The Dangerous Illusion

What you believe and what is actually true can often be two very different things, and the difference could kill you.

 I can believe my favorite sports team are the best of the best, only to be slapped in the face by reality on Sunday afternoon.  I can believe my pay check will last me to the end of the month in spite of my busy social schedule and efforts to punish my liver at every available watering hole... only to be faced with the reality of baked beans on toast and hitching a lift to work when my month mysteriously outlasts my pay check.

I can believe that I live in safety... but when the day comes that my illusion is shown to be... well... an illusion, the consequences can be terrible.

To put it another way, if there is one thing worse than living in fear of bad things happening, it's living in a Dangerous Illusion that you are safe from bad things.

Living in fear is no fun, but when you fear something, you prepare for it.  You plan, you make provisions for the worst case scenario, you stay ready just in case and by doing so you often make that worst case scenario less bad, and the feared thing less frightening.  But when you live in the belief that you are safe and then discover that you were wrong, then you are worse off than if you'd lived in fear and prepared for the worst.

This applies to almost every area of life.  We see it with everything from road rules to retirement funds to healthcare to personal safety. 

Experiments by the Dutch and Germans (Google “Bohmte”) with shared space roadways have shown the potential for a significant improvement in safety when the road rules were dramatically reduced.  How could that possibly be true?  Simple.  For as long as there was a set of black and white “do this, don't do that” rules in place an illusion of safety was created.  Thus people would drive blindly through a green light because the green light made them “safe.”  Pedestrians would walk when the green man said so, often without looking, and cyclists would play second class citizens, marginalized by the road rules which made the car king.  People were concerned with their right of way and whether they were in the right, rather than concerned with where everyone else was and what they were doing.

But then the illusion of safety that the rules provided was removed and all of a sudden people took active responsibility for themselves and looked out for each other because they feared a collision.  Safety was improved and in many cases the roadways actually became more efficient and less congested at the same time.  Once the illusion of safety was removed, the reality of how dangerous the roads can be was plain for all to see and thus the road users treated it with the respect it was due.

That's just one example of many.  Here in Australia we've had mandatory retirement savings funds for years now, and thanks to these mandatory accounts there is a (fast disappearing) perception that peoples retirement is taken care of.  But in reality many people have reached retirement age and discovered that they have nowhere near enough to retire on in those accounts and because they lived under the Dangerous Illusion that their Superannuation plan had their retirement needs covered, they'd made no other provisions.  Had they never been told that it was being taken care of in the first place they might have taken care of it themselves and actually been better off in the long run. Oops.

I myself have suffered the consequences of a Dangerous Illusion, in my case the illusion was that socialized healthcare would take care of me when I needed it.  More than 18 months passed from my diagnosis with severe obstructive sleep apnea before I had the surgery I was promised and had paid for through my taxes.  I slept every night with a breathing machine while I waited.  Like many Australians, I didn't buy private healthcare because I lived under the Dangerous Illusion that my taxes had paid for adequate healthcare in the event that I needed it.  Silly me.

Even worse is the Dangerous Illusion that your government can protect you and keep you safe from crime.  Here in Australia we are told over and over again that Australia is a “safe” country.  Well it's true that you are statistically less likely to be murdered here than in most other countries of the world, and that's a great thing... but the consequences of being murdered here are just as final as the consequences for being murdered elsewhere.  You're still dead!  Likewise our victims of rape are no less violated for the fact that there are fewer of them per capita per year than in other parts of the world.  Crime being less likely does not translate into you being safe. 

But here in Australia we have accepted the Dangerous Illusion that we are “safe,” which means that we pass and support laws that make it harder for us to actually protect ourselves.  In Australia we are not only banned from carrying any sort of firearm (or even to have a firearm ready to use in our own homes, for that matter) but also banned from carrying knives (even a Swiss army pocket knife needs “justification” if you're caught with it), tasers, pepper spray... pretty much anything you care to name which might be a useful tool for protecting yourself from those who might want to do you harm. All banned.

How is this ban justified?  Because we are all “safe,” remember?  The government will look after us, the police will protect us, and allowing people other than the police to legally carry any sort of weapon will make us “less safe.”

