BLOG: Fear Mongering and the Lions

How to overcome the work of fear mongers.

The Lion's Eye

Are you familiar with the phrase “Fear Monger”? It is used to describe someone who manipulates people’s emotions using fear to force you into making decisions based on emotions rather than reason. Like a bully would. People buy cars based on emotions. I did not buy my 4-Runner because it got great mileage, I bought it because it was a hot SUV.

We in fact are all victims of emotional manipulation of one form or another. Have you seen the new Rolls Royce dealership in Thousand Oaks? What’s rational about $400,000 for a car? Then there’s the new Duisenburg. I cannot imagine a life without emotions.

To continue with the car analogy, there are people who would be literally terrified to drive a two passenger Smart Car on the freeway. They are certain they would die within days in such a thing. They probably don’t have to park in downtown Beverly Hills. The fact that 1000s of people are driving them every day all over the US and Europe, doesn’t affect them in the least.

I know several people that are firmly convinced that eating raw fish will, if not kill you, will certainly infest your body with all sorts of disease bearing parasites that will do something or other. The fact that thousands of people eat Sushi each night all over Los Angeles, and there are no reports of such problems, does not faze them one bit. Their fears disable their rational thought processes.  I probably will not see them at the new Nobu on the beach.

We are all influenced by our fears. Do you know San Vicente BLVD in Santa Monica? A guy I knew several years ago told stories to people about robbers and rapists and rats and disease and then sold them house and business alarm systems to protect themselves against their fears. He bought a house on Georgina, a block or so over from San Vicente with his profits. The NRA has taken over his job by the way. Millions of assault rifles are sold that way for hundreds of millions of dollars. I call it the protection racket.

I’ll bet you know what this has to do with Mountain Lions. I have a friend who was attacked by a police dog when she was a little girl. When she goes walking in the city with her fellow walkers and a dog appears, she hides behind her friends. She’s afraid of animals and always will be. The friend I hike with every week was quite upset when we thought there was a pit bull coming toward us on the trail in Chesebro Park last week. It turned out to be a lab.

I witnessed my dad being attacked by our new next door neighbor’s German Shepherd  once when I was a child. After that, he carried a baseball bat when he was near the neighbor’s fence. He cracked the dog over the head a couple of times when it tried to climb the fence after him and then told the neighbor to take his dog in when we had to mow the lawn. People react differently about animals. My dad was born in a log cabin in the wilds of Northern Ontario, Canada. He ate wild animals for breakfast when he was young, the ones my grandfather shot. We each use our own filters to see the world.

A lot of people have bear stories after having camped in Sequoia National park. People have lion stories too, what-ever works. The problem is they’ve never actually seen  or heard or smelled one and actually do not know what they’re talking about. It’s like, well I saw it on TV once… or I read about it in the newspaper,  and that makes them experts. They just make up stuff or tell half-truths or sometimes quarter truths or one eighth truths, about the one that got away.

Really a lot of people believe that if they saw it on TV it actually happened to them. Are you a writer? Do you write what happens on TV? A lot of people believe that if they saw it on the internet, it must be true. Do you know the new movie about the guy who writes his girlfriend into existence? His friend says, “For the sake of men everywhere….. “Maybe I could write myself into a new Rolls…

So it’s great to scare people with gory stories about lions combined with a need to protect people. It’s what the Boogie Man is all about. There are a thousand children’s books about monsters in the closet. Have you ever heard the line “I don’t get no respect”? Scary stories are the only thing that works for some folks. Mostly bullies, I think. Fear mongering and bullying go hand in hand in my opinion.

If you read about lions in a book or listen to the mongers or watch NatGeo like me, my friends and I should have died several times by now because of the mountain trails we hike. We repeat hike these trails in lion country again and again, and over the years have hiked 100’s of miles on them.  If you hike for 10 miles a dozen different times, that’s over a hundred miles in three months. Don’t be afraid, it’s only third grade arithmetic. We hike most weeks all year long.

I know there have been lions around where we hike because I talk to the park rangers in places like Sycamore Canyon in Pt. Mugu State Park and they tell me about the most recent sightings. Perhaps once in ten visits do we ever hear of one near us. The point is, they’re around and they never bother people.  As a result, I just don’t worry. Fear mongering just doesn’t work for me or my friends.

If the fear mongers are right, I should be dead by now, several times. Apparently one of us is just making it up as we go along. Walking along a trail looking into the heavy bush above, knowing what I know, is an act of faith on my part, faith in my awareness of animal behavior. IT’s really not that hard, give it a try, maybe it will work for you, too.

In fact I’d like to offer you a chance to test the faith you have in your awareness of lion behavior. I am thinking of leading hikes in various Santa Monica Mountain Parks because I love it there and want to encourage use of our parklands. I’ll bring my hiking stick. That’s what this series of articles on lions is all about enjoying our parks without fear. Besides, the more the merrier, the lions don’t like crowds.

Also you might consider the fact that hundreds of thousands of other hikers will hike in the Santa Monica Mountains this year, just like in all the past years our trails have been here. And, of course Park Volunteers and Rangers lead hikes all year long.

I took each of the accompanying photos. One is of an actual scary spider and the others are of knots in the trunks of trees near my house. The digital filters I used to do global alterations on the original photos act a lot like the filters I mentioned that we all have on our minds. What you see sometimes is not what is in front of your face. It’s altered by your point of view.

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Dan Charney October 13, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Good post and so true. We are controlled by fear and deluded by sex. Two best marketing tools ever invented. That, and more subtly, fear of death. Wish I was in good enough shape to go on these hikes. It's not the smart and reclusive lions I fear- it's the sunning itself rattler. But then, they give obvious warnings. Snake salesmen humans do too- but you have to pay attention to get it. Thanks.
Robert Coutts October 13, 2012 at 08:02 AM
Dan I fear the rattlers too. I had one come within less than a foot from me once,heading onto the trail I was hiking on with a friend. We were deep in conversation and were not paying attention. I was just lucky. I now watch the path ahead where ever I go. I've gotten some good shots of rattlers on the trail that way. The ones that sun themselves in the middle of the trail have real attitudes. There was one between me and home up north of Ojai, once. I had a bunch of Boy Scouts I was responsible for behind me, so I had to deal with it. I had to roll rocks over it and it still didn't want to move. It was about 4 1/2 -- 5 feet. All it did eventually was wrap around a bush on the side of the trail. I had to stay between each scout and the snake and was glad I had a long pole. The stick I hike with now has a two pronged deer antler on top that I got on a friend's ranch.


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