Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Price Safety?

Has anyone out there noticed what an obsession, what a mania, what a fetish SAFETY has become in our society? It's positively bizarre. Parents won't allow their kids to participate in unsupervised activity any more. Kids can't ride bicycles without helmets anymore. Mommy and Daddy MUST chauffeur kiddos everywhere these days--they can't be expected to take the risk of walking or bicycling in that big bad world out there. I've been told that it's a much more dangerous world for kids nowadays. Sorry, I don't buy it. When we were kids, there were perverts to be avoided too. I clearly remember Mom and Dad instructing us NEVER to accept a ride from a stranger. That covered that base. They didn't have to be personally present every second once we were clued in.

Is bicycle riding any more dangerous now than it was then? I would argue it's inherently safer. Kids don't put the mileage on their bikes that we did, since they have chauffeurs, and they don't ride until they're 14 or 15 like we did. They don't ride as far or as fast as we did. Our bikes were our primary means of transportation to non-family events within a few mile radius, which was a very large percentage of our total travels. We didn't even know what bicycle helmets were, and anyone showing up with one of those dorky things would have been ridiculed. Just this one item tells me that the main change has been societal attitudes toward danger, not the increase in danger itself.

We seem to have collectively gotten the idea that if we just control every possible source of danger, and remove all possible hazards from our lives, we'll have a chance at living to, oh, maybe 160 or so. The results of all this aren't in yet, but let me make a prediction: we won't make it.

If I may advance what's perhaps a sexist argument, I would say that society has been feminized. Society used to be characterized by much more manly attitudes than those currently prevailing. I can remember females saying (when I was growing up), that if they were in charge, things would be way different. Well, they are in charge now. And boy, are things ever different!

There has been a net loss of freedom in this quest for safety. Which is as predicted: those who trade liberty for safety get neither, nor do they deserve either.