The Gift of Fear

This book was not written for me. There are two reasons.

First and most important, the "feminazis" probably won't like this book because author Gavin de Becker accurately recognizes that men are fundamentally different from women. He has written his book primarily to help women cope with the dangers uniquely theirs. Not being of feminine persuasion, I don't qualify.

To a substantially lesser degree, other people are also at risk to the dangers he warns of and offers advice for the protection against. It's probably good advice, but it mostly does not work for me, because I think differently from most people.

The title topic, fear, is God's gift -- de Becker leaves God out of his discussion, but he could easily believe it is from God; I would bet it's the publisher who made him remove the Truth (they did that to my book). Fear is God's gift to us for our protection, and de Becker explains how to overcome our cultural aversion to fear and put it to the good use God intended. I would strongly recommend it to any woman, and to everybody who is paid to protect people -- especially hired guards, but also public office holders, administrators and company managers who hire them. Violence is not random nor unpredictable, and people responsible for protection should know how to recognize the danger signals.

The Gift of Fear gives numerous actual cases where people did the right (or wrong) thing in the face of danger, and shows the consequences of their actions. I found these discussions to be the best part of reading the book.

Less valuable to me personally, de Becker often encourages his clients (he runs a risk management corporation) and his readers to look within themselves for intuition about how other people might be threatening them. This utterly fails for me, because I don't think the same way others do. Maybe it's because I missed being a part of the American culture during a particular formative period in my life: no TV, no factory education, not even neighborhood kids to play with, for about half of my pre-teen years. I don't regret it, but it does make me different in rather unique ways. It also keeps me from becoming the kind of target de Becker is out to help: besides not being a woman (obviously not the fault of my childhood environment: I would strongly recommend this book to my two sisters, who both went through the same pre-teen experience with me), I will never be elected to public office, nor become the chief executive of a business large enough to need to be concerned with disgruntled former employees.

The gender difference is rather raw in my consciousness at this time, because I got fired for pointing it out to my former employer. Like most states in the USA, this one has laws prohibiting gender-based discrimination, and my employer brought in a state facilitator to explain these laws to their employees. Since the laws are based on a lie, they cannot present their case without violating their own law. I was foolish enough to point that out. Author de Becker lives and works with that gender difference. It's obviously deeply rooted in the core of what his business (and this book) is all about. I don't know what contortions he must go through to comply with whatever state and federal laws might try to deny the basis of his business, but he seems to have a lot of clients among government leaders who obviously and dearly want him to succeed.

I thought it curious, that the day after reading the chapter on stalking, where de Becker explains how modern movies glorify and praise that anti-social behavior by calling it persistence, the next day I happened to watch one of those movies. It's true: the hero of the movie would not leave the woman alone. He was rewarded (in the movie -- it's fiction, of course) by her undying love. In real life, according to de Becker, these all too often turn in to her simply dying, murdered by the scorned stalker.

One of the stated contributing causes of the violence this book offers protection against is violence and abuse to a child, who then grows up to be the only thing he knows, another violent abuser. Gavin de Becker tells about living through that Hell as a child, but does not give any credible explanation of why he did not become such a person himself. Maybe that's part of what the publisher made him leave out, maybe not. We will never know, but I strongly suspect it is an important component in the full message he has for his readers. More's the pity for leaving it out.

For more information, see also the Wikipedia article

Tom Pittman
2010 January 6