The quotation below is from Philip K Dick’s Through a Scanner Darkly. The work is an extended meditation of identity and paranoia; not for the faint of heart. In this section the protagonist is trying to determine whether he is really being targeted by someone for something:
One of the most effective forms of industrial or military sabotage limits itself to damage that can never be thoroughly proven—or even proven at all—to be anything deliberate. It is like an invisible political movement; perhaps it isn’t there at all. If a bomb is wired to a car’s ignition, then obviously there is an enemy; if a public building or a political headquarters is blown up, then there is a political enemy. But if an accident, or a series of accidents, occurs, if equipment merely fails to function, if it appears faulty, especially in a slow fashion, over a period of natural time, with numerous small failures and misfirings—then the victim, whether a person or a party or a country, can never marshal itself to defend itself.
Still moving about alertly with his gun, Barris ignored him as he sought to discover telltale traces. Arctor, watching, thought, Maybe he will. They may have left some. And he thought, Strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then, briefly. Under very specialized conditions, such as today.
It reminds me of the line from William Burroughs, Paranoia is having all the facts.
The current terror about a virus, unseen; of unknown danger (is it terrible or mild) seems to stir up a similar fear. We live in a world which pretends to have tamed and managed death. And yet here it is again. It wanders about at its leisure like a virulent man of wealth and ease.
It has provoked paranoid and panicked responses. The paranoia of Did I really see that?
And so I wonder, how we’ll have those fears been packed away? Were they just waiting for an opportunity to come out? How easily will they be returned? How firmly will paranoia link up with reality?
What does a culture like ours offer for the fear of death? What happens when do many become paranoid at one time?
It seems we will find out.