Monday, June 4, 2012

Anti-Safety Movement

I've always been vocal about how much I hate the anti-intellectual movement in America.  Ever since George Bush (the one who armed Saddam Hussein, not the one who ordered him to disarm) demonized the "intellectual elite" and used it as a political rallying cry, our country has turned against people who have the temerity to study and think.  This movement has changed a lot in the last few decades, even spawning liberal versions of itself (organic food, herbal/natural remedies, anti-vaxers, blue-dog Democrats, etc.).

The latest version of anti-intellectualism is anti-safety.  It spawns from the following line of reasoning:
  1. Kids today aren't as good as kids used to be.
    This line of thinking has existed since the beginning of time.
  2. Not my kids, of course, because I'm a great parent.
    And that guy I met in a bar who fathered my kids?  He's really hot, so my kids have good genes.
  3. Your kids, however, suck because you always warn me about stuff that could kill or hurt them.
    Because it's always someone else who is the problem.
Everywhere you look on Facebook or the web or...  Well, I'm sure it's somewhere else, but I never venture outside Facebook or the web.  However, on those places I spend most of my day, there are tons of memes and posts about how kids are too safe these days and how we shouldn't be afraid to let our kids die horribly if they're having fun.

I've got a few suggestions for new memes.

Britney Spears follows this philosophy.
Most anti-vax parents didn't use bike helmets as kids.

Hey, if you're stupid enough to USE lawn darts, you're probably too stupid to grow up.


Anonymous said...

You miss the point entirely. Nobody is saying that parents shouldn't try to keep their kids safe, up to and including being "helicopter" parents, if that's their choice. What they're saying is that "safety" should not be legislated. I should not be forced by the powers that be to spend money on a car seat or make my kid wear a bike helmet. They're my kids, so decisions about their safety should be mine, and mine alone, not Big Brother's.

Also, make fun of it all you want, but it is a fact that NOBODY wore helmets when I was a kid, and I never saw or even heard of anyone getting a serious head injury while riding a bike, big wheel, whatever. I'm sure it happened occasionally, but it was the exception, not the rule. The "culture of safety" (for "safety", read "cowardice") that currently exists in this country would have us believe that catastrophic injury is pretty much a certitude for anyone who engages in pretty much any physical activity without wearing the "proper protective equipment". People are so obsessed with "safety" these days, that it has become pretty much impossible to do anything without having some "safety" a-hole breathing down your neck and telling you what you can and cannot do. This mentality is not only turning all of our children into lily-livered pansies, but it's killing any and all creative impulse in this country. "Safety culture" is destroying our country, and folks like you just stand around and enthusiastically clap their hands as yet another attempt to get something useful done is scuttled by the "safety nazis". Way to go, dip-shit.

Matthew Kagle said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Some logical fallacies in your argument:
1. Your statement that everyone used to do something therefore it's fine. No kids used safety belts when I was a kid. I was in the front seat without a seatbelt during a low speed collision and was hurt.
2. Your statement that you never heard of anyone who had a brain injury from not wearing a helmet. Your own experience doesn't negate statistical evidence. Also, you might want to read Dave Barry's article about his son's accident. It ends with a note from his son, which ends "always wear your helmet."
3. Your concern that overprotective parenting affects their bravery as adults. Childrearing is still not well understood. It's hard to know if helicopter parenting is harmful or not. In any case, I like to think the realities of life are soon realized by kids when they mature.

In any case, thank you for your bravery in coming forward with your thoughts and standing behind that shield of all internet cowards "Anonymous." I can only imagine the sexual abuse you must have endured to make you the loser you are today.

And, in the thoughtful spirit of your post: nanny nanny poo poo, stick your head in doo doo.

Ellen said...

I am surprised you did not have seat belts as a child... we did, and I'm quite a bit older than you. Our '65 Chevy had them.
I cannot agree that "helicopter parenting" could ever be considered a good thing. The point of parenting is to raise children who will become responsible adults. If you are still fixing all their problems when they are college age, you're preventing them from maturing.

Matthew Kagle said...

Perhaps we had only lap belts. It was when I was 6 or 7 so I don't remember well. I do remember it was in a parking lot and I remember my face smashing into the dashboard.

And I'm not defending helicopter parenting. I'm saying we're not fixed where our parents place us. People grow on their own. Are your parents responsible for everything you do and are?

Unknown said...

