A risk is a situation involving exposure to danger, the dictionary says, but what does that mean?
Insurance assessors and bookies calculate the odds of either you or them losing some money. What they are calculating is the "risk" to both parties. As you might expect, they lower the risk to themselves and increase the risk to you. The risk business underlies all of our transactions and is ever present too in our everyday lives. It starts when you wake up in the morning in fact. What is the risk on any given morning that you will stub your toe on the bedside locker? Insurance companies see great risks associated with negotiating the staircase down to breakfast. If you are half-asleep and fall down the stairs, they are in the frame for a large unexpected pay-out. And that is even before you put food in your mouth at the breakfast table.
Now when the Good Lord or whoever the designer was, sat down and sketched out the specifications of the human body, I don't think he anticipated us flying around in metal boxes at speeds we were never designed for. The original specs for us saw even the most agile of our number confined to speeds under thirty miles per hour flat out under our own steam. It was we who designed the motor car thereby creating a whole new raft of risks. The motor car spews out carcinogens into the air everyone breathes placing all of us at risk of life-threatening cancers. That is a fact and the only question is the odds of it happening.
The office or factory you work in is covered in case you keel over on your ass. That's your employer recognizing the risk and spreading it so that the company is not liable for a big pay-out. Risk always carries the danger of loss for someone. Pre-historic man had to eat but hunting for food also carried the risk that he himself could become the main coarse for some other species. From earliest times then, risk has always been a central part of being alive.
But in these politically correct times we have developed an unhealthy aversion to risk in our Western Societies. Somehow an impossible aspiration has crept in to become risk-free at all times and that frankly is utter nonsense. We humans are impossibly frail and dis-united and while much if not all of our environment presents us with risks constantly, our biggest risk is from each other. Even those urging us to avoid risks are themselves risking a situation where we lose the ability to deal with risks. They would like us all to view risk as a very bad thing but I'm not so sure.
For example, our bodies come with an immune system whose task is to assist us in dealing with risky things that happen to us physically. But the immune system has to have plenty of practice to make it stronger and better. In other words, the more you subject it to risk the better able it becomes to deal with further risks. How's that for an infinite loop. In relation to the word risk we will also always hear the other word protect. The word 'protect' is designed to give us a warm fuzzy feeling and it implies caring by extension. But our daily reality is far more harsh than that in our drive to be a risk-free society.
I can look back now at my Father's generation and know they were hardier people than my generation. They were more resilient and could deal with more adversity than we ever could. Today if you even see something upsetting there seems to be a queue of so-called professionals eagerly wanting to offer you counseling. What sort of namby-pambies have we become when we cannot cope with life's unpleasant sides. How risk averse have you become when you need somebody to hold your hand after witnessing someone else's car accident? In other times such a scenario would have been covered by the simple expression, "Them's the breaks!"
If as a people we become so frightened of the risks that surround us naturally then we are only making ourselves less able to cope and deal with what can happen. The resultant whining then is merely trying to apportion blame to others for what you yourself should have taken care of or accepted. But there is a problem with that attitude too.
Today I believe that the voices warning of all of the risks we face are the very people making money from those perceived risks. They need to sell us on the idea of the particular risk they profit from and their chosen sales-tool to do that is fear. The risk mongers are selling fear and the more they disable our inherent resilience to risk the more they profit from us. Fear is something that can freeze our resilience. The figures suggest that one in three of us will get a cancer in our lifetime. "Them's the breaks!" Luck or the lack of it is the single biggest imponderable in risk. You can tick all the right boxes in life and cover all of the bases but one moment of bad luck changes everything no matter what you do.
So my theory is that it is a better to accept risk and learn to cope with it when it goes against you then to spend you time in fear and dread of risk and avoid it at all costs. We need to court risks to make progress and get ahead and in doing so, we further minimize our risks!
Mad, isn't it?