Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fear or Spheres

We live near a large river which has been known to flood. Although the river takes a great meander about a mile away, a slough cuts the oxbow at the end of our road. A farmer's field separates us from the downstream part of the slough that is designed to catch the overflow. A lot survey determined that though part of our lot is in the hundred year flood plain, every bit of the house, at ground level, is just above it in the five-hundred year flood plain.
So picture an oxbow with the water swirling past through sturdy dikes and between that and our house a drainage slough which opens into a large field downstream. During the last serious flood the authorities required the people downstream of us to evacuate but only recommended evacuation for us. So we told the deputy that visited us that we would stay based on what we considered to be a rational risk assessment. The Deputy marked our window with a glyph that noted that fact and went on.
Later that evening, as the rain continued, we were knitting and reading when there was a loud thump on the door. It was our neighbor to ask if we were leaving, as they were. D and I both agreed that that thump had shot adrenalin through our system almost to the point of complete panic.
The flood passed within the dikes of the river with no more overflow than the slough could contain. With perfect prevision no one needed to evacuate. In the case it was prudent for those required to go to leave. It was also reasonable to permit us to go or stay as we choose.

Still it was astonishing that one thump could breed such panic.

There is an excellent diary at Daily Kos which continues this meditation in the context of aviation security:

Daily Kos: Don't Mention the Elephant in the Hand Luggage
Terrorism is not a legitimate threat to Westerners. There are almost no terrorists in the world who want to kill us, statistically speaking. We know this because any dispassionate examination of the state of Western society should be telling us that if there were large numbers of terrorists who wanted to kill us, we'd be under constant, unrelenting attack. And we aren't, so there isn't.

-- ml

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