Posted on October 13, 2008
According to Wikipedia, “The word panic derives from the name of the Greek god Pan, who was said to have the ability to cause extreme, irrational fear, especially in lonely or open places.” The word panic came to my mind as I watched my two-year old writhe on the ground after something didn’t quite go his way. A few minutes later, he gets his milk and the panic subsides. Of course, getting panic to subside is not so easy when it comes to politics or finance. The stock market is in the midst of a panic of historic proportions. No telling when this panic will subside, but many traders on Wall Street are very happy to celebrate Columbus’s birthday on Monday. Beats losing another trillion or so at the stock market. Panic has also hit the Presidential race. McCain supporters are panicked that their guy will lose, or worse that other guy will win. Likewise, for the Obama supporters, although their panic seems to subsiding. This has been a decade of panic. It started with the Y2K panic. The idea that the world would stop because of some computer glitch cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. Then 9/11 hit and the country went on a terrorist panic. Small towns in Iowa panicked that Islamic terrorists were going to get them, and they demanded their fair share of emergency money. There was the small pox panic, when the President and his cabinet were convinced that the Arabs had a plan to attack the country with the small pox virus, and the government once against spent billions. Anthrax hit the Capitol and the news media, and another panic hit America. We invaded Iraq based on the panicked assumption that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. We were wrong, but once we got there, we had decided not to panic and leave the country torn asunder. Cable drives the panic. Throughout the decade, every child abduction created a media panic. Every malady, from child obesity to the Alzheimer’s disease created a panic. Every car chase caused a media panic. The biggest panic, outside terrorism and politics, caused by the belief that the world will end come because it will get too warm, has electrified the media, college campuses, Congress, and just about every NGO known to man. The only thing that cooled the global warming panic down was the cooling economy and the frozen credit market. Nothing like lost jobs to slap a little reality in the face of the political class. And now we are in the middle of a real doozey of a panic. The American panic has turned into a global panic. The financial panic has cost the economy, and most importantly retirees, billions in lost wealth. It is unclear when that wealth will come back. I, for one, is pretty much all panicked out. The world moves so quickly, with instant analysis, instant gratification and instant mortification, that there is no time for sober reflection. Perhaps the best thing we all can do in the face of panic is to take a time out. It works with my son.