Good old fashioned panic:
I have mentioned the screenplay “Young Frankenstein.”  Another line I remember better from the book than from the movie is one delivered by the constable in the village below the Frankenstein castle.  The townspeople are understandably edgy when the grandson moves in to take over the castle.  The last time things hadn’t worked out so well, if you remember.

So from time to time the villagers begin to reach for their torches and pitchforks and the rather imposing constable again and again calls for calm with the words, “A riot is an ugly thing.”  But eventually it becomes quite clear what the young doctor is up to, and the constable announces, “A riot is an ugly thing … but I think it may be time for a good old fashioned riot.”

Many years ago I looked at the fundamentals of how the nation was going and how the international scene was working out.  The stock market was doing marvelously, but I saw no reason for cheer.  I bethought me at the time that I would very much like to panic.  The only thing was that I didn’t know what to do in case of panic.  There was no way I could think of for getting off the roller coaster.  Even now I can think of no way.

Well demographically things look a lot worse than the economy does or did.  I believe if we can fix the demographics the economy will snap into line very nicely.

Yes I understand that the authorities are taking great pains to keep people from panicking.  When they publish graphs of age distributions they do an odd thing.  Usually when you chart some value against time, time is portrayed along the horizontal axis, proceeding as it does for all practical purposes in its steady and inexorable fashion.  The variable is on the vertical axis.

There may be an evolutionary reason for this.  For a long time we were wanderers, hunters and gatherers.  We have a deeply ingrained impulse to study a horizon.  We are quite analytical when we do so.  The horizon holds opportunity and sometimes threat.  It calls upon the rational mind to make reasonable interpretations.

On the other hand, if time is on the vertical axis, then the line jiggles in and out.  That appeals to another of our brain functions.  We have an impulse to study faces.  Opportunity and threat also come from other people.  So when you turn a graph to put time on the vertical axis it is hard to resist seeing faces.  We are distracted by this.  There is absolutely nothing in the graph that gives any meaning to what the expression on that face might be.  I think it is done so as to present the bad news in an obfuscating fashion.

They don’t want us to panic.

But what would we do if we did panic?  Bolt for the exit?  There is no exit.  At most we could babble hysterically.  So that’s what I do. 

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