I started a sporadic series about a year ago called Question Everything, designed to explore ingrained belief systems. I’ve only managed one other post about it. This particular topic of crime seems a little odd for this blog but in a way I think the message here sheds light on many ways in which perception creates beliefs that ignore truth.
In graduate school in the 70’s I worked on a big project studying crime and perceptions about crime for Northwestern’s Center for Urban Affairs. My first job was reviewing literature on crime statistics. It was eye-opening for me to realize how different the reality about crime was than the public perception. Except for Black and Hispanic males between 15 and 25 in inner cities, the statistical probability of being a victim of kidnap, robbery, burglary, assault, rape, or murder HAD NOT CHANGED since the 1940’s!
John Stossel did an investigative special in the 1990’s on those same statistics and got the same results — no change since the 40’s. And I’ve explored a little since then and it still holds true. No change in the chance that you will be a victim of crime since the 1940’s. You know the 40’s. When no one locked a car or a house and children wandered all over and walked to school (so I hear :>) –wasn’t there).
The crime stat studies found that two big things did change after the 40’s. Most crimes were only reported in local news in those days. Unless a famous person was involved, you didn’t hear about most murders and kidnappings on a national basis. Then the news began reporting huge numbers of crimes nationally, thus giving the impression that many more crimes were committed.
More important, crimes started being reported in gross numbers instead of statistical probabilities (totals instead of per capita). As the population grows, so do the numbers and if you emphasize –as law enforcement likes to do in order to get funds–the growth in numbers rather than the non-growth of chances of being a victim it appears to the public that crime has become rampant. There was actually more violent crime in colonial times. You know, back when it was tranquil…
My point is, many of us are living our lives being careful and locking up and carrying our purses differently based on current assumptions about crime and criminals everywhere. But we’ve been fed the information that creates the perception of all this crime and IT’S NOT TRUE. [Just an example, I have a broken trunk latch and I’ve been carrying around electronics that need to go to the recycling center for a year, praying someone would steal them… no dice–where are all the criminals when you want one?].
There are so many ways we live by beliefs that have been shaped by the media and by regional and national and international perceptions and those beliefs can impact our lives profoundly. In our study we were looking at the fear of crime, the way that perception led to fears not justified by facts and what kinds of programs reduced the fear. I think you could do all kinds of studies about perceptions that create unwarranted fear for the public. It would be even more helpful if the media and law enforcement quit trying to scare us…
If you believe that what you believe influences the reality of your life, then fearing crime is more likely to bring crime to you. But I find most people have an easier time identifying and releasing their personal beliefs based on childhood and family than letting go of beliefs that permeate society, like the current fear of crime. And yet both impact how you create reality.
How many things that you hear on the news or read about current events leave you feeling uneasy or anxious even though you have no way of knowing whether it’s true? How many times have you been upset or worried by so-called “pundits” predicting bad outcomes–for instance the inevitable destruction of the Gulf in the wake of Katrina? What beliefs are impacting your life because the news tells you they’re so or because they’re widely-held beliefs?
CPS — comment here about your praying/chanting experience. Did anybody complete the ritual challenge?