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By Frank Füredi

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Additional info for Culture of fear revisited: risk-taking and the morality of low expectation

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Safety-at-any price is a symptom of compulsive behaviour rather the product of enlightened thinking. Western societies are obsessed with safety. Passions that were once devoted to a struggle to change the world (or to keep it the same) are now invested in trying to ensure that we are safe. The label 'safe' gives new meaning to a wide range of human activities, endowing them with unspoken qualities that are meant to merit our automatic approval. 'Safe sex' is not just sex practised 'healthily' - it implies an entire attitude towards life.

An enlightened society recognizes that human beings need to take risks and that in doing so they will sometimes experience an adverse outcome. Risk is part of life, and a society that adopts the view that preventing injury is an end in itself will have to ban a variety of creative and challenging activities. Banning the word accident will do little to reduce physical injury. However, it will reinforce the current climate of intolerance towards risk-taking and experimentation. Safety-at-any price is a symptom of compulsive behaviour rather the product of enlightened thinking.

The weighing up of positive and negative outcomes, which was traditionally involved in thinking of risks, has been replaced by an outlook where only danger enters into the equation. So today, when we speak of risk, what we have in mind is the danger of an adverse outcome. We describe less and less the decision we are likely to take as a 'good risk'. Not surprisingly, as risks become more and more equated with danger, there is a tendency to adopt strategies that are selfconsciously about risk avoidance.

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