©2017 C. Henry Martens
Context: noun. The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed. Also, the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.
I like to play with different scenarios in my head. The imagination is a useful tool when coupled with the rest of the toolbox humans possess. One of the things I like to play with is context. Putting the bald statements of politicians and experts to the test by placing them in context is an enjoyable mind exercise, and helps me to keep an open mind based in reality. Basically, placing statements-of-fact in context allows me to see the hidden agendas, the generalizations, and the outright falsehoods that many people accept without thought.
Fear sells. It is a fact of life that if a politician can scare you into thinking there is a risk, and can sell you on the idea that (s)he will address the issue to your benefit, you are more likely to vote for him/her. This is why airports are crammed with people waiting in lines, removing their shoes and metal objects, and being groped willingly by strangers.
But what about context?
Did you know that excluding 9/11/2001, when 2,983 people lost their lives to terrorism… excluding that single date in the years from 1975 through 2015, there were 41 people killed by foreign born terrorists? That would be one per year on average, according to a study for the Cato Institute by Alex Nowrasteh.
I don’t know… but doesn’t it seem reasonable that most of those foreign born terrorist deaths could be CIA agents in the performance of their placed-in-harm’s-way kind of jobs? Or are they even safer than I might expect?
A little context… and by extension a few questions spring to mind.
How much does it cost to protect us from a threat that kills on average one person a year? How many politicians are elected using these fears, and are they the kind of politicians that have reasonable priorities? And if they are only manipulating votes by selling fear, then what are their real agendas? All of this money being spent, to say nothing of the emotional costs and the lack of worthy concern over better priorities.
Better priorities? Maybe I should explain that. Another context.
To keep it simple I’ll just take one example. Media coverage. Now the media likes terrorism. It is easy news, and news that sells. The media doesn’t have to dig hard to sell terrorism because they can spin the same story several ways, almost as though a single incident could be sold as several separate events depending on the perspective presented. Not that they do this intentionally (ahem), but isn’t it amazing how terrorism stays in the news and other things are never reported on or get little coverage? So the point I’m making is that there are hidden costs to terrorism, and one of those costs is a lack of good journalism. Your need to know is being minimized by “easy news”.
There are so many fun mind games to be explored.
How would men feel about abortion if they were saddled with the child in the same percentages that women are now? How would women feel if they were denied their children in favor of men? What if men were required to raise the children they father, and women were not? Context.
How many people would breed unwanted animals if they knew the real statistics in how many domestic cats and dogs are euthanized at shelters? And how “no-kill shelters” either refuse excess animals or transfer them to kill shelters after proving less than adoptable? Context.
How would you feel about doing something you love if the purchaser was going to use it for purposes you felt to be repugnant? If you are a gay baker, do you have the right to refuse to bake a wedding cake for straight people? Does a person of color have the right to refuse a contract making flags for white supremacists? If police officers were targeting white people going through black neighborhoods, much more likely to use lethal force, would taking a knee during the National Anthem be more acceptable as a protest? Context.