Monday, December 05, 2011

Zombies and black swans

I have vivid dreams when I'm anxious and depressed. It's like my brain uses dreams to burn up whatever excessive neuro-chemicals are producing - or are a product of - my anxiety and depression. Almost all my dreams are dramatic stories that relate to whatever is triggering my anxiety. I very rarely have frightening dreams. But occasionally, I have scary nightmares with a particular theme: being closely chased by zombies.

I want a "comfy and cosy" life where I can assume comfort, familiarity, certainty, stability, and security. I avoid conflict. I dislike change. I can deal with a boring life. At minimum, I need somewhere to hide, a cave where I can escape the world. I believe the zombie nightmares express my fear of my safe world stripped away and replaced by a dangerous existence with no safe zone and nowhere to hide, where I'm targeted and chased by angry things actively seeking to harm me, and my only choices are fight or flight.

Last night, I dreamt about a zombie apocalypse. I tried to hide from the growing danger in an apartment by closing the shades and hoping to be overlooked. I didn't know how long I could hold out because I wasn't supplied - the apartment was not a fortified self-sufficient castle. I thought I could at least be safe for the moment. However, the emergency response authorities opened the shades and revealed me to the zombies before the authorities lost control of the situation. The zombies easily broke into the apartment and I was forced to run.

I may be particularly sensitive and anxious, but I'm not unique in my wants and fears. Increasing centralization and government regulation have been human reactions intended to assure constituencies that the risks and uncertainties of the world have been minimized. That's fine if they work. According to an interesting Belmont Club post commenting on CFR article The Black Swan of Cairo, however, our national sense of security is actually a thin fragile veneer on the breaking point. The sweeping centralized social measures of the 20th century have actually increased the threat by making false promises of security, increased fragility by displacing granular resilience, and hidden growing threats until they explode. Upcoming book America 3.0 also speaks about the failure of America 2.0's 20th century institutions and advocates for a technologically networked decentralized 21st century society more reminiscent of America 1.0 to replace them.

If zombies are the stuff of my sleeping nightmares, then black swans scare me while I'm awake.

Eric

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