While I agree that the post by "Anonymous" was a bit above the pail (no need for name calling in a mature discourse among adults, as the blogger could also stand to learn), I also agree with what I interpret to be the central point of his/her post. We have become entirely too focused on "risk reduction" in this country, and this focus has distracted us from one of the central truths of life: namely that life is not, never has been, and never will be "safe". Regardless of how hard we struggle to "control risk", risk will always prevail in the end. That's simply the way of things in this universe (for a more in depth explanation of this concept, see Entropy and The Laws of Thermodynamics). As a result, the only thing we accomplish by obsessing about "safety" and control is the choking off of innovative thought and action, not to mention the prevention of the learning of those all-important life lessons that only the taking of risks (aka living life) can effectively teach to our children. Sure, we might be able to prevent accidents from befalling our children by keeping them in a bubble throughout their childhood, but is that really living? What's the point of being alive if we are too timid to risk trying new (and potentially dangerous) things? Also, how will a person who has been shielded from any and all risk during their childhood survive once they come out of the bubble and face the real (and decidedly unsafe) world?

History demonstrates unambiguously that "fortune favors the bold". Innovation and accomplishment, by their very definition, require risk. We as a nation used to be defined by our willingness to take big risks in the hope of achieving big rewards. Sometimes we failed. More often we succeeded. Probably the best example of this was the Apollo program of the late 60's and early 70's. This was without question one of the most (if not THE most) risky endeavors upon which the human race has ever embarked in recorded history, but it resulted in the USA becoming the first (and so far ONLY) nation to put human "boots on the ground" of another world. This accomplishment resulted in a huge surge of interest in science and technology, and was an important contributor to the dominance of this country in pretty much every major field of human endeavor during the 20th century. More important than the establishment of US dominance, efforts like the Apollo program provided a shining example to the whole world of the great heights to which the human race can ascend when we put fear aside, step outside our "comfort zone", and work together to accomplish the seemingly impossible. These days, we've completely shut down our manned space program and relegated the exploration of space to machines. We've justified this questionable practice by invoking wishy-washy platitudes about "keeping humans safe" and "conserving resources", all the while ignoring the blatantly obvious fact that the solar system contains what is, for all practical purposes, a limitless supply of resources simply waiting for the boldest among our number to come and take them.

And take them they will, if we do not. We taught nations like China that life is a risk, and that great things cannot be accomplished without the taking of equally great risks. This is why the prominence of such nations increases by the day, while our own once great nation cowers and withers on the vine. Other nations have learned well the lessons our successes have taught them, even if we ourselves have forgotten them.

Matthew Kagle said...

It's easy to say we're too wrapped up in safety when it isn't our child getting hurt. It's easy to say our children learn from injuries, but what do they learn from getting a concussion when falling off a bike, or getting their throats crushed in an accident when the seatbelt hits them in the wrong place.

Yes, we should let our children take more risks. Yes, we should take more risks as a society. However, there is a limit. We test drinking water. We removed lead from gasoline. We got rid of asbestos. The "hey we take risks and they make us better" philosophy only goes so far.

I take issue with the idea that "the current generation is less than previous generations." That's been around for millennia. Every generation shows contempt for the next, and it's disgusting. I see no studies that show kids are afraid of risks, although narcissism seems to have gone up.

Your statement that the space program was cut because of our being risk-averse is absurd. It was cut because politicians didn't want to spend the money on it. In their defense, the shuttle program's unprecedented expense gave them good reason. When we did take risks for the space program, it was because we were afraid of the Russians, not from a can do attitude.

Interesting fact: the deaths of the Apollo astronauts was caused by incompetence. They should never have done a "plugs out" test on the ground in a 100% oxygen atmosphere. They didn't die from risk taking. Would you perform future plugs out tests the same way? They should be fine if there aren't any accidents. Come on! It's just risk taking! Fortune favors the bold!

There's risk taking, and there's stupid risk taking. Helmets save kids' lives. Carseats save kids' lives. Lawn darts are stupid.

Also, the Chinese risks involve steamrolling human rights and destroying the environment. Please tell me how their success has anything to do with risk.

1. It's beyond the pale. If there's a pail you have to get beyond, it's a big one.
2. If you consider "nanny nanny poo poo" insulting, you should probably worry less about risk and more your sense of humor.
3. Mature discourse involves using your real name, not hiding behind internet's anonymity.

Matthew Kagle said...

One more thing, as I just realized it. Do you make sure your kids are safe on the internet? Do you teach them not to give out their names and addresses? Do you block them from violent and pornographic materials?

Safety has just moved from the physical to the virtual.

Unknown said...

1. The reason that politicians no longer want to pay for manned space exploration is that they no longer consider it to be worth the risk. The reason they no longer consider it to be worth the risk is that their constituency no longer believes it is worth the risk. The reason their constituency no longer believes it is worth the risk is because our culture has become "risk averse". This assertion is not absurd. It is a fact. We would rather throw our money away on useless, red herring pursuits like building wind mills and electric cars to solve the world's energy problems (which they will NEVER do) than use it to do something useful like developing the very real and very extensive resources available elsewhere in the solar system.

