Chicken Little made her debut over twenty-five centuries ago. It first appeared in the Buddhist scriptures as the Daddabha Jataka. Several versions have emerged over the years, and it appears that they vary depending on the audience. In one version, the fox kills and eats all of the characters – probably not the best version for young children. The following version (my favorite) is an excellent metaphor that highlights the havoc that can be wreaked by one person spreading uninformed, manufactured fear.
The Sky is Falling:
One day, while Chicken Little was out walking, a crow flying by dropped an acorn it was carrying, and it hit Chicken Little on the head. When Chicken Little looked up and didn’t see anything, she decided that the sky must be falling. In a total panic, she began hysterically shouting those immortal words: “the sky is falling.” Having adopted the “see something, say something” mantra, she set off to warn the king (a lion).
Along the way, she encounters Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey and shares her panic with them. They set out together to warn the king. They soon ran across Foxie Loxie sitting on the side of the road. Foxie Loxie, being foxy, tells them he can help because the king happens to be at Foxie Loxie’s den waiting for him. When they get to the den, Foxie Loxie told them they had to go in one at a time as the king did not like crowds.
Of course, the king was not there. As they entered, Foxie Loxie killed and ate each one. Just as it was time for Chicken Little to enter, she remembered that she had forgotten to put the trash out, so she went home.
She never got to see the king.
And, she never knew she was the cause of mass murder.
And, so it is today. vocal pundits, professional agitators, and most news media blindly spread the mantra (the sky is falling) and all of a sudden we spend huge amounts of money and mental energy looking for ways to fix a crisis that doesn’t exist.
And, they do it on purpose.
But, they aren’t the only ones. Social media is replete with volumes of posts from well-intentioned, non-expert people offering personal safety and medical advice they read on social media. Almost without exception, the posts I have seen on personal safety, while offering tidbits of sound advice, contain recommendations that if followed can get someone killed. The challenge, of course, is knowing which is which.
Here is how you do that: ASK QUESTIONS!
Get the facts! (a future post will discuss “facts”)
For instance: remember when the SARS virus was all that was talked about on the news? While it is a serious health issue in some parts of the world, there was not one person in this country that died from it – not one. The Avian Flu soon became fodder for the same type panic. A huge problem in rural China, but not one case in this country.
By contrast, then, it is interesting to note that over 80,000 people died in the United States from the regular flu in the 2017-18 flu season. There was almost no mention of it on the news, much less hysteria. There was an occasional public service announcement encouraging people to get the flu vaccine, but no one seemed to care. One doctor speculated that with 80,000 cases, it was so common that people have become desensitized to it.
Here is how we process “facts.”
- An event occurs,
- We give it meaning,
- The meaning we give it engenders an emotion,
- And, that emotion dictates our behavior.
If Chicken Little had taken a minute to ask herself a few questions, she might well have interpreted the event very differently.
To steal a mantra from the 1960s: QUESTION EVERYTHING.