This Dangerous Illusion is so deeply seated in the Australian psyche that it persists even in the face of regular shootings and violent crimes amongst our criminal gangs.  It persists even in the presence of irregular (but still far too common) headlines about vulnerable women being snatched off the streets or raped and murdered in their own homes, of elderly people being bashed and robbed in broad daylight, of groups of young thugs terrorizing people on the streets and on public transport. In spite of headline after headline, in spite of funerals for victims and images of weeping loved ones bewildered by how this could happen in such a “safe” place, and even in spite of the sharp escalation of some types of violent crimes in recent years we still insist that we are “safe.”

And so this Dangerous Illusion keeps us from taking the necessary steps to actually make ourselves safe.  It's this illusion that is killing us, just as much as the criminals themselves.

But even this, as serious as it is, isn't the most dangerous Dangerous Illusion which we fall victim to in our comfortable western lives.  All of the above Dangerous Illusions are by-products, logical conclusions drawn from the greatest, deadliest and most Dangerous Illusion of them all; the belief that your government knows best.

We have handed control of almost every area of our lives to our government.  If they haven't regulated something yet you can guarantee it won't be long.  And every time we hand something over to the government we dust off our hands, pat ourselves on the back and pretend that it's now 'taken care of'.

Nonsense.  This Dangerous Illusion is the greatest stumbling block to making actual, real progress, to taking actual real steps to deal with the problems we face.  Take away the illusion that the government has everything under control, that the government can 'look after' you... and you'll see the same thing we saw when the Germans in Bohmte stripped away the rules and control on their towns roads; people will step up and take responsibility for themselves.

Take away the illusion that we are safe, and we will secure ourselves.  Take away the illusion that we will be provided for no matter what, and we will provide for ourselves. 

Take away these Dangerous Illusions and we'll secure a safer, better future for ourselves.

Topher Field is an Australian actor, writer, film director and political activist.  He believes unashamedly in personal liberty and personal responsibility.  You can view his work and contact him through www.topher.com.au.

What you believe and what is actually true can often be two very different things, and the difference could kill you.

 I can believe my favorite sports team are the best of the best, only to be slapped in the face by reality on Sunday afternoon.  I can believe my pay check will last me to the end of the month in spite of my busy social schedule and efforts to punish my liver at every available watering hole... only to be faced with the reality of baked beans on toast and hitching a lift to work when my month mysteriously outlasts my pay check.

I can believe that I live in safety... but when the day comes that my illusion is shown to be... well... an illusion, the consequences can be terrible.

To put it another way, if there is one thing worse than living in fear of bad things happening, it's living in a Dangerous Illusion that you are safe from bad things.

Living in fear is no fun, but when you fear something, you prepare for it.  You plan, you make provisions for the worst case scenario, you stay ready just in case and by doing so you often make that worst case scenario less bad, and the feared thing less frightening.  But when you live in the belief that you are safe and then discover that you were wrong, then you are worse off than if you'd lived in fear and prepared for the worst.

This applies to almost every area of life.  We see it with everything from road rules to retirement funds to healthcare to personal safety. 

Experiments by the Dutch and Germans (Google “Bohmte”) with shared space roadways have shown the potential for a significant improvement in safety when the road rules were dramatically reduced.  How could that possibly be true?  Simple.  For as long as there was a set of black and white “do this, don't do that” rules in place an illusion of safety was created.  Thus people would drive blindly through a green light because the green light made them “safe.”  Pedestrians would walk when the green man said so, often without looking, and cyclists would play second class citizens, marginalized by the road rules which made the car king.  People were concerned with their right of way and whether they were in the right, rather than concerned with where everyone else was and what they were doing.

But then the illusion of safety that the rules provided was removed and all of a sudden people took active responsibility for themselves and looked out for each other because they feared a collision.  Safety was improved and in many cases the roadways actually became more efficient and less congested at the same time.  Once the illusion of safety was removed, the reality of how dangerous the roads can be was plain for all to see and thus the road users treated it with the respect it was due.

That's just one example of many.  Here in Australia we've had mandatory retirement savings funds for years now, and thanks to these mandatory accounts there is a (fast disappearing) perception that peoples retirement is taken care of.  But in reality many people have reached retirement age and discovered that they have nowhere near enough to retire on in those accounts and because they lived under the Dangerous Illusion that their Superannuation plan had their retirement needs covered, they'd made no other provisions.  Had they never been told that it was being taken care of in the first place they might have taken care of it themselves and actually been better off in the long run. Oops.

I myself have suffered the consequences of a Dangerous Illusion, in my case the illusion was that socialized healthcare would take care of me when I needed it.  More than 18 months passed from my diagnosis with severe obstructive sleep apnea before I had the surgery I was promised and had paid for through my taxes.  I slept every night with a breathing machine while I waited.  Like many Australians, I didn't buy private healthcare because I lived under the Dangerous Illusion that my taxes had paid for adequate healthcare in the event that I needed it.  Silly me.

Even worse is the Dangerous Illusion that your government can protect you and keep you safe from crime.  Here in Australia we are told over and over again that Australia is a “safe” country.  Well it's true that you are statistically less likely to be murdered here than in most other countries of the world, and that's a great thing... but the consequences of being murdered here are just as final as the consequences for being murdered elsewhere.  You're still dead!  Likewise our victims of rape are no less violated for the fact that there are fewer of them per capita per year than in other parts of the world.  Crime being less likely does not translate into you being safe. 

But here in Australia we have accepted the Dangerous Illusion that we are “safe,” which means that we pass and support laws that make it harder for us to actually protect ourselves.  In Australia we are not only banned from carrying any sort of firearm (or even to have a firearm ready to use in our own homes, for that matter) but also banned from carrying knives (even a Swiss army pocket knife needs “justification” if you're caught with it), tasers, pepper spray... pretty much anything you care to name which might be a useful tool for protecting yourself from those who might want to do you harm. All banned.

How is this ban justified?  Because we are all “safe,” remember?  The government will look after us, the police will protect us, and allowing people other than the police to legally carry any sort of weapon will make us “less safe.”

This Dangerous Illusion is so deeply seated in the Australian psyche that it persists even in the face of regular shootings and violent crimes amongst our criminal gangs.  It persists even in the presence of irregular (but still far too common) headlines about vulnerable women being snatched off the streets or raped and murdered in their own homes, of elderly people being bashed and robbed in broad daylight, of groups of young thugs terrorizing people on the streets and on public transport. In spite of headline after headline, in spite of funerals for victims and images of weeping loved ones bewildered by how this could happen in such a “safe” place, and even in spite of the sharp escalation of some types of violent crimes in recent years we still insist that we are “safe.”

And so this Dangerous Illusion keeps us from taking the necessary steps to actually make ourselves safe.  It's this illusion that is killing us, just as much as the criminals themselves.

But even this, as serious as it is, isn't the most dangerous Dangerous Illusion which we fall victim to in our comfortable western lives.  All of the above Dangerous Illusions are by-products, logical conclusions drawn from the greatest, deadliest and most Dangerous Illusion of them all; the belief that your government knows best.

We have handed control of almost every area of our lives to our government.  If they haven't regulated something yet you can guarantee it won't be long.  And every time we hand something over to the government we dust off our hands, pat ourselves on the back and pretend that it's now 'taken care of'.

Nonsense.  This Dangerous Illusion is the greatest stumbling block to making actual, real progress, to taking actual real steps to deal with the problems we face.  Take away the illusion that the government has everything under control, that the government can 'look after' you... and you'll see the same thing we saw when the Germans in Bohmte stripped away the rules and control on their towns roads; people will step up and take responsibility for themselves.

Take away the illusion that we are safe, and we will secure ourselves.  Take away the illusion that we will be provided for no matter what, and we will provide for ourselves. 

Take away these Dangerous Illusions and we'll secure a safer, better future for ourselves.

Topher Field is an Australian actor, writer, film director and political activist.  He believes unashamedly in personal liberty and personal responsibility.  You can view his work and contact him through www.topher.com.au.

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