The Opposite of Peace

A blog blast for peace almost by definition demands thoughts of the opposite state (violence and fears) because if peace were the norm, we wouldn’t need to talk about peace — it would be taken for granted. But peace is not necessarily the norm, except among you and me and the rest of us peaceable folk. In fact, violence, way more than peace, is an acceptable part of the culture: witness all the violent movies, TV shows, video games.

Sheri Parks, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, says that many teens today have had years of exposure to violent video games and media images, which studies show desensitizes them to violence. Not surprising. Many of today’s — and yesterday’s — video games were developed by the military because studies had shown that repeated images of violence and death inured people to killing. In World War II, as many as 85% of soldiers fired over enemies’ heads or did not fire at all. After World War II, there was a concerted effort by the military to overcome this natural reluctance to kill, and apparently they succeeded, because during close combat in Vietnam, only about 5% of soldiers failed to aim to kill. These same desensitizing “games” were later released as toys for children.

Findings such as these about desensitization — whether new or old — scare the heck out of me. Author Lee Child says that we don’t write what we know, we write what we fear. Perhaps this is true. My books are filled with fears — fear of being at the mercy of mindless governments and corrupt corporations, fear of deadly and unstoppable diseases, fear of the loss of self, fear that our memories lie. Since all of these fears can be lumped into one group — fear of powerlessness — I wonder if all fears came down to that same thing. Mine do, anyway.

This theme of powerlessness is most prevalent in my novel More Deaths Than One (in fact, I came across the information about desensitization while researching the military, soldiers, and killing for that particular novel) though it shows up in milder forms in all of my novels. Conspiracy? Perhaps. Truth? Probably. Fear? Definitely.

Through stories, you learn how to deal with your fears, especially if you are the one writing the story. If you novelize a fear of being eaten alive by monsters from outer space, then the terrestrial ones eating you alive don’t seem so monstrous. If you watch a movie about aliens taking over your body, then the terrestrial one taking over your mind might not seem quite so alien.

You don’t think you are being eaten alive or that your mind is being taken over? Well, you are and it is — it’s called aging. Little by little, the you that you know is being supplanted by a creature you could never fathom being. Some people turn into querulous beings totally unrecognizable from the derring-dos of their youthful selves. Some turn into their mothers. Some . . . Well, I’ve scared you enough.

I researched phobias to see what sort of things other people are afraid of, and now I’m in danger of becoming a phobiaphobe. Although I am sympathetic to anyone caught in the horror of a phobia, I do enjoy the names. Names such as levophobia, kainophobia, lachanophobia, mageirocophobia, melophobia, nomatophobia, nyctohylophobia, paraskavedekatriaphobia. Great names for dreadful conditions.

In the end, except when it comes to writing with its necessity for conflict, it seems as if peace is a much easier way to live than the alternatives of fear and violence that permeate our culture. So here’s to next years Blog Blast for Peace!

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Okay, I’ll let you off the hook so you don’t turn into a Sesquipedalophobe (someone who fears long words). Here’s what the above-mentioned words mean:

  • Levophobia — Fear of things to the left side of the body
  • Kainophobia — Fear of anything new
  • Lachanophobia — Fear of vegetables
  • Mageirocophobia — Fear of cooking
  • Melophobia — Fear of music
  • Nomatophobia — Fear of names
  • Nyctohylophobia —- Fear of dark wooded areas
  • Paraskavedekatriaphobia — Fear of Friday the 13th
  • Phobiaphobe — Fear of fear
  • Triskaidekaphobia — Fear of the number thirteen

The one fear I hope no one ever gets is patbertramophobia. So not good for me as a writer!

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Happy Friday the 12Ath!

I have no particular opinion or fear about thirteen or Friday or Friday the thirteenth, though I do find a lot of irony associated with the avoidance of thirteen. For example, buildings with more than 13 floors don’t call the 13th floor the 13th floor, but instead skip the number and go directly to the 14th floor or call it 12A. It’s still the 13th floor, right? So do people simply fear the number rather than the actual floor? And if they fear the number, do they refuse to buy baker’s dozens of donuts or cookies? (Though perhaps that is dating me — I don’t think I’ve come across a baker’s dozen of anything in a long time.) And if it’s the number thirteen they fear, why is only Friday the thirteeth a fearful day? I realize it’s the conjunction of fateful Fcatriday and the ominous number that causes friggatriskaidekaphobia, but still, for those with the simpler case of triskaidekaphobia, wouldn’t any thirteenth day of the month be cause for concern?

(Interesting side note — in many Spanish speaking countries, Tuesday the thirteenth is the unlucky day, so for them, the movie Friday the Thirteenth was renamed Tuesday the Thirteenth.)

If Friday the thirteenth were really an unlucky day as more than 20 million Americans believe, to be on the safe side, shouldn’t the calendar makers follow the example of builders and call change all 13s that fall on a Friday to 14 or maybe even 12A? And speaking of calendars, our current calendar was not universally adopted in Europe until the eighteenth century. So is our current Friday the thirteenth the real Friday the thirteenth? Wouldn’t the day fall on other dates using other calendars?

Today is an especially interesting day considering that it’s exactly thirteen weeks since the last Friday the thirteenth in this year of twenty-thirteen, but I don’t know if that makes it more it a more dire day or simply a matter of curiosity.

Whether or not you believe that Friday the thirteenth is bad luck (and if you do, please forgive my levity), I hope you have a fearfully wonderful day.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.