American Risk Aversion Is Crippling Society

Something changed in the last couple of generations. We look back on our history at times when we were far more willing to do dangerous things to accomplish what we knew was right. The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars; our nation used to be filled to the brim with people willing to make any sacrifice necessary to stand up for good and fight back evil. This just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

We have become risk averse in general. Most of us are far too dependent on others to make our lives happen. Our work is mostly employment by companies. We live in safe little communities with highly regulated buildings. Our roads are patrolled and our food inspected down to a microscopic level. The adventure that many of us used to seek is replaced by docile little vacations to highly developed, sanitized versions of what they used to be.

This isn’t to say that these measures aren’t good things on their own, but the combined need to remove danger from the equation of our lives is weakening our ability to steel ourselves against the problems of the world we can’t neatly tie up in the little boxes we create for our lives. There are forced in the world that will never bow down to our industriousness, and as we become more and more the robots of modern thought, the rest of the world feels the hunger for progress. Our position at the top is under constant threat, and we no longer have the teeth to fight back.

I can’t claim to be any better. My desire for most of my life is to somehow become self employed, but I’ve never been able to find the courage to jump into anything to see if I could make it work. The excuses were many and varied. I didn’t have enough money. My family needs a steady income. My skillset isn’t up to the task. It has been an endless stream of reasons why it could never work out.

Part of the problem is our public school system. We are brought up in this highly regimented environment that was developed to train factory workers to mindlessly sit and perform tasks for eight hours per day. Teachers try to spark our creativity, but in the end the system is just too tightly wound to allow enough wiggle room for young minds to really flourish. It is difficult to allow minds to wander when you’re tied to a schedule.

Another problem is more personal to me, and that is my eleven years of military service. Public school is certainly controlled, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the level of discipline imparted by serving in the armed forces. This isn’t a bad thing while you’re in, because the ability to follow orders and procedures typically keeps you alive in the most horrible situations imaginable. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well if your desire is to do something more adventurous once you’re out. It sets your mentality in the corporate mindset, which is hardly a free spirited environment.

Mostly, though, it is constantly being told that we need to protect people from their own problems. We have so many laws on the books that we somehow think are going to stop bad people from doing bad things. This is nice in theory, but the reality is that no matter how much we try to wrap probability around our fingers, eventually something bad is going to happen. We spend so much time trying to avoid danger that we miss out on the truly exciting things about life. Society in general is cultivating an attitude of fear instead of the adventure that most of us crave.

I’m not sure how I will personally get out of this mindset. The risk of writing this blog is a small step, I suppose, but unless it takes off in a way that I don’t see yet, it will be a supplementary thing. I have mentioned in the past that I yearn to cruise the world on a sailboat, and that would be the biggest adventure of my life, filled with danger and uncertainty and something amazing over every horizon. It simply requires the will to accept the bad that might come with the good.

As a nation, it is simply a matter of everyone working together to prop each other up. Too many people simply hear an idea that sounds crazy and say as much. If more people supported those who had a different way of thinking, we would be stronger as a society and more willing to do what needs doing. More people would be willing to take risks, and we could stand more firmly as a country against those ideas that threaten us because aren’t crippled by the fear of consequences. Adventure is as much about teamwork as it is about anything else.

How do you feel about taking risks? Have you been fearful of doing anything special because the price of failure seemed too high? What can you do today to further your own goals, or help someone take a step in the right direction? Risk is a part of life whether we like it or not, and you can’t control it. Any idea to the contrary is simply an illusion, so if we have to pay the price anyway, why not go for it?

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4 Comments

  1. This is why I’m a big believer in the Free Range Children philosophy. We are raising a generation of people afraid of risks. I finally took the leap and left my job that was slowly killing me. I will eventually go to work for someone else. I don’t think I can make money writing, but I’m going to try not to play it safe and go back to the same industry I was in. I ranted about the “safety first” mantra a few years ago – https://wordpress.com/post/theycallmetater.com/2064

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree. My current job ends in a few months and I really want to find something completely different. I definitely hope to move into the writing field, but as long as what I’m doing isn’t the same thing I’ve been doing for so long, I’ll be content for a while at least. It can take a long time to figure out what makes you feel fulfilled.

      Liked by 1 person

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