2. The shuttle program's expense was "unprecedented"? I don't think so. The final total cost of the shuttle program came in at around $200 billion. This was for a total of 135 missions, spanning a period of about 30 years. The amount spent on defense for this 30 year period comes in at around $14.2 TRILLION. The entire space shuttle program cost about 1.4% of the amount spent on defense for the same period - hardly an "unprecedented" expense. Not to mention that this money didn't just disappear. It went to employees and contractors who worked on the program. These employees and contractors bought groceries, houses, cars, TV's, etc just like any other employee - in other words, this money went back into the US economy.

3. I agree, car seats save kids' lives. I have 2 kids. I use car seats because I want to give them every chance of surviving a potential car accident. I don't object to people making the choice to use car seats or taking other precautions to keep their children safer. What I object to is the government making a law that says I MUST use car seats because they have decided that they know better than I do about what is good for MY children. Transferring these sorts of decisions to the nanny state, rather than having each person take responsibility for their own children's safety, creates a society full of people who are dependent on Big Brother to tell them how they should behave, instead of people who take responsibility for their own behavior. This is bad for reasons that are so obvious, I won't bother to list them here. If you can't figure them out for yourself, then you're part of the problem.

4. What happened to the Apollo 1 crew was absolutely a result of taking risks - the decision to use 100% O2 in the Apollo capsule was the result of a fear on the part of NASA medical personnel that astronauts would get the bends in a nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere due to the significant pressure drop that occurred when the spacecraft reached the vacuum of space. This fear was the result of human space travel being a totally new field, the pursuit of which was a RISK.

There is much more I could write, but I have no more time to spend on this, especially since I doubt that anything I write, however logical, will have any effect on your opinion, as you are obviously quite convinced that this opinion is the only right one there can possibly be.

Matthew Kagle said...

1. I don't agree. It's anecdotal, but I've never heard anyone say "we can't go into space because people will die." They always say "We should concentrate on Earth first." Of course, we never finish with that.

You can call that risk-averse if you want, but it's a semantic argument. People hate taxes. They want them cut. They don't see the point of space.

2. I say the shuttle program was expensive because a re-usable vehicle was supposed to be cheaper than rockets. It was not. It was supposed to cost $20 million per launch. $1.6 billion per launch. You say it's risk averse to lose 14 lives going to space, but unmanned rockets have killed fewer people. Why risk when it's pointless.

3. We don't let Christian Scientists refuse to treat their children until they die. That's negligent homicide. We don't allow people who are part of extreme sects make their children genuflect until they die. That's negligent homicide. We don't let parents beat their children so they leave a mark. That's child abuse.

There are countless examples of when the government steps in to save the life or abuse of a child. You want to draw that line in a different place than I do. Fine.

I certainly wouldn't insult you by saying you're part of the problem by disagreeing with me.

4. If it was okay to take the risk with the first crew, why did they change the formula of the atmosphere? Because it was a pointless risk. Because we improved TO REDUCE THE RISK. Risk vs. pointless risk, as I said.

Yes, your time is your own. I would point out this is how adult conversations go, although (after you accusing me of insulting people) you resort to childish insults. I won't insult you by saying (as you did) that you are illogical and part of the problem.

I also won't hide behind anonymity. I won't go to your blog, argue with you, insult you, and then say "Well, there's no point in arguing with you" and leave in a huff.

Unknown said...

My name is Matt. Does that change anything?

You're entitled to your opinion. I don't agree with it, but I would fight to the death to defend your right to have it and tell the world what it is. If we continue to relinquish our power of decision to our government, we very likely will not have this right for much longer. That is my concern.

You claim that you "won't insult me by saying that I am illogical and part of the problem", but the content of your blog post does exactly that in a manner that is far more blatant than anything I have written in response to that blog post. If you're going to post material that is insulting to the intelligence of anyone whose opinion differs from your own, then you damned well better be prepared to be insulted in return. That's just human nature. You apparently have a lot to learn about it.

Matthew Kagle said...

No, Matt isn't enough. My name is Matt. Millions of people are named Matt. Show us you're good at taking risks. Use your full name, like I do. Write a blog with what you feel and defend it online like I do.

I understand your views about the government taking too much control of our lives. I don't share it. There are plenty of countries with rules like these that are just fine. Australia, for example, took away the rights of their citizens to bear arms. It isn't a Nazi Dystopia.

Also, I don't think you understand what human nature is if you can categorize it so quickly. There is no one human nature. When confronted, some people ridicule, some threaten, some become quiet, some write their own opinions, some befriend.

Trolling isn't human nature. It's your nature.

Matthew Kagle said...

For the record, my son was practicing how to bike with me half an hour ago. His friend, who has been biking for years, tried to bike with us, got too close and knocked my son off his bike. He landed flat on the ground. If it were not for his helmet, things could have been much worse for us.

He still got the proverbial Scraped Knee (except all over him). He still learned to take risks. He just didn't get a trip to the hospital.

Make your kids wear helmets.