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The Warsaw Voice » From the News Editor » September 30, 2011
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From the editor
September 30, 2011   
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October is a special month for us because Oct. 23, 1988 was the date of the first issue of The Warsaw Voice. However, I do realize that 23 years ago is ancient history, especially in times of major change. We have crossed so many rivers since then—the world, Europe, Poland and each one of us—that going back to those days is like going back to the battles of Grunwald (1410), Verdun (1916) or the Alamo (1836), or to the Great Depression.

As regards the Great Depression of the 1930s, actually we do keep going back to it. That major traumatic event still serves as a point of reference. It’s as if it were the same kind of model for crises as the meter standard in Sevres is for units of measurement.

Scary stuff is thrown at us daily. The news from financial markets is numerical, with either a plus or minus sign in front (more often a minus). Commentaries lend the figures an air of drama inspired by horror tragedies. A cross between Godzilla and the Titanic plus the Horsemen of the Apocalypse sums up the threat hanging over us, or the abyss over which we stand; actually, we’ve already fallen into it, we just haven’t hit bottom yet.

The classic structure of a scary sentence goes something like this: The stock exchange has dropped to a level not seen since 2009, or: The zloty-to-euro rate has not been this bad since 2008, or: The situation is similar to the moment that Lehman Brothers collapsed.

I leave it up to psychologists to answer the question of whether fear is a constructive emotion and whether it releases creative forces—energy, inventiveness. To my mind it doesn’t. I fear I’m no exception. Perhaps it triggers a capacity for survival, but more likely it paralyzes, narrows our horizons and torpedoes hope. It doesn’t trigger resourcefulness and it doesn’t encourage us to act.

What’s more, it devalues very quickly. How long can you stay scared? Our natural immunity copes quite well with fear, we simply get used to it like we get used to tight shoes. We get calluses, but we keep walking. If fear stimulates any positive reactions, like awakening those who are asleep, signaling dangers, forcing us to act, then this is fear devalued in exactly the opposite way. It relaxes our vigilance, makes us underestimate the dangers, like the story of the shepherd nobody helped when wolves attacked him because he had cried wolf once too often.

This is the kind of fear that tries to scare us with situations we don’t really recall as having been particularly terrible.
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