Marc Cameron is haunted by the fear that nuclear war menaces the serenity and security of his life in Montreal. The 57-year-old retired bank manager jogs seven kilometres a week and he belongs to an informal investment group with friends. Almost every week he and his wife, Gilberte, get together with their two daughters and two sons, aged 27 to 32, and his three-year-old granddaughter. But Cameron cannot escape the fear that a quarrel half a world away could blight the lives of his descendants. “I keep thinking about what life will be like by the year 2000,” the respondent to The Maclean’s/ Decima Poll said in a subsequent interview. “I have a fear that nuclear war will happen, but not just between the United States and the Russians. I believe that the Ayatollah Khomeini has the bomb as do other small countries.”
Disturbing; War was the
most frequently cited specific concern of the 1,575 respondents in The Maclean ’s/Decima Poll who were asked, “If you had to name one fear or phobia which you have which bothers you the most, what would it be?” While 16 per cent cited the fear of war, especially nuclear war, the other wide-ranging answers provided a disturbing glimpse into the many pressures and problems of Canadian life.
Thirteen per cent cited economic concerns, with six per cent worrying about unemployment and the other half citing such financial difficulties as “making house payments.” Twenty per cent volunteered a range of four fears about their physical well-being and that of their family. Eighteen per cent had no worries or no opinion.
Fears seemed to strike Canadians of all social groups and ages randomly. “The one thing which does tend to stand out from demographic analysis is the frequency with which some groups mention war,” said Bruce Anderson, Decima’s senior research consultant.
That dread of war was cited more often by younger people, rural inhabitants and Quebecers. And the statistics offer some fascinating comparisons. Twenty-two per cent of the respondents aged 20 to 24 expressed concern about nuclear war while only 12 per cent of those 65 or older shared that fear. Thirteen per cent of the respondents in urban areas worried about war compared to 23 per cent of the people in rural areas. And 24 per cent of Quebecers mentioned war, while only 13 per cent in
Ontario and 19 per cent in British Columbia cited it. The Quebec statistic intrigued Decima’s Anderson. He noted that while the “fear of war” category was high, far fewer Quebecers were afraid of heights, flying or falling than in other provinces. While 12 per cent of Ontario residents cited the “heights” category, a mere three per cent of Quebecers mentioned it. “Previous research suggests that Quebecers are more oriented to speak about broad social or moral issues instead of personal ones,” said Anderson. “That concern may in part explain their reduced focus on idiosyncratic fears.”
By contrast, the poll clearly demonstrated the respondents’ gripping fears about their own —and their relatives’—physical and financial well-being. Respondent Jamie Harms, 25, a part-time special education teacher in Calgary and a mother of a 10-month-old child, said that since she became a parent her principal worries have been centred on her child. “It makes me sick—violence and sexual abuse against children,” she said. Another respondent, Toronto sales representative Donald Macintosh, said he fears somehow losing his independence. “I would hate to lose my ability to take care of myself,” he said.
Macabre: The poll also identified what Decima termed “idiosyncratic fears,” ranging from understandable concerns to the unusual and the macabre. One respondent was afraid of sleeping: “Just that I might not wake up.” Others cited fears of dentists, chickens, freezing in the snow and driving over bridges. Gary Shaul, a 31-year-old word processor with the Ontario government, said that he had a fear of falling down a staircase. “I once fell through a window because I was trying to avoid the stairs,” he explained. Respondent Isabel Minaker, a 30year-old pregnant mother of three from Kitchener, Ont., said that she and her husband, Douglas, worry because values that they cherish as devout Baptists are disappearing. “Even the television shows of 20 years ago like Leave It to Beaver were solid, family-type shows,” she said. “Now most of the programs show broken homes or rebellion within the family.” No matter how they described it, the underlying concern of poll respondents was that, somehow, they could lose control of their lives.
“I think about what life will be like by the year 2000.” Marc Cameron, Montreal
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