Nov 8, 2012

Take a risk

Risks are measures of danger. Usually we want to avoid taking too high risks and prefer playing safe, at least if unaware of what will eventually happen. Risks have also everything to do with values. It is not a risk if one is not afraid of losing something valuable. While talking about risks I have to agree with German sociologist Ulrich Bech who said that people easily accuse those of perturbation who remind them if the existence and proximity of disturbing facts, risks or other depressing matters (that they wish not want to hear). Negativity is best to keep to ourselves because life is more about joy and catching dreams. I suffer from this disease of being a killjoy: Why do you always have to be in such a murky mood?, they ask me. And when I try to explain they ignore my views for being “just too much and just too weird”. Thinking against the masses is hardly ever easy.

It is obvious that people have both created risks and ignored them at the same time. The future has been set in jeopardy by actions made along with bad judgment of risks. Acknowledging dangers has little to do with proclaiming apocalyptic prophecies or creating unnecessary fear. It is merely a compulsion for withstanding uncertainty, choosing the right and necessary decisions and locating your future position. Risks caused are by many standards long lasting; they are not going to ease or go away anytime soon. The problem with risks is that while living too focused in the present we usually forget that we have a future to look after as well. It is in our biological character not to care about the rights or welfare of the upcoming generations because we are bound to focus on issues temporally and locally close. In a way it is hard to imagine people willingly causing trouble to ones like them. Still it is reprehensible to ignore risks that are both obvious and damaging just by saying “everything will eventually turn out for the better”. Well, it won’t.

I cannot believe that disdaining the future would be our only option when all we would have to do is just slightly evolve and develop our form of thinking. It might take time but there is no other way out really.  At the moment we are not ready to face greater suffering so that we could enjoy or benefit from actions seen dislikable later. This is because we never think further ahead of our own nose or noses of our descendants. The distant future feels less realistic than the near future. We have even a specific risk evaluation in which risks near to us get more attention than those further away. While our orientation is kept tightly within close range it is impossible to focus on questions concerning generations to come. That is why we also make haste and poor decisions which cannot last while meant only to solve problems on temporary basis. In economics it is fairly common to leave the real problem be and patch up the wound. As critical economist Henry Hazlitt says, economy is too often seen only means to provide momentary interest. We should make economics that stand the test of time and create lasting good for many instead of a few. Of course we are glad if things turn out for the better, but it is an operation worth nothing if problems are not solved for the benefit of those coming after us. For example if we only take actions which ease the pain but won’t heal the whole disease, the disease will eventually kill the patient.       

People have strong faith on science. “Problems will be handled over time” is the common belief. This strong optimism may sometimes blind us and make us disregard our problems that would need our urgent attention. In the past it was easy to predict risks and learn how to comprehend changing conditions in our lives. Risks were obvious and controllable. Last 100 years has introduced us a technological boost never experienced before. It has produced innovations and scientific breakthroughs and enabled rapid cultural development in a global scale. Now days we are no longer flexible or fast enough to react to risks - and they have grown beyond our reach. Living safe usually means taking insurances and making preparations for the worse. The biggest risks in our lives are not things like an engine bust up, a washing machine gone broken or even a death of an close friend. We have risks that concern the whole existence of human kind – and these risks should be in the center of our personal and global agenda and intention.

We need people who really care about the future of this planet and its inhabitants. The welfare of others does not necessarily mean that we need to give up on our own well-being. It means that we have to try to live like there would be life after we have departed. This also calls for a strong political will. But before that it calls a reevaluation of our risks.   

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