What are We Afraid Of?

Last weekend I took my sons to see “Battle for LA.” It’s a WWII infantry movie. All the great lines. “Go on without me.” “Mickey can hot wire that; he’s from Jersey.” “Your father was a very brave man.” Nowadays we are politically correct because instead of Gooks or Krauts or Slant Eyes or Commies we use aliens, who do not (yet) have civil rights representation.

Battle for LA is only the latest invasion movie. Besides the alien hordes, we are being overrun by flesh-eating zombies (including Walking Dead on cable TV). The movie industry has also rediscovered the western: True Grit, 3:10 to Yuma, Australia, Appaloosa and Comanche Moon– just to name the recent traditional ones.

When was the last time we flocked to the theatre to see cowboys, aliens and the undead? How about the 1950’s? Whether it was Shane or High Noon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Mummy, Invaders from Mars or The War of the Worlds, we escaped to traditional square-jawed American Heroes overcoming impossible odds to prevail over evil.

We often laugh at the paranoia of the 50’s. It’s understandable, given the Cold War and the Atomic Bomb, but we are still amused by their naivete. So what’s our excuse in the 21st century?

We are scared again. Instead of waiting for the sirens that told us to go down into the basement (like that would have helped anyway,) we wait for the report that a terrorist has struck in another unexpected place. The news tells us daily that we are at risk from an earthquake or a tsunami, or perhaps our bank’s failure, or maybe just some local nut shooting up our kid’s school.

The fear that pervades the media wasn’t really a business issue until the recession. Now we aren’t sure that our traditional values of hard work and business ethics hold true any more. The best run company still fails if there are no customers. In the meantime, we watch Wall Street insiders make hundreds of millions of dollars selling fraudulent investments, and then walk away when they are caught. Pop Quiz: What is the current score card for indictments of those who sold sub-prime mortgages to employee pension funds as a “guaranteed investment?” 0. That’s Zero, Zilch, Nada,  Zip.

It’s no wonder we are afraid. Look for things to improve when they remake “The Sound of Music.”

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