. RAMBAM Hilchos Taanis perek 1 Halacha 3 (The Rationalist himself